A Safer, Better-Smelling Way To Clean Your Microwave

Several months ago I did a post on How To Clean and Shine Your Microwave. This is how I have been cleaning my microwave for years!

However, there were some readers that were concerned about superheated liquid causing explosions in the microwave (something that is completely avoidable if you follow the directions in the post!), while others simply didn’t like the smell of vinegar.

Well, recently my friend Natali told me how she cleans her microwave, and I, of course, had to give it a try! Guess what? It worked every bit as well as my original method, eliminated any risk of superheated liquid, AND it smelled better too. :-) I was immediately converted to “The Natali Method” and couldn’t wait to share it with all of you.

A few other “pros” of using this method…it’s simple…and completely non-toxic.

Here is what you will need:

Start by getting your sponge wet. You want it completely saturated.

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Place it in the microwave.

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Then fill your spray bottle with a couple of ounces of water and approximately 3-5 drops of lemon essential oil. The ratio is completely up to you. If you want a stronger smell of lemon use more…or less if you want a subtler scent.

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Spray the inside of your microwave with the lemon water. Make sure you spray it all over. Top, bottom, sides. Get it really wet! Then set the timer on the microwave for approximately 2 minutes (this will depend on how powerful your microwave is…2 minutes was just right for mine) and turn it on.

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After the microwave turns off, leave the sponge inside with the door closed until it’s cool enough to handle and then use it to wipe out the inside. You have effectively just “steam-cleaned” your microwave.

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You can also use the same sponge to wipe down the outside of the microwave as well…and anything else in the general vicinity that could use a little touch-up.

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Now your microwave is clean AND fresh-smelling!



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  1. Jesa says

    When I was visiting my family in Wisconsin I noticed every house I went to had a little cover for stuff they microwave.
    When I got back to Oregon I bought 2, one for my mom and one for me.
    I LOVE them, and it keeps my microwave from getting yucky in the first place.

  2. danielle says

    Sharon, I use real lemon juice to clean my microwave. I just dump some on the sponge with water. I’ve also never sprayed down the inside before nuking the sponge. I’ve also done it with the heated water method- a bowl of lemon juice and water. :-)

  3. janice says

    You can microwave a mug of water for 2 minutes. Do not open the the microwave…but let the mug remain in there for 5 to 10 minutes. The condensation that forms inside the oven makes it easy to just wipe it clean.

    • Vicki says

      Yes, I have always just done the microwave a cup of water for 2 minutes and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes way. It works very well, and I could never understand needing vinegar in the water. I also can’t imagine boiling something in my microwave for 10 minutes and then trying to move it right away. By just microwaving it for 2 minutes, then letting it sit, you are not trying to move a boiling cup of water.

    • Kimmy says

      YES! The mug-full-of-water method is by far the best thing I have ever tried. I grew up in a house where EVERYTHING that got microwaved had to have a cover over it. And then you would need to wash the cover, because you wouldn’t want the nasty stuff that got on it the previous time to fall in what you were microwaving. Anyways, it seemed silly to me. I would rather scrub a microwave once a week than wash the cover several times a day. Enter college. Main method of cooking, so as to avoid the nasty cafeteria food, was the microwave. My mom gave me my very own cover! WOOHOO! Not. Donated that thing to the thrift store right away. I would scrub the microwave once a week. I tried many different methods of cleaning it. My favorite was to spray it with diluted vinegar, turn it on for about 30 seconds, then let it sit for a while and wipe it down. My senior year of college, I got a job as an office wench, and of course, it was my responsibility to clean the microwave. One day, my boss came in and was like, “You know what’s easier? Microwave a mug full of water. Let it sit a couple minutes, and wipe it off.” Can I just say, it worked AMAZINGLY well. Everything wipes right off. There’s no “nasty” smell. (I clean everything with vinegar anyways, so I don’t mind it.) No chemicals. No worrying if what you’re putting in there might make you sick. It’s PERFECT. Why try anything else?

  4. Sharon says

    I used to fill a glass bowl with water add 3 squeezed lemons and turned on the microwave for 15 minutes. It worked as well. I then threw the lemons down the garbage disposal to freshen that up as well. i will try this method and use lemon grass EO since that is what I have. Splendid idea!

  5. Mar says

    I put a mug of cold water with a quirt of lemon juice (the kind in the bottle) in my microwave for 4 minutes.
    Then when it beeps I leave it.
    For a looong time!lol! (Often get occupied doing something else!)
    Then I go back and just wipe it right out.
    The sides etc are damp from the condensation? Evaporation? Whichever And everything just wiped right off.
    I don’t run right away and grab the mug out, because then yes, you could get burned.

  6. Judy says

    I too wondered if you could use another oil. I like the smell of lavender better than lemon and would prefer to use it unless it may taint the food taste for awhile after cleaning. Do not want any taste of lavender in my food. I too also cover my food when nuking it, so it does not get very dirty, but this is a splendid idea for cleaning and sanitizing both the micro and the sponge. Thank you.

  7. Karina says

    My method is simliar to others; I use a coffee cup with water and nuke it for 5-6 minutes. When it’s finished I open it up wide to let the steam out and wipe it clean. I too use a cover so mine doesn’t usually get terribly dirty.

    I try to remember to sanitze sponges regularly by rinsing out with vinegar then nuking for two minutes.

  8. says

    The easiest way is to just boil plain water. I put a cup of water in a pyrex measuring cup & set for 5 minutes, let set for a couple minutes then wipe. Almost always gets everything without scrubbing. No smell, no chemicals, no work.

  9. CTY says

    Oh the power of lemons, will give this a whirl.
    As a side note; the post about cleaning the stove top with peroxide and baking soda, incredible! I had burnt on sugar/fruit from canning last summer that I could not get off. I was heartsick because I just bought my dream range and it was charred. I tried every cleaner I had, and bought a slew of Easy-off style hard chemical cleaners but none worked. I was reading past posts & tried it out. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. LB says

    Just tried a version of this and it absolutely works! No lemon oil, so I squeezed a fresh lemon into a coffee mug and filled it with water. Dipped my sponge in the lemon water to saturate it (dunked both ends). Put the lemon water mug and the sponge in the microwave. 2:15 was perfect for mine. Let it sit until the sponge was cool enough to handle. Wiped off everything- magic and smells fresh!

  11. Deborah Jennings says

    I have used something similar to this. I put a glass bowl of water in the microwave and heated it up for 2 minutes. It doesn’t boil, but it will steam. Let it sit in the microwave for 5 minutes. Remove bowl of water and wipe down the inside of the microwave. I have put some dehydrated lemon or orange peel in the bowl of water before heating, too.

  12. Juanita in OH says

    This is a wonderful idea! The vinegar is smelly but the result was sooooooo good and I was happy. I can’t wait to try this. In one of my microwaves the old methond work perfectly, however, in the second one I thought the inside of the microwave had exploded, lol. I can’t wait to try this. TFS.

  13. Kara says

    I’ll have to try this method. :) I’ve also used the lemon juice method for years. I use a tupperware container and fill it half way with water and then slice a lemon into wedges. If the microwave is REALLY dirty I use the whole lemon if not, half is good. Then I turn the microwave on for 2 minutes, wait a few minutes after it shuts off and then wipe it clean. (I work in a restaurant as a cook and we use the lemon method daily). I like the essential oils idea for at home though. I’ve got some Sweet Orange essential oils that I may have to try this idea with. :)

  14. says

    Jillee – I cannot believe that I didn’t know about these wonderful money saving tricks that you send to us every day. And I’m 67! I so look forward to your informational emails and thank you so very much for your wonderful blog! I am amazed on a daily basis! Wishing you a wonderful 2013!

  15. Jan M. says

    I tried this this morning – (as someone mentioned – I forgot about it) and went out to run errands. Came home and the smell in my house reminded me what I had done. Wiped out the nuker and was done.
    Jillee – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your daily posts! I see something and share with my friends that I know would appreciate your wisdom as much as I do. Keep ‘em coming!

  16. Leah says

    The easiest way that I have found to clean the microwave is by making “baked” potatoes for dinner! Put your paper towel down, then you poked potatoes, then another paper towel. “Bake” your potatoes, remove them, and wipe out the microwave with the paper towels. It’s super easy and since we have potatoes this way about once a week the timing couldn’t be better! Plus, we have 2 covers for the microwave… And my husband refuses to use either one! BTW, I store 1 of them in the microwave…

  17. Amy says

    We also use a cover for our foods, and it’s awesome, keeps the nukes from getting too grimy! Love this trick though and what a great way to have the kitchen smelling lemon-y!

    For any Canadians who don’t have access to Target, we got our cover at IKEA. :)

  18. Comet says

    For the IKEA micro covers–where in the store did you find them? Are they sold as “Microwave” food covers? I had a rather unattractive brown–ugh!!!!—plastic “lid” that looked like the top of a bamboo steamer for covering the micro food but it never seemed to work “right” and never fit on anything with out falling off.

    Would love to find one the next time I venture off to a civilized part of the world with an IKEA–is there one near Montreal????

    Also—never forget having my first microwave back in the stone age and a friend telling me to NOT forget the TOP of the inside—OMG what was stuck up there!!!!!!! LOL!!!!! Remember when the sales people tried to sell you on a microwave because you could cook a TURKEY in them? Anyone EVER actually COOK a turkey in there????

  19. Amy Rife says

    Make sure you do not spray directly into the vent holes on the inside of your microwave…this is how I ruined almost brand new microwave. It pretty much fried it beyond repair. :(

  20. Polly says

    I’ve used the water in a mug method for years. However, after the it sits for a couple of minutes to steam the microwave, I pull it out and put a tea bag in the mug to steep while I wipe out the microwave. When the microwave is done, I treat myself to a nice cup of tea.

  21. Jaybird says

    Does anyone know how to clean the shiny metal insides of a microwave/convection oven. The manufacturer was glad to sell us a 10$ bottle of product that didn’t clean it at all. We are not messy people and having a dirty looking microwave despite my best efforts, bothers me :^(.
    Thank you for any information.

  22. says

    I fill a coffee mug most of the way with water, sploosh in some lemon juice, and microwave it for 2-3 minutes. When it’s done, all I have to do is wipe it out with a paper towel or a cloth.

    My husband likes to really over-heat things in the microwave, and both he and the kids are not very good about using the cover, so this trick is very useful!

  23. mary prestigiacomo says

    These ideas are awesome! I don’t know how I cleaned before you, well, I do, but it was a little toxic! Thanks for these ideas, super helpful! I tried the one to clean out a drain with baking soda and vineger and it worked great! No more plunging, and cheaper than name brand stuff. I will continue to use these ideas as they are better to the environment and more gentle to my nose and skin! Thanks again.


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