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How to Clean a Microwave & Remove Smells

August 30, 2019

How to Clean a Microwave & Remove Smells

Written by Lisa Truesdale


If you think you can’t live without your microwave, you’re not alone. Although they’ve only been common in the United States for about 40 years, it’s estimated that 97 percent of households now have one of these modern conveniences, and just about every workplace has at least one in the break room. A microwave is all about convenience and time-saving -- particularly when it comes to zapping frozen entrees that would otherwise take an hour in the regular oven, or reheating leftovers without overcooking them.

It’s no mystery why microwaves are popular. The real mystery, though, is how a microwave can get so crusty and dirty and be so impossible to clean! We recently worked closely with our team of in-house cleaning experts to develop a list of tips and techniques for quick-and-easy microwave cleaning.

Products and ingredients for cleaning

There are a number of products and ingredients you can use to clean your microwave. What you choose depends on your answers to these questions:

  • How dirty is your microwave?
  • Which ingredients do you already have on hand?
  • Do you prefer to use natural cleaning methods?

Some industrial-strength cleaning products on the market contain harsh chemicals that may leave behind unpleasant odors -- worse than the food odors you’re trying to get rid of. Many of these chemicals are also harmful to the environment. Here at Puracy, we’re passionate about natural, non-toxic products, so the microwave-cleaning tips we’re offering all use Earth-friendly ingredients you probably already have on hand, like Puracy Natural Dish SoapPuracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner, fresh lemons, and white vinegar.

How to easily clean your microwave in 5 steps

Here’s a tried-and-true 5-step method for cleaning your microwave using Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner and a few drops of Puracy Natural Dish Soap.

Step 1: Remove the glass turntable and the plastic rack that holds it in place, if there is one. Wash these gently by hand using a sponge or microfiber towel, warm water, and a few drops of dish soap. Place in your drying rack to dry while you clean the microwave.

Step 2: Using a damp microfiber towel, remove any loose crumbs or larger food pieces from the bottom, walls, and roof of the microwave.

Step 3: Spray the interior of the microwave with Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner. Two sprays should be sufficient to tackle most microwaves. If there is baked-on food inside your microwave, then leave the cleaner on the surface for 30 seconds before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Wipe down the interior of the microwave using a clean, folded microfiber cloth. Apply medium pressure in fast, overlapping passes, and make tight “Z” patterns with your cloth to get the best clean. The wetness pattern will evaporate shortly after you pass over, which confirms you are cleaning correctly.

Step 5: Spray the exterior of the microwave with Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner, then wipe down the outside of the microwave in the same fashion. Use a light touch around the buttons.

In the video below, Puracy Co-Founder Sean Busch demonstrates the best techniques to use when cleaning a microwave…

Can I use lemon and/or vinegar?

Both lemon and vinegar are common ingredients to use when cleaning stuck-on grease and food in your microwave.

In the case of lemons, yes they smell great, but the real power is in a lemon’s citric acid. Here’s how to clean your microwave using lemons:

Step 1: Remove the glass turntable and the plastic rack that holds it in place, if there is one. Wash these gently by hand with warm water and a few drops of Puracy Natural Dish Soap. Using a damp microfiber cloth, remove any loose crumbs or larger food pieces from the bottom, sides, and roof of the microwave. Put the clean turntable and plastic rack back in the microwave.

Step 2: Cut a fresh lemon into 6-8 wedges. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl and fill the bowl with water. Microwave the bowl of water on high until it boils (2-4 minutes, depending on your microwave).

Step 3: After the water begins to boil, stop the cooking process but leave the bowl in the closed microwave for at least 10 minutes. The lemon-soaked steam will start to cut through the grease on the walls and other interior surfaces of your microwave. (Note: If you don’t have a fresh lemon on hand, 2-3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice will work, but fresh lemon is better.)

Step 4: Remove the bowl from the microwave and set aside. Using a clean, folded microfiber cloth, wipe the inside of the microwave to remove surface grease. Apply medium pressure in fast, overlapping passes, and make tight “Z” patterns with your cloth to get the best clean.

Step 5: If built-up grease and dirt still remain, repeat the process using the same bowl of lemons and water.

Cleaning your microwave with vinegar

This is similar to the lemon method above. Pour equal parts white vinegar and water (1/2 to 1 cup of each) into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 5-7 minutes (it should start boiling after about 4 minutes), then let the bowl sit in the microwave for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the bowl (we recommend wearing oven mitts to avoid burning your hands).

Next, wipe down the inside of the microwave with a clean, folded microfiber cloth. For especially stubborn messes, dip a clean microfiber into the solution and use it to scrub the inside, then follow that up by wiping the interior with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Cleaning your microwave with the wet-rag method

This microwave-cleaning method requires a clean rag or microfiber towel and rubber gloves. Wet the rag thoroughly with water and wring it out. Place it in the microwave (no need to remove the turntable, especially if it’s dirty, too). Microwave the wet rag on high for 3-5 minutes, then let it sit for 2 more minutes. The steam that builds up will help to loosen stuck-on food. Wearing rubber gloves or silicone oven mitts, use the steamy-hot rag to wipe down the inside of the microwave.

To remove streaks and odors, as a final step we recommend spraying the interior of the microwave with Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner. Then wipe down the interior of the microwave using a clean, folded microfiber cloth.

How to get the burnt smell out of a microwave

Dirty microwaves are no fun -- and neither are microwaves that smell like fish, or like the microwave popcorn that doesn’t pop but instead turns black and bitter.

Most of the microwave-cleaning methods above will also eliminate the smell, because it’s usually the stuck-on food that’s creating the odors. For particularly strong odors, though, try one of these methods:

  • Add a few drops of vanilla extract to the lemon/water method above.
  • Use orange slices instead of lemons (or both).
  • Soak a sponge in white vinegar. Sprinkle the sponge with baking soda. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then use the sponge to thoroughly wipe down the inside.
  • Leave an open box of baking soda inside the closed microwave overnight or all day while you are at work.
  • Leave a bowl of used coffee grounds inside the closed microwave overnight or all day while you are at work.

With these easy cleaning solutions, you’ll never struggle with a dirty, smelly microwave again. Keep Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner and Puracy Natural Dish Soap on hand for regular touch-ups so crusty food and nasty odors don’t stand a chance in your kitchen.