How To Clean A Smelly Microwave With Common Kitchen Products

Here's how to banish funky smells from your microwave once and for all.

Even the cleanest of kitchens can fall prey to gross smells now and then. They lurk in your garbage disposal, your refrigerator, and even your microwave. The latter is especially discouraging since microwaves are all about speed and convenience. No one wants to find an unpleasant smell inside just before they're about to reheat a plate of spaghetti! Luckily it's easy to get those terrible smells out of your microwave. To find out how, we went to Jeremy Thompson, strategic cleaning advisor at in Houston, Texas.

Food Will Taste Better if You Clean Your Microwave
Photo by SasinParaksa via Getty Images

How Often to Clean Your Microwave

The short answer is "regularly." According to Thompson, "A microwave oven can develop odors if it isn't cleaned regularly or if you overcook something and burn it." He says the best way to keep your microwave free of unpleasant aromas is simply to clean it regularly with a damp, soapy cloth. Afterward, wipe it with a clean cloth soaked in fresh water. When you're through, dry it thoroughly with a clean cloth and leave the microwave door open until all traces of moisture are gone.

Sometimes it may take a little extra effort to rid your microwave of baked-on food. Thompson shared a hack that offers terrific results. He says, "If there are baked-on pieces of food in your microwave, heat a cup of water inside for three to four minutes. The steam will help loosen them for cleaning."

What You Need

  • Microwave-safe container
  • Water
  • Cleaning cloth
  • White vinegar or lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Optional: half a lemon, peeled orange, vanilla extract, or coffee grounds to leave a pleasant scent

How to Clean a Stinky Microwave With Common Kitchen Products

There may be times when you've cleaned your microwave but those horrible odors persist. Don't despair, it's not time to buy a new microwave just yet. Thompson has several easy solutions to this challenge using products you probably already have on hand in your kitchen:

  1. For mild odors, overnight treatments might not be necessary. Make a solution of 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a microwave-safe container. Heat the solution in the microwave for three or four minutes until boiling.
    • If you prefer a sweeter smell, instead make a solution of 1 cup of water and 4 teaspoons of vanilla or 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds.
  2. Once the water has cooled sufficiently, soak a cloth in the solution and wipe clean the inside of the microwave and the door, gently scraping away any stuck-on food.
  3. When finished, be sure to wipe the microwave thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth and dry with yet another clean cloth. Then leave the door open until the interior of the microwave has a chance to completely dry.
  4. If an unpleasant odor remains, place an open box of baking soda inside the microwave and leave it there overnight. The baking soda will absorb the odors, leaving your microwave smelling clean and fresh in the morning.
    • If you prefer a citrus smell, take one half of a lemon or a peeled orange and place in 2 cups of water in the microwave-safe container. Heat the water for three minutes in the microwave or until steaming hot. Leave the heated water and fruit inside the microwave for 12 hours. Then discard the water and fruit and leave the door open for drying.
Splatter Tool in Front of Microwave

How to Prevent Smells in the Microwave and Keep it Clean Longer

To keep away bad smells, clean up any spills in the microwave immediately. Consider using a splatter cover over your food to prevent messes. Leave the door open for a few minutes after each use to allow steam and odors to dissipate. Then give your microwave a thorough cleaning with the vinegar or lemon juice solution every two weeks.

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