How to Clean a Filthy Microwave in 30 Seconds

Woman cleans a microwave
Photo by Denis Klimov 3000 / Shutterstock.com

Want to clean stuck-on gunk off your microwave without scrubbing? Just steam it away, the internet says.

Just don’t ask the internet what liquid to use to create that steam.

Some sites say you should microwave vinegar to create steam. Others say a mix of vinegar and water. Bloggers seeking a natural alternative insist on lemon juice. One popular site says to mix hand-squeezed lemon juice with water — and then toss in the lemon itself, too.

Here’s the thing: It’s not about the liquid. It’s the steam that loosens up caked-on crud, making it easy to wipe the dirtiest of microwaves clean.

So, the only liquid you need to clean a dirty microwave in seconds — no elbow grease necessary — is the water that runs from your kitchen faucet.

I’ve tried all the above-mentioned liquids and more, and the result was the same with each. I figured this could be because I clean my microwave often enough that it never gets that dirty. But then my husband managed to cake the inside with who knows what, allowing me to really put plain ol’ water to the test.

Lo and behold, the microwave was good as new less than 30 seconds after I removed the steaming bowl of water and picked up a rag. Here’s how I did it.

1. The turntable

My microwave turntable is glass, so I just toss it in the dishwasher, as we advise in “17 Unusual Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher.”

The turntable was caked with food residue this time, but I still didn’t bother to scrub it beforehand. The dishwasher always does the job on its own.

2. The inside of the microwave

Steam doesn’t do the trick if you don’t create enough of it for long enough, I’ve found.

Start with a large microwave-safe bowl, preferably a clear one. I use a 4-cup Pyrex dish. You want something that will allow for a good amount of water surface area.

Fill it with water — but not too full. You don’t want steaming-hot water sloshing onto you when you remove the bowl from the microwave.

Next, microwave it long enough that the water comes to a boil. For me, this is five to six minutes — during which I go find something else to clean.

If you use a clear bowl, you should see the water bubbling when you open the microwave afterward. Be sure to use oven mitts when removing the bowl from the microwave and setting it aside.

Now it’s time to wipe down the microwave. I use microfiber cleaning cloths after spritzing the inside walls with a homemade multipurpose cleaner, a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water.

It takes me a few passes with the cloth to wipe out all the gunk if the microwave is really dirty, but that’s about all the time or effort it takes.

3. The outside of the microwave

Here, I also use microfiber cloths and homemade cleaner. I give the outside one spritz and wipe it clean in seconds.

While I’ve found rags and sponges clean the inside of a microwave equally well, microfiber is key on the outside. Microfiber cloths effortlessly erase greasy fingerprints and other smudges from shiny surfaces like plastic, glass and stainless steel.

Once I discovered this, I invested in a few dozen cleaning cloths. I store some under every sink and use them to clean every surface of my home.

For more time-saving tips like this, check out our latest cleaning and organizing stories.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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