A microwave is a common household or office appliance that was invented for cooking food more quickly than conventional ovens. Although it is ideal for heating up leftovers and frozen meals, sometimes spills, splatters, and other mishaps occur. Messes can also lead to odor and griminess, causing your microwave to smell bad and slow down its efficiency.

Microwave in a kitchen

Fortunately, there are a number of remedies to solve even the most difficult of cases. If you would like to know how to properly clean your microwave, banish caked on stains, and dissolve age-old grease once and for all, here are some tips that will keep your microwave oven looking and working just like new.

Remove Spills, Splats, and Stains

Coffee spill

If you've ever reheated a bowl of soup or spaghetti, pizza or any food containing a sauce, then you're probably aware of just how dirty the inside of a microwave can get. Minor food explosions sometimes occur, no matter how much you do to prevent them. The solution is simple.

1. Place 1 cup of water and about 3 or 4 tablespoons of vinegar into a microwave-safe container.

2. Heat on high for 5 minutes to enable all the steam to loosen up the dirt.

3. Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes before opening the microwave door. This will help loosen up caked on dirt for easy cleanup.

4. Open the door, then wipe down the inside basin with a light sponge. Once cleaning is complete, go over with a dry cloth to soak up any remaining moisture. Your microwave will be as good as new.

Clean More Regularly

Cleaning sponge

The cleanliness of your microwave depends on how often you are using it. When microwaved food splatters, it can dry and turn into hard-to-remove stains over time. A store-bought stain remover may do the trick, or you can create a home remedy of your own that will help loosen up stubborn debris. if you are using your microwave every day, try wiping it down with this homemade cleaning solution after each use to keep it fresh.

1. Mix 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 cup of water into a microwave-safe container.

2. Place the container into the microwave, then turn on high-heat for about for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Open the microwave, carefully take out the container, and place it on the counter. The solution may be hot, so use a towel or oven mitts.

4. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture, using the solution to remove hard to reach places. You may use a toothbrush to remove gunk from the cracks and crevices.

5. With a damp, clean cloth, wipe away any remaining residue and moisture.

Avoid the Wrong Foods

Cracked eggs
Joe Belanger/Shutterstock

No matter how convenient microwaves are, some foods just simply aren't made to be placed in one, such as eggs in their shells, chili peppers, breastmilk, formula, and even a mug of water. All foods have varying compositions, meaning they all react differently when exposed to the electromagnetic charges used to cook food. Raw eggs should never be cooked in microwaves because steam can cause them to burst. Chili peppers can release harmful chemical fumes, and breastmilk tends to cook unevenly. Even heating a cup of water in a microwave can be dangerous, causing the liquid to overheat, which can lead to a hot water explosion. The best way to keep a clean microwave is prevention. Here are some other key foods to avoid heating in the microwave:

  • Processed meats
  • Leafy greens
  • Uncooked rice
  • Oils
  • Red pasta sauce
  • Grapes
  • Broccoli
  • Raw fish
  • Potatoes
  • Previously reheated food
  • Frozen produce
  • Bread

Melted plastic

Burned plate

Some plastics are microwave safe, while others aren't so ideal for this appliance. Seek out plastic containers that are properly labeled to avoid the harmful chemical, BPA, or bisphenol, which can cause health defects, especially in small children. Plastic can also explode or melt within a microwave, rendering it extremely difficult to clean, not to mention the unsightly smell that occurs when it burns. Make sure that your dishware is labeled "microwave safe" or "BPA-free." If you've accidentally used a non-microwave safe item and it has melted, take the following steps to remove any smoke and debris.

1. Unplug the microwave.

2. Take out the burnt plastic item and any debris.

3. Clean the rotating glass plate with warm, soapy water. If the plastic has melted onto the glass, allow the rotating glass to soak for about 30 minutes in warm soapy water, to loosen any gunk. Then scrape away with a blunt utensil, such as a butter knife or fork.

4. Allow the microwave to air out for at least 20 minutes.

5. Wash the inside of the microwave with soap and water.

6. Clean the inside of the microwave with a damp cloth, making sure that all soap residue and moisture is completely wiped away. No moisture should be left in the microwave after cleaning.

7. Add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of ground coffee to to 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl, then place into microwave. The coffee grounds should remove any offending odor.

8. Turn microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes. If you need to repeat step 7, you may do so until the odor is eliminated.

Dissolve Grease & Stains

Cooked meat

Grease can occur when oils from the food that you cook splatter or evaporate onto the interior walls or door. Overtime, this can lead to yellowing and a filmy tarnish that causes discoloration. Sometimes yellow stains are also caused by certain foods that contain ingredients such as turmeric, which tends to leave a difficult yellow residue. However, clean up is virtually a cinch should this occur. Here's what to do:

1. Pour 3 cups of water into a microwave-safe container.

2. Add ½ of a lemon, chopped or sliced, into the water and place the container into the microwave.

3. Microwave the container on high for 5 minutes. Afterward, allow the steam to permeate inside the microwave for about 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the container from the microwave, then pour white vinegar over a towel or sponge to be used to wipe down and remove any lingering stains. Use a pinch of baking soda to help scrub away any stubborn stains.

6. Use a clean towel that has been rinsed with water to wipe away any remaining residue, followed by a clean, dry cloth to soak up leftover moisture.

Microwaves are a great item to own, but they require upkeep. As convenient as microwaves are, messes happen and when they do, you'll be armed with the necessary tools to not only keep your microwave spic and span but will keep you safe.

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