Cleaning A Microwave: How To & Tips

Dried, crusty insides of a microwave are voila! a problem no more with these easy methods…and they work no matter how long it’s been since you last cleaned it ;).

How you do it:

Lemons & SpongesPlace a bowl of water inside (with a non-metal object such as a wooden spoon or stir stick in the water*) and heat for 3 – 5 minutes, depending how hard the crud is really stuck on.

When it stops heating, keep the door closed to give the moisture and steam the heated bowl of water generated to have time to work.

Remove bowl (careful, it’s hot) and take a moist, warm cloth to the inside walls of the appliance. The crud bits should wipe off easily.


  • Add a couple teaspoons of baking soda to a bowl of water and follow same process as above. The added baking soda will act as a deodorizer. If you’re brave, you can use the hot baking soda water to scrub, but be careful–it is HOT water. Use a thick sponge and make sure to keep water away from your fingertips. You could also add a splash or two of cold water to bring the temperature down.

You can also try:

  • Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water in a bowl and follow the same procedure as above. The vinegar also acts as a freshener and deodorizer. You can also use this water when wiping down, but again–the water is very hot. Be careful.

Another option:

  • Soak a thick sponge with vinegar and water (you can also use a hand towel instead of a sponge), set heat on high for 3 minutes. Let it sit closed for a few minutes once heating is done–allows moisture and steam to work into all the crust bits and splatters. Open appliance and use the sponge to wipe down insides. The sponge will be hot, so wear rubber gloves to help protect your skin from the heat.


  • You can throw a few slices of lemon in a bowl of hot water and then heat as above. This will help freshen things up as well.

Try it, I’m sure you’ll find keeping the inside of this appliance sparkling has never been easier ;).

*ETA: Read comment section below. Water by itself can ‘superheat’ and cause serious burns by erupting.

Removing Scorch Marks

*First published June 13th, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

Kitty sent in this note:

I have successfully removed a scorch from the wall of my brand-new microwave!

It needs a 3 part approach:

  • try one of those magic eraser sponges.
  • then use toothpaste on an old tooth brush. You’ll need a lot of scrubbing with both of them to even lighten the scorch.

then, what worked the best:

  • take a paper towel and fold it into a square a little bigger than your scorch. Wet it with bleach (like clorox). Use full strength. No need for it to be dripping, just wet. Then press it against your scorch and leave it there a few hours. It will stick to the side of the oven just fine. (and come off later just fine). Check it from time to time.

My popcorn scorch took 9 hours to completely fade away, but it did go away!

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What Readers Are Saying: 52 Comments
  1. Steve says:

    placing a bowl of water in the microwave can be dangerous, google – microwave water – and the top links will show what I mean. So tip # 1 is a bad idea.

    • Midgie says:

      As far as the superheating problem; everything I have seen as far as any superheating liquids in a microwave says that if you just let the liquid sit for a moment, then stir it before removing it, it shouldn’t explode. Even coffee, or water boiled for tea in a microwave will superheat if you’re not careful – that’s why you should always stir it before trying it. Not a scientist, just read a lot, so YMMV.

  2. Tipnut says:

    Now that’s interesting Steve, thanks for that warning. Here’s the link I found:

    I did some more digging and it looks to be legit, water can indeed superheat in a microwave, but frequently cited as a rare occurance. Here’s something from snopes:


    If you’re worried about explosions over superheated liquid, you can virtually eliminate the possibility of its happening to you by simply leaving some non-metallic object (such as a wooden spoon or stir stick) in the cup or bowl when you boil liquids in your microwave. It may not be necessary, but it won’t hurt anything either. Peace of mind rarely comes so cheaply.

    I’m going to adjust the first tip, thanks Steve!

    • Charlie says:

      I wish I had read the warning about superheating first. I heated a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and tap water for about 5 minutes in my microwave. It didn’t seem to have boiled so I heated for another 2 minutes. Well, one minute into that second cycle, the liquid erupted, the bowl went flying against the door, and the door popped open. The liquid did thoroughly wet the walls of the microwave this way, but I don’t recommend it. I was about 3 feet away from the microwave and it gave me quite a start. Lesson learned – pass it on.

    • Cassie says:

      I put a wooden spoon in the cup of water and after 3 minutes, the spoon caught on fire! Not really sure how that happened…So, I just used some MR. CLEAN (it wasn’t that dirty in the first place).

  3. Christopher says:

    Placing a bowl of ammonia in the microwave and leaving it overnight works well. You can also microwave the ammonia for a few minutes and leave it hot inside for a while and then clean, but the heated ammonia is pretty nasty. I managed to quickly clean an old microwave that hadn’t been used in years this way…..felt like I had snorted the ammonia, but worked really well.

  4. Mary Anne says:

    I’ll have to post this at work. We don’t have a kettle so we microwave our water for teas, soups, flavored coffees and whatever for hot water needs. Nothing has happened in the ten plus years I’ve worked there, but this is good to know. Thanks for the info!

  5. Janie says:

    Came back to tell you this was my Saturday job To Do and YOU ROCK! My microwave looks brand new again, THANK YOU!!!

  6. pinkzodiac37 says:

    This isn’t A Comment,but Rather A Question….how can I remove “burnt popcorn smell from my microwave?”.

  7. TipNut says:

    pinkzodiac37 use one of the cleaning methods above to give the microwave a good clean. If the burnt popcorn smell is still there:

    What I would do is cover a large plate with fresh coffee grounds (a generous layer), put it in the microwave, close the door and let it sit closed for a few days.

    You could also try method #1 on this page.

  8. angeljosipa says:

    This is not a comment but a question.
    How can you get the smell of rotten chicken which has been defrosted and forgotten to take out of the microwave. I’ve tried the bicarb and lemon ideas but the smell is still there. I’ve even wiped around the microwave and the cupboard with eucalyptus oil and still the smell lingers. Any suggestions?

  9. gary says:

    We have two thin dark brown streaks on the wall of the microwave. No sure what happened, never ocurred before.
    How can you get the streaks off? Neither “soft-scrub w/bleach” or :brillo pad” worked.

    • Jacquie says:

      My neighbour used nail polish remover to clean the inside of her microwave after burning popcorn in it. She put coffee grounds in it overnight to remove the burnt odor.

  10. Charulatha Kandadai says:

    Can somebody suggest the way to get rid of cockroaches settled in the space between the two frames of the lid of a microwave. The microwave was not in use for quite sometime.

    • DanielB says:

      Roaches are going to be attracted to the microwave no matter you do. They’re drawn towards the energy field caused by most electical appliances. So if you already have one roach there, I suggest tossing the microwave, bug bombing your place, and then buy a new one.

  11. Tamsyn says:

    I found that if you clean your microwave with the following method, it leaves your kitchen smelling fresh for days.

    small microwavable bowl
    vanilla or lemon juice

    place a couple of drops of vanilla (artificial is fine) or lemon juice (ReaLemon works) in a small bowl of water (do not fill to brim) and cook for 2 minutes. Take a damp sponge/cloth and wipe microwave clean.

    This may need to be repeated, depending on how dirty your microwave is. Just keep cooking the water for 2 minutes at a time. If a lot of elbow grease is required, you may dip the sponge/cloth into the water (careful, it will be hot) and wipe again.

  12. Glee says:

    I have found that the best way to remove crusty stuff and odors from the microwave or regular oven is to fill an ordinary spray bottle with plain water and add either vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, or vanilla extract and just spray it all over the inside. Then heat up the oven with a pan (regular oven) or cup of water. Let it sit when done for 10 to 15 minutes and just wipe it out with a paper towel or cloth. It always has always come right off easily.

  13. kaylie08 says:

    My microwave cleaning tips are simple. Clean your microwave right after every use, let it cool down for awhile leave it open. Then if it’s cool enough, you can start cleaning it from the inside use only sponge and a little bit of water and dish washing liquid, don’t scratch too hard and don’t use any steels to take off the stains, it will damage the surface of the microwave and will surely affect it’s heating performance. Just right after you clean it make sure to wipe it with a dry towel. Use only soft materials when cleaning your microwave.

  14. Angela Gervais says:

    Awesome site, thanks for the microwaving tip it worked! I also added the lemon drops to the water too.

  15. Heather says:

    I have worked in many a restaurant and the method often used is just to wet a kitchen towel, fold and place on the bottom of the microwave to cover the entire bottom, heat for 45 seconds and then everything inside wipes off with the same, now warm, towel.

    • Marianne says:

      I just tried this — Thanksgiving morning with no time to spend on this. This method is completely awesome — worked like a charm without my having to worry about superheated water. Thank you so much!

      Thanks a million for this terrific site!

  16. Storie Howser says:

    I used the tip with the cut up lemon in the bowl and it worked like a dream!

  17. Anna says:

    I did the method with the wet towel and it worked GREAT! Yippee! I’m glad that’s finally done! Just in time for Spring Cleaning too!

  18. Kris says:

    My husband was cooking one of those boxed meals of pizza rolls. He swears he only put it on for 2 mins but it fried and turned the inside and top (outside) of microwave brownish orange. I managed to removed most of the discoloration and used vinegar and a water bleach solution (at different times) but the disgusting burnt smell is still there when we use it and it’s been 2 weeks. Any ideas on how to fumigate my microwave ? Ty

  19. Connie says:

    OK, so not everybody is rich. I cannot afford to just toss my microwave and get a new one. (In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who can. What the heck circles do you all run in?) So, how do real, non-rich people kill out roaches that have gotten into their one and only, non-tossable microwave?

    • Joe says:

      When in the Navy aboard my first ship we had a bad infestation of cockroaches, especially in our lockers.
      One night I brought some tacos back from town for my shipmates. I saved the hot sauce and placed it in my locker. To make a long story short it spilled and after wiping it up I noticed the absence of the roaches around my locker although others still had them. Didn’t have a problem with them the rest of the cruise.

    • Diahann says:

      I’m a real extremely non-rich person and I just don’t have roaches. That seems to solve the problem. Throw out the microwave, get rid of the roaches (they aren’t pets), and then buy a new microwave.

      • JoAnn says:

        Diahann, that was rude.
        In some parts of the world, even the cleanest of homes has roaches.
        I live in upstate NY, and have never lived with them. But on a trip to California I stayed in a lovely and very clean home that housed roaches.
        It is not a choice. Nobody wants to share their home with cockroaches.

  20. Cathy says:

    Extreme temperatures will kill cockroaches. It isn’t very practical to let your house freeze in the winter; but, you can kill cockroaches in small appliances by letting them sit outside when the temperature is below freezing for several days, or by placing the item in a freezer overnight.
    If you live in a cold climate, put the microwave outside on a picnic table or some other stand off the ground, and cover it with a plastic garbage bag to protect from the elements. After a few days when you bring it back in, give it a thorough cleaning using one of the suggestions provided and ensure that all grease and crumbs are removed from the area around the microwave as well.

    • NeesieFaye says:

      Anybody have any otherideas on this? Doesn’t get cold enough where I live for this to work. What repels roaches from a microwave?

  21. Alan says:

    I use a Pyrex-type glass 1-quart measuring cup to heat water, and while it does come to a rolling boil with some spillage, has never exploded when heated for up to 5 minutes.

  22. todd says:

    we went on vacation and forgot raw chicken in our microwave for week leaving a bad smell how can we remove the smell or do we have to get rid of microwave?

  23. Nathan says:

    For those who are worried about the water exploding, use tap water. It can’t explode. Watch Mythbusters.

  24. aul jenkins says:

    all i did was put about 3 tablespoons of soda crystals in half a cerial type dish of water cook on full power for 3 minutes then the steam created from that brought all the crud off very easily with a sponge or cloth trust me it works and mine was bad lol now its gleaming

  25. Paula, N. Ireland says:

    Hi guys!!! The most effective method I have ever heard of is to fill a glass bowl, put in some water, then chop 2 lemons in half, and also 2 oranges in half. Put them in the bowl. Then set your microwave for 5 minutes. The orange and lemon act as a cleaner and dedoriser in 1. When the 5 minutes are up, carefully remove the bowl, and then use a sponge and/or an old toothbrush to remove the excess dirt. Hey Presto!!!

  26. Betty says:

    What a great tip! I consider myself fairly savvy around the home but steam cleaning my microwave is a new one for me. I will never again dread the mess whenever I open the door because know now I can clean it up no problem at all. Now a request for you all here, how do you get your teenagers to cover their micro’d food before heating them so there’s no messy mess to begin with! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

  27. evon says:

    my microwave has a yellowish color inside ,is there anyway to clean is up?

    • judy findley says:

      Blue stains from heating blue berries on the sides and tip of the microwave. I will never heat frozen berries without a lid again. I have used lemon,vinegar, soda, and ammmonia and getting ready to try the polish remover, bleach or goo off if I cannot come up with something more suitable. Thanks for any suggestions.

  28. Kara says:

    Despite what others may claim, it should’ve been obvious that snopes has made a mistake in mentioning wooden spoon. Plastic* i also a bad idea. Plastic will melt, anything wooden will catch on fire or start a fire (remember you often need wood to start a fire if you’re going to make a campfire or if you have an old stove / oven ) and some other things like glass is right out because of sparks and fire hazard.

    *(unless you know for certain it’s the type that can be used in the microwave because it will say “microwave safe” on a label or in part of the item itself or if somebody you know you can trust and is smart about these sort of things tells you they can use it in the microwave without any problems)

    Never use anything that you’re not one hundred percent certain is microwave safe.

  29. HippyDude says:

    #1 works!

    • HippyDude says:

      BTW, I used a wooden spoon after I washed it. I guess it had enough water in the grains of the wood so it didn’t catch fire. Lucky me! Now I have a clean microwave!

  30. Storie Howser says:

    I just cleaned my microwave a few days ago. ( It really needed it!) I used a bowl of water with half a lemon in it. Set it on 3 minutes and left the door closed for 2 more. Everything was easy as pie to just wipe out. I didn’t have any problem with months worth of ‘junk’ stuck all over it. Thanks for the tip!

  31. Peg says:

    Has anyone removed RUST from inside your microwave?!! It is developing in the corners
    Thank you for any help suggested!

  32. Julie says:

    Whink Rust Stain Remover is the only product that I know is effective removing rust.

    Extreme caution is needed because it is POISON!

    Testing for color fastness if recommended. Wear heavy duty household rubber gloves and make sure you rinse the area with cold water repeatedly to remove ALL of the Whink. Also do not inhale.

    Whink is a POISON! You DO NOT WANT ANY REMAINING in the microwave prior to using.

  33. Cheryl says:

    I will never put any liquid in the microwave for 5 minutes again. I have scars on my arm proving that superheated liquid will explode!

  34. Lydia Juerss says:

    I have used this method for quite some time but luckily never had the superheating problem – I am quite clumsy so have always leftit for 1/2 hour or so after boiling before removing it from the microwave. Doesn’t seem to reduce it’s effectiveness at all but removes the worry of burns!

    Hadn’t thought of adding baking soda though – will do that if I get a stubborn patch of yuk in future!

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