How to Clean Your Microwave
Whether your microwave has been the victim of a leftover mashed potato explosion, a bag of burnt popcorn, or just a day's worth of crumbs and spills, knowing how to get it—and keep it!—clean is essential. To that end, we asked Warren Weiss of Scrub!, a cleaning service in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to share easy tips that will help you get the job done.
Make It a Habit
Wiping out the microwave with a damp cloth to remove crumbs and just-spilled food once a day will keep it tidier between deep cleans. "I would say the microwave should be cleaned once a week," says Weiss. "That really depends, though, on how many people live in the house and how often the microwave gets used." If you have teenagers heating snacks after practice, a second-shift worker making late-night nachos, and someone cooking frozen pancakes every morning, you may need to increase the frequency of your cleaning efforts—and be especially vigilant about spills. "Anything that's exploded in the microwave and then has had a chance to dry will be a nightmare to remove," says Weiss. "If you stay on top of it, wipe it out after each use—and especially if there's a small explosion—it will stay nice and clean."
Start with the top of the microwave and work your way down. "The top of the inside of the microwave is an area that everyone forgets about," says Weiss. "For some reason when we clean the microwave, we can't really see the top. I always love looking inside people's microwaves—yes, I look!—and seeing everything nice and clean but the top is completely gross." After you've wiped the ceiling and walls of the interior, take the tray out of your microwave and wash it according to the manufacturer's directions; then wipe out any crumbs you [find] underneath it before wiping the inside and outside of the door, the handle, and the keypad.
Many people swear by a natural technique to loosen tough foods: Heat a cup of water with lemon slices, vinegar, or dish soap in the microwave until it boils; then let it sit in the closed microwave for a few minutes while the steam helps detach the spills. If you choose this route, be careful: "When you heat something in a microwave for five or ten minutes, it gets really hot," says Weiss. "I'm cautious, and I've never encountered a situation that required this technique—and I've cleaned tons of microwaves." If you're looking for a homemade solution, Weiss recommends using a paste of baking soda and water to work off stuck-on food.
Use the Right Tools
When you're ready for a deep clean, Weiss suggests arming yourself with a [microfiber cloth] or a non-abrasive sponge—like a Dobie ($3.19 target.com)—to scrub off tough stains. "It's a miracle in my opinion," he says. "Warm water, maybe some baking soda, and the tomato sauce will come right off." Especially difficult messes, like melted cheese, may require a little extra elbow grease: "Try a plastic paint scraper," says Weiss. "Wet the area with some warm water and the cheese should come right off."
Tackle Unpleasant Smells
"Who hasn't had a coworker that thinks it's a great idea to bring their leftover salmon and heat it up in the office microwave?" says Weiss. Get rid of that scent—and any others—by wiping out the microwave using a cloth dampened with water and vinegar. "I would also suggest leaving a bowl of water with about a quarter cup of vinegar next to the microwave overnight," says Weiss. "The vinegar will absorb the smell."