How to Clean a Microwave Oven

There are few things more disgusting than opening a microwave oven to find cooked-on extraneous matter clinging to every surface. The way to avoid this, of course, is to clean the appliance thoroughly after every use. Or unfortunate explosion. Uh-huh. Right.

Let’s get real. A microwave with frequent use, whether at home or at work, doesn’t get a thorough cleaning every single time. It’s going to get dirty so it’s good to know how to clean it effortlessly. With steam!


Microwave and Oven

Steam cleaning a microwave oven is super easy with ordinary plain white vinegar and water.

Vinegar and Oven

Step 1: Vinegar and water

Pour one cup plain white vinegar and one cup water into a microwavable container like a glass bowl or measuring cup (as a safety precaution stick a chopstick, skewer, or wooden spoon in the cup to prevent the unlikely occurrence of exploding water). Place it in the microwave.

A sink and a microwave

Step 2: High for 5-10 minutes

The more challenging the situation, the longer you want the water and vinegar to steam away. Keep an eye on it, however, as you do not want the cup or bowl to boil dry.

Step 3: Remove container

Very carefully, using an oven mitt or potholder, remove the cup. Notice how all interior surfaces including the door is dripping wet with hot steam.

Step 4: Wipe it clean

Using a sponge, cloth, or paper towel, wipe down the oven’s interior—so easy because the steam has softened and melted every bit of goo and grime.


A microwave oven sitting on top of a stove

*A reasonable substitute for plain vinegar is lemon juice—either bottled or freshly squeezed, in which case throw the lemon rinds into the cup as well.


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17 replies
  1. Juliet Miley says:

    Great cleaning tip! Thank you!
    Does anyone know how to remove the yellowing stain that recently occurred from microwave popcorn’s artificial butter splatter??

  2. Polly Deal says:

    I have done this with just water before. I let the water come to a boil then sit for a few minutes to let the steam work. Wipe with paper towel so it can go in the trash! Mine gets messy, but I never let it go that far! (Explosions have happened tho!)

  3. Judie Eddington says:

    Great use of vinegar. But if you cut a lemon in half and place it in a wide mouth bowl of water. Boil on High for 2 minutes. This does not explode and the steam of course loosens any hard to move ‘stuff’ and the lemon leaves a refreshing odour. Leave the lemon water in the microwave and heat for 1 minute when something heated has a particular nasty smell. Jude

  4. Peggy says:

    Could you use this method in a convection oven. My husband uses it all the time but never cleans it and the class on the door has a grease buildup on it. I assume I would leave out the wooden spoon. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    • Jacqui says:

      I love steam and use it all the time however for an uncleaned oven u seriously can’t go past sellys oven cleaner in the tin. Feel bad for suggesting it but it saved me come selling my house time. Maybe the steam would help a little but ovens have a different kind of baked on hardness xxxx

  5. NANCY KEETON says:

    I have a problem that I have never seen discussed. It is the screen between the microwave window and the oven. I have had gunk in there for years; I have tried several cleaning products, which has only made it worse. Steaming does not work. The screen is un-removable. Help!

    • Bonnie Alcorn says:

      Nope…I doubt that it was staged. That’s what my daughter’s microwave looks like pretty much all the time. She’s a neat freak about most things, but the microwave is different, for some reason. I’ve tried to get her to adopt my method, but it just ain’t happening. I keep a couple paper plates on top of my microwave. Any time I put anything in the microwave, a heavy-weight paper plate goes in first. That’s my tray for removing whatever it is I’m heating. If the food is not in a package, it gets covered with a cheap paper plate. If there are splatters, they’re on the plate, not inside the oven, and the plate goes directly into the trash. If it didn’t splatter, the plate goes back into the stack to be reused.

    • Jaqui says:

      I do cook rice in the microwave and at times when I’m doing risotto it’s overflowed and I may not get a chance to clean it the same day so the following day it looks exactly like that and I just use a bowl of water for the steam because after all that’s what steam is it’s just hot water

      • Bonnie Alcorn says:

        I know how much Mary loved Nok-Out, but if you don’t happen to have any try dry coffee grounds. We’ve all burned popcorn. When it happened to me, I set a bowl of dry coffee grounds into the microwave & closed the door. For some reason, coffee grounds absorb the burned smell, although it did take a couple days, and then another day or so to lose the coffee smell. But it worked. Coffee grounds also work for bad smells in your refrigerator.

  6. Erin says:

    I find a quarter-cup to half cup of baking soda — no vinegar — mixed into the water works just as well, if not better. And seems less corrosive, too — as well as cheaper, depending what quantities you buy soda (baking/washing) and vinegar in. Afterwards you can dump the soda water into your drain or garbage disposal to freshen it up. At any random time I also boil left-over lemon and orange peels in the microwave (or in the conventional oven) to freshen not only the oven but give the whole house a good smell. And afterwards, of course, it’s straight to the compost with them!

  7. Betty Thomas says:

    I love this method, everything is spotless and, as I recently discovered, odor free. My husband loves Hazelnut coffee and was getting it at a convenience store. I purchased some Hazelnut extract so he could make his own flavored coffee at home. I loved the smell of it until he boiled a cup of it over in the microwave. It left an overpowering and a sickly sweet smell, I couldn’t stand it. In desperation I ran the vinegar/water method through its paces and yay, it saved the day! Thanks Mary, stay well.

  8. Kym says:

    I can attest to the chopstick precaution. I was cleaning my microwave and the vinegar water superheated, exploded, blew open the door and the measuring cup with scalding vinegar water flew across the room, missing me by inches. But the microwave was fresh and clean!


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