microwave cleaning collage

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. Or unfortunate food explosion. The way to avoid this, of course, is to clean the appliance thoroughly after every use. 

microwave cleaning collage

Uh-huh. Sure. But let’s get real. A microwave with frequent use, whether at home or at work, doesn’t get a thorough cleaning every single time—after every use. It’s going to get dirty so it’s good to know how to clean a microwave oven almost effortlessly. With acetic steam!

How to Clean a Microwave

You’ll need:

✅  microwavable glass bowl or
measuring cup

✅  water

✅  plain white vinegar* and/or
1-2 lemons or bottled lemon juice

✅  wooden spoon, chopstick, or skewer

✅  sponge

✅  clean cloth or paper towel

Step 1: Prepare

Remove any dish or other container that may be in the microwave. However, as dirty as it may be, leave the round glass tray and that gizmo under it that make the tray rotate in the microwave. You will clean this separately, later in the process.

Step 2: Fill a glass container


  • 1 cup white vinegar, OR 1-2 lemons,
    OR both vinegar and lemons
  • 1 cup water

This is not an exact science, so use what you have on hand—vinegar or lemons or if you have both, great—use both, no specific measurement required. You can eyeball the amounts and proportions!

exploding water preventionPour the ingredients into a microwavable container like a glass bowl or measuring cup. Cut the lemon(s), squeeze the juice into the bowl, and then throw the rinds in as well—if you’re using lemon(s).

The key here is acid—the acetic acid in vinegar and citric acid in lemons. Mixing these acids to boiling is not a problem at all. The acid turbo-charges the effects of super-hot steam to attack all that goo and grime.

As a safety precaution, stick a chopstick, skewer, or wooden spoon in the cup or bowl containing water and vinegar to prevent the unlikely occurrence of exploding water.

Place the bowl or measuring cup in the microwave.



Step 3: 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 4: Remove container

Very carefully, using an oven mitt or potholder, remove the container. Notice how all interior surfaces and the inside of the door are dripping wet with hot steam.

Step 5: Remove tray and moving part

Quickly take out the round glass tray and that gizmo thing under it and place these items in the sink, provided your gizmo can be easily removed. If attached, leave it attached.

Step 6: Wipe it clean

While the microwave interior is still hot and wet, using a sponge, cloth, or paper towel, wipe down the oven’s interior. This should be quite easy because the steam has softened and melted every bit of goo and grime. Make sure you clean the “ceiling,” the vents, the walls, and the floor of the microwave. And don’t forget the door!

Step 7: Clean the glass tray

Clean the glass tray in the sink along with the rotating mechanism as needed, wipe dry and return to the oven.



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5 replies
  1. HALENA says:

    Dear, Dear Mary:
    I am so grateful for all you wonderful and absolutely “useful” information you have given us over the years.
    ONE QUESTION: Could u put, instead of a cup of water/lemon – a soaking (Water & Lemon) TOWEL – in the microwave. That way decreasing any explosion????? Halena

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I suppose you could provided that towel was super drenched. But if you put a piece of lemond rind in with the water/lemon you will prevent an explosion. That will break the surface tension of water alone, which is the real culprit.

  2. Janice says:

    I love, love, love your tips. I blew up butter in my new microwave. Now the stainless back of microwave looks well stained with dark spots now. Adding to the pain, it is built in and even standing on a chair I can’t reach the back to scrub it. I did purchase a handy plastic little guy with holes in his head which can be used to steam the microwave clean as you describe. It works but still those dark spots.

  3. Polly B Deal says:

    I accidently found that a cup of boiled water (forgot that I wanted a cuppa) sitting in the microwave for a few extra minutes steamed it all up enough to wipe it down to sparkly clean. But the lemons in the water would make for a nice addition!


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