microwave cleaning collage

The Absolute Best Way 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. 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 it effortlessly. With steam!

microwave cleaning collage


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 bowl


  • 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.


*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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