How to Clean Your Microwave, in Four Easy (and Five More Optional) Steps

Posted on November 25, 2010 by Stefanie

The past few months, I’ve been trying this crazy new thing wherein I strive to dedicate an hour or less to light cleaning once a week or so, rather than let the whole house steadily fall to the sort of entropy that requires a full weekend’s effort to resolve.

This plan has worked out well, mostly. It’s amazing how much less daunting cleaning is when you actually clean semi-regularly, and it’s remarkable how much¬†happier and at ease I am when surrounded mostly by order rather than chaos. This is not a novel life lesson, I realize. I’ve just never been a quick study.

One area of my house that’s remained exempt from this routine scrubbing and tidying, however, is my microwave. I would say that I don’t remember the last time I fully and properly cleaned the inside of my microwave, but that would be a lie. I actually remember exactly when I last cleaned it. It was a night when I was particularly annoyed with a particularly foolish boy I briefly dated, and rather than sit at home festering in my annoyance, I decided to channel that angry energy into a useful and productive task (namely, scrubbing my microwave). That is all good and fine, except… that boy? He was my date for the millennial New Year’s (as in, December 31, 1999). And I dated him, as I said, briefly. Can we just pretend for a minute that we’ve forgotten how calendar math works? Because I really don’t want to admit that I’ve had some of the same crusted-on food plastered inside my microwave for dang near eleven years now. For shame.

Mind you, I’m not entirely an animal. Certainly I’ve wiped up obvious spills and such as they’ve occurred in these intervening years, but an all-out scrubbing of all the caked-on spatters and residue? Somehow that just hasn’t made it to the top of my to-do list. Perhaps it’s because nothing in life has annoyed me as much as that boy since. No, that’s not it. Surely lots of happy, well-adjusted, even-keeled people clean their microwave just because it needs doing. I decided it was time I became one of them.

If your microwave is sporting some semi-permanent speckles as well, perhaps you’d like to follow the same process I did. That process goes something like this:

  1. Watch this video from the esteemed folks at Seventh Generation. Have a good hearty laugh at the suggestion that spraying a little all-purpose cleaner on a microfiber cloth and cheerily wiping down the walls of the microwave with it will actually lift eleven (eleven!) years of nuked-on gunk.
  2. Try it anyway, just to prove you’re right. Consider asking that nice lady from the video over to show you just how easy it’s not.
  3. Read this list of “Clean with Your Food” tips from Coburn’s grocers. Take their advice and mix 1/4 cup vinegar with a cup of water and boil it in the microwave for a few minutes to loosen things up in there.
  4. Try that Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner sprayed on a microfiber cloth plan again, and marvel at the fact that years of neglected microwave gunk now really IS coming off without any intense scrubbing or scraping!
  5. Mix up a little paste of baking soda and water and rub that around inside the microwave with a cloth to pull up the remaining stubbornest of spatters and stains.
  6. Wipe the whole thing down again with a clean wet cloth.
  7. Look at the clock and realize you just cleaned your very dirty microwave very completely in less than ten minutes. Further realize that your arm is not even the least bit sore from the effort and that you didn’t need to get stood up by some boy to channel the energy to complete this task.
  8. Stand back and marvel at the Thanksgiving miracle that is your clean (and toxic product-free!) microwave.
  9. Pat yourself on the back for being so smart and eco-savvy. Pledge never to let anything in your house go uncleaned for more than a decade ever again.
In summary, what have we learned today? That’s right—vinegar and baking soda to the rescue again! Is there anything those two things can’t do?


  1. Good tip! And it must be microwaving season, because this post also came through my feeder today:

    However, due to a prior incident of setting a sponge on fire in the microwave, I do feel wary about putting cloth in there unless it’s really, really wet.

    November 25th, 2010 at 8:30 am
    Comment by Noelle
  2. Wow. That’s a weird coincidence. Well, use my method instead, Noelle (steps 3-6, anyway). It involves a few more substances than the “rag in microwave” method, but I promise you, nothing will start on fire.

    November 25th, 2010 at 11:56 am
    Comment by Stefanie
  3. Too funny, I was always super anal about wiping it out right when anything spilled so I never had any caked on crud. But the easiest way to clean a microwave is to not have one. I got rid of mine years ago and my pans are much easier to clean, not to mention my food tastes better warmed up!

    December 3rd, 2010 at 11:44 am
    Comment by Chiot's Run
  4. [...] (Note: It is probably not the same can I bought in college, but given that I already admitted I went 11 years without properly cleaning my microwave, who can say, really.) Whenever I bought it, it was obviously before I thought to worry about nasty [...]

    April 14th, 2011 at 12:04 am
    Pingback by Eco-Friendly Dusting, the Second-Most Natural Way I Know How
  5. [...] wiped (*cough*) um, eleven years of nuked-on gunk from the inside of my microwave just by cooking some vinegar and water in it first. This weekend, I had one [...]

    October 27th, 2011 at 12:26 am
    Pingback by Cleaning Your Burner Bowls, the Easy-on-Your-Arms Way

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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