How To Clean A Microwave: With AND Without Vinegar

How To Clean A Microwave

I’m sure that my microwave oven doesn’t turn into a disaster area overnight, but sometimes it seems that way! Once in a while, I’ll go to use it, only to be greeted by a microwave interior full of splatters, smears, and baked-on food messes. And have you ever tried to scrub that stuff off? Elbow grease is hard work!

Luckily, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that makes cleaning microwave gunk a breeze. I have not one, but TWO methods that you can use to clean your microwave with little to no effort and free of harsh chemicals. And they both work using the power of steam!

Related: 7 Of The Best Home Cleaning Hacks You’ll Ever Try.


Creating a steamy environment in your microwave oven helps to loosen the super-stubborn food messes that tend to accumulate inside. Once the steam works its magic, those messes can easily be wiped up using a damp sponge, soft cloth, or paper towel. There’s no better or quicker way to clean a microwave!

So today, I’ll be sharing my microwave cleaning hack with you because it’s always nice to have options, especially when your dirty microwave has gotten the better of you.

The first method uses vinegar, which is one of my all-time favorite natural cleaners. It cleans, sanitizes, and deodorizes all at once! But I know that some people (my husband and sons included) can be sensitive about the scent of vinegar, so that’s why I’ve included a second cleaning method as well.

The second method uses water and lemon oil to clean and sanitize your microwave inside. I think both ways work equally well, so choose whichever one appeals to you most (or whichever method you have the supplies for!)

How To Clean A Microwave


Method #1 – Steam Clean With Vinegar

You’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Warm Water
  • Glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl
  • A wooden skewer or wooden spoon
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)

Step 1 – Prep

Pour one cup of white vinegar into a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, along with one cup of warm water. Place the cup or bowl into your microwave, then place a wooden spoon into the liquid.


(This step helps ensure that your vinegar and hot water mixture won’t get overheated and accidentally explode. It may not be necessary, but it’s an easy precaution to take!)


Step 2 – Microwave

Set your microwave for 5-10 minutes (depending on how powerful your microwave is) and turn it on. When the time is up, CAREFULLY remove the bowl or cup from the microwave using an oven mitt.


Step 3 – Wipe The Inside

Next, grab a clean cloth (paper towels will work too) and wipe the microwave door and the rest of the inside clean. The steam from the water and vinegar will have loosened up any splatters and spills, so you can wipe the surfaces clean without any scrubbing!


Bonus Step – Shine The Outside

If you want to go the extra mile with your microwave, here’s a simple step to make the outside shine! Grab your microfiber cloth and some rubbing alcohol (or window cleaner), and pour a bit of the alcohol onto the fabric. Use the damp cloth to wipe and buff the outside of your microwave to a sparkly-clean shine!

For those of you who would instead use a vinegar-free method, never fear! :-) I’ve got a second microwave cleaning method to share today. This one uses water and essential oils, and it’s just as simple as the first method. Here’s how to do it:


Method #2 – Steam Clean Without Vinegar

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Lemon essential oil (or lemon juice)
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge

Step 1 – Prep

Start by getting your sponge wet. You want it to be as saturated as possible! Then place your wet sponge in the microwave.


Next, fill your spray bottle with a couple of ounces of water and about 3-5 drops of lemon essential oil. (If you want a stronger lemon scent, use a few more drops, or a fewer if you’d prefer a subtler scent.)


Step 2 – Spray

Spray the inside of your microwave with the water and lemon oil mixture. Ensure you spray it liberally all over, including the top, bottom, and sides of your microwave.

Step 3 – Microwave

Then set your microwave for approximately 2 minutes and turn it on.


Step 4 – Wipe Clean

After the time is up and the microwave turns off, leave the sponge inside the microwave with the door closed for a few minutes until the sponge is cool enough to handle. Then grab the sponge and use it to wipe the inside. Watch in amazement as all the gunk and grime slides off easily!


You can also use the same sponge to wipe down the outside of the microwave as well. Enjoy your clean AND fresh-smelling microwave!

What’s your best tip for cleaning kitchen appliances?

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I use the vinegar trick too, but I just do it for about 3 minutes. I wash the turntable and the thing it sits on(sorry can’t remember the name, lol) by hand

  • Just wondering if you could combine both of the techniques by using vinegar with essential oils. I have some vinegar with orange peels in it that I made. So, could I use that instead of plain white vinegar?

  • I handwash my dishes (no dishwasher) but I wipe everything down when they’re done. I cover anything that I put in the microwave so it’s pretty clean. When I say everything, I wipe down the counter, the front of the fridge, inside/outside the microwave and the top of the stove. The stove is probably the one I’m most likely to have spatter. If so, I pull off the grates and toss them in the dishwater. It may add an extra 10 minutes to my daily routine but I don’t have to spend hours scrubbing away on stuck on food. The few extra minutes makes all the difference in the world.

  • I just tried the vinegar method. Perfect! I used a thick oven mitt to wipe down the interior, then dipped a dishcloth in the vinegar solution to clean the turntable and trivet thingie. Voila, all clean. Thanks!

  • Uh-oh! I just followed your steps based on the Google search preview, which omits the step with the wooden spoon/skewer. I gave it 6 minutes, then a first wipe to get the majority of the crud. Some was still sticking firmly, so I gave it another few minutes. Midway through, the whole thing blew up! The microwave appears to be okay, and the liquid mess not only cleaned up easily but served to help clean some other surfaces, so I can only laugh about it. Next time I’ll definitely include a chopstick to break the surface of the solution!

  • Great tips! There are always hard to reach spots in the microwave and this has been helpful for me to get everything! With the new year coming up I want to get better at keeping up my cleaning routines and making sure my home stays clean and organized!

  • Perhaps I don’t microwave that much but I do use a cover whenever I do microwave and have almost next to no splatters so I am able to use my wet sponge to wipe off splats that do escape.

  • OK, so maybe I have OCD, but I wipe out my microwave each time I use it. I do not let spattered food build up. I usually use just water but sometimes I add some bleach to my cloth and then wipe it out again with water. I do have an “Angry Mama” which is a plastic container that looks like a frowning woman. I fill it, according to directions with vinegar and water, put it in the microwave for the allotted time, and then wipe out the microwave when it cools. The moisture and vinegar do a great job, but I rarely have to do this due to cleaning the oven each time I use it.

  • I have one of the Angry Mama steam cleaners for my microwave. This basically works like the water/vinegar in the cup method of Jillee’s, but the steam comes out little vents in the Mama’s head as she rotates on the turntable. Very effective at loosening up the messy spills to make them easy to wipe away. I’ll have to try the sponge method too.

    • Unfortunately, I’ve looked and looked. My guess is that your microwave is the same as mine – plastic and metal. White seems to ”yellow” no matter what. The only thing I could find was to repaint the metal via a handyman site. I thought about it and it’s just too much work – it will still turn yellow over time. I wipe every day and all I can say is that you learn to live with it.

  • Oh Happy Day! Thank you Jillee. I’ve used so many of your wonderful tips but had to comment on this one. This was the easiest, fastest way I’ve ever cleaned my microwave. Easy Peasy and yes, less than five minutes to wipe the entire microwave. You rock!

  • Thank you so much for all your wonderful tips! My husband passed away unexpectedly in November and he knew how to take care of everything! Now I can rely on your site to help me out!

      • Hi Christine
        I am in Botswana in a small village called Mokatse approx population of 4000. Very nice village and dusty. I absolutely love your newsletter , an eye opener. I am certainly in and will use most if not all your DIY tips.


  • They are printable! At the bottom of every post, there is a green “print friendly” button. Once you click it, you get a preview and the choice to remove images or any of the text you don’t need. :-)

    • there is a printable button, but I couldn’t find it right away….it’s above comments and there is a RED Pin it rectangle, a GREEN Print it and a BLUE email it…..

  • I’m glad to see a method that doesn’t involve using vinegar. I already have the lemon extract. Our microwave cooks stuff in about half the time usually .

  • I’ve sprayed down my microwave and soaked a sponge a microwaved it for a minute. Now I use vinegar for most of my cleaning, I think I’d just spray it with 50/50 water/vinegar. Don’t forget the “ceiling” of the microwave. She’s not kidding about letting the sponge cook- worth a few minute wait. I’ve got to try the rubbing alcohol and micro fiber trick. Great tips!

  • I love these methods. I use a dishcloth saturated with Dawn dish liquid. Place in microwave for 1 min (I have a pretty powerful microwave) so it only take a min. Let it cool, then wipe clean. Everything wipes down so easy. I use the vinegar after someone burns popcorn in the microwave and it takes the odor away easily. One thing I haven’t tried is wiping down the outside with alcohol to make it shine. I will definitely try that next time. I love all your tips. Thank you.

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