6 Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Microwave, According to Experts

published Jun 8, 2023
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A person cleaning the inside of a microwave with a sponge and white vinegar
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Your microwave is a central part of your kitchen. From heating up leftovers to defrosting dinners, this small-but-mighty appliance regularly comes in contact with food — which means it’s particularly important to keep clean. The hard part? Your microwave is also especially vulnerable to grimy, potentially germ-ridden crumbs and splatters.

Luckily, the right approach can go a long way in keeping your microwave hygienic and functional for the long-term. But before you take in all the right strategies, know what you definitely shouldn’t do when it comes to cleaning this important kitchen appliance. Below are six common mistakes people make cleaning their microwaves, according to the pros. 

Cleaning with harsh chemicals. 

Although it may seem like a good idea to fend off germs and messes with chemicals like bleach, ammonia, or oven cleaner, they can be seriously hazardous inside the microwave. “These substances can release toxic fumes when heated and leave behind residue that can contaminate your food,” says Kevin Geick, manager at biohazard cleaning company BioRecovery. “Stick to milder, microwave-safe cleaners, or natural alternatives.”

Neglecting the vent. 

Microwaves often have vents on the sides or back that release hot air. “These vents can become clogged with grease, dust, and debris, affecting the microwave’s efficiency,” says Geick. Regularly clean these vents with a soft brush or vacuum cleaner attachment to keep your appliance working well for years.

Getting the control panel too wet. 

The control panel on the outside of your microwave can easily accumulate food residue and fingerprints — but you’ll need to exercise caution when cleaning it. “Many people make the mistake of drenching it with water or spraying it directly with cleaners,” says Karina Toner, operations manager of Spekless Cleaning. The problem: Excessive moisture can damage these delicate electronic components. Instead, Toner recommends using a damp cloth or sponge to gently wipe down the buttons. 

Using abrasive tools in the microwave itself. 

While abrasive scrubbers can help tackle stubborn stains, they can also scratch the surface of your microwave’s interior, leaving visible damage and creating hiding spots for bacteria. Metal-based tools, such as steel wool, can leave behind metal scraps that could cause sparks or fires when heated up. “Opt for softer tools like sponges or microfiber cloths, which will effectively remove stains without any unwanted scratches,” suggests Toner. 

Forgetting the seals and hinges. 

Regularly wiping down the turntable, walls, and ceiling of your microwave can go a long way in keeping it clean. But you may be forgetting to clean other important nooks and crannies, such as the door seals and hinges. “Food particles can get stuck in these areas, which can cause unpleasant odors,” says Justin Carpenter, owner of Modern Maids in Houston. 

Touching the magnetron.

Your microwave functions with the help of a magnetron, which generates waves that create heat. It’s typically located inside the back of your microwave, so you won’t encounter it on a regular basis — but if you’re poking around the appliance to deep clean, definitely don’t touch this part. “It can retain a lethal electrical charge even when unplugged, so any issues related to the magnetron should be addressed by a professional technician,” says Rocky Vuong, founder of Calibre Cleaning in Australia.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: 6 Mistakes You’re Making When Cleaning Your Microwave, According to the Pros