How to Deodorize a Microwave [Prep, Clean, & Deo!]
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Is your microwave a bit on the stinky side? If you put in a chicken hot pocket and it comes out smelling like guacamole, there’s a problem. It’s not that you don’t like guac, but that’s not what the hot pocket is supposed to smell like. It's time to find out how to deodorize a microwave.
I exaggerate, but what’s the issue here? If your microwave is reeking, it’s probably due to a buildup of bacteria in the device. If you don’t cover food when you put it in the microwave, it will splatter and stick to the walls and top of the heating cabinet.
Over time, this food turns rancid, inviting bacteria into the device to set up shop. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, right? Fortunately, we have a few ideas to help you deodorize a microwave. Try one of these strategies; we’re sure you’ll eliminate the stench.
Preparation for Deodorizing a Microwave
Before you bust out the microwave deodorizer, you need to get the surfaces of the microwave interior in order first. Here’s how that’s done. Don't skip it because it's part of how to make a microwave smell better that you can't avoid.
Create Steam in the Microwave
The first step in the reconditioning process is to get rid of the mess inside the heating cabinet. Take a Pyrex bowl and fill it three-quarters of the way with water. Whatever you do, don't microwave glass!
Stick it in the microwave and press start. Let the water come to a boil and stop the unit. Leave the bowl inside the microwave for 15 minutes, and the steam starts to soften all the dried food waste on the sides and roof of the cooking chamber.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and remove the turntable and the plastic ring. Wash those pieces in the dishwasher if you have one or in the sink if you don’t.
Wipe Out the Microwave Interior
Next, wipe down the inside of the microwave using warm water from the Pyrex bowl and a clean rag. Remove as much food waste as possible. Don’t add any cleaners to the inside of the microwave, especially bleach.
Bleach is toxic, and heating it up in the microwave could result in the production of poisonous chlorine gas. For tougher grime, use a sponge and one of the cleaning suggestions we’ll get to in a minute. It’s better to use normal dish soap for the best results with the cleaning task.
Pay attention to the crevices and corners, where food residue can be hiding and causing a stench. This is a leading cause for fridges smelling bad after cleaning, too. You have to clean every inch, nook, and cranny. It's part of how to get a bad smell out of your microwave, and laziness won't help!
This means in all four wall corners and along the corners of the ceiling and floor of your microwave. Also check any corners where your microwave window may reside. Use a toothpick if needed to get any stuck or gooey food out.
9 Cleaners & Deodorizers for Your Smelly Microwave
Now that your microwave is ready for the deep clean to get rid of the odors in all of the crevices or even soaked into the panels, lets discuss what your options are for neutralizing those bad smells. These items are critical in how to deodorize a microwave.
Baking soda is a fantastic deodorizing agent. Pour some of it into a jar and leave it in the microwave with the lid off for a few days. Try not to use the device during this period. If you must use it, replace the baking soda in the cabinet after heating your food.
If you have tough stains in the heating cabinet, mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a bowl. Use the solution to clean the inside of the microwave.
We recommend using a soft sponge for the cleaning task; avoid using scouring pads as they may damage the paintwork on the interior, requiring you to recondition the interior. That’s probably going to cost as much as replacing the unit.
Rince the bowl after cleaning and add another mix of vinegar and water. Leave it in the microwave and follow the same instructions as the baking soda hack.
Lemons, Limes, & Oranges
Fresh lemon juice and juices from other citrus fruits like oranges and limes also make for excellent natural cleaners. Plus, they don’t leave your microwave smelling like vinegar. The citric acid in the fruit juice breaks down tough stains and grime, cleaning the microwave to perfection.
Fill the Pyrex bowl halfway with water and squeeze the lime, lemon, or orange juice into the water. Use it to wash out the microwave cabinet. After you finish, replace it with fresh water and juice and leave it there for a few days.
Combo Cleaner #1 – Lemons, Vinegar, & Baking Soda
If you want a powerful deodorizing combination, add a bowl of lemon, lime, or orange juice along with a bowl of baking soda to the cabinet. The baking soda absorbs the foul smells while the citric juices freshen it up.
Coffee is a great natural air freshener. Sprinkle a cup of coffee grounds into a bowl, add a quarter cup of water, and place it in the microwave cabinet. Run the microwave for two minutes on medium power, and the heat starts to roast the coffee grounds.
Don’t use the grounds leftover from your morning espresso. After the coffee gets wet, it starts to turn rancid if you leave it exposed to the air. Or if you have instant coffee available, that’s fine to use too; you’ll get the same result as using genuine grounds for the task.
Don’t let the water boil when using this fix. Instead, heat it for a few minutes, stop the microwave, allow the mug to cool, then hit it again. Repeat the cycles until you complete ten minutes in the microwave.
Combo Cleaner #2 – Coffee & Baking Soda
When it comes to how to deodorize a microwave, sometimes you need a power-up. After trying the coffee idea, add a jar of baking soda. The coffee removes the immediate stench, and the baking soda purifies the air over the next few days. Or, you can add a cup of coffee grounds and a cup of baking soda to a bowl (with no water) and let them sit there for a few days.
Our next natural alternative involves cloves. This spice also has smell-absorbing properties, making it ideal for this application. Pour 1/4 cup of ground cloves into a Pyrex bowl, and place it in the microwave. Leave it in the microwave overnight and when it’s not in use. The cloves work like coffee grounds and baking soda, absorbing bad odors.
While cloves have a pungent smell, and some people might not like the smell of coffee or vinegar, everyone loves the smell of vanilla essence. Walking into a kitchen where vanilla essence is baking in the oven is a delight to the senses, and you can also use the stuff to deodorize your microwave.
Put four teaspoons of the extract into a Pyrex bowl and two cups of water. Heat it for a few minutes until the water starts to boil. You’ll notice the smell of vanilla fills the kitchen as it warms. Leave the bowl in the microwave for 45 minutes to cool, and remove it. Wipe down the heating cabinet to finish the task.
Pick up activated charcoal from a health store or an online dealer to deodorize your microwave. This material has the same deodorizing properties as baking soda, and like baking soda, it doesn’t have any smell.
So, if you want to deodorize the microwave but don’t want any other smells in the kitchen, activated charcoal is a great substrate for the task. Sprinkle the activated charcoal in a Pyrex bowl and leave it in the microwave for a few days. Follow the same instructions as using the baking soda, and the material absorbs the bad odors.
Berries have antibacterial properties, making them suitable for deodorizing and sterilizing your microwave. Put a handful of berries of your choice in a Pyrex bowl. Cover the bowl with a microwave lid and heat it for a few minutes. Leave the bowl in the cabinet for a few minutes to cool the water.
Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol)
This one isn’t natural, but we’ll include it anyway. If you have a dirty microwave, isopropyl alcohol is another alternative to using vinegar or lemon juice to clean the heating cabinet. Most drug stores sell it under the name “rubbing alcohol,” and it’s reasonably priced. It can be the answer for how to deodorize a microwave if other options don't cut it.
Dab the alcohol on a rag and use it to remove the tough stains and grime in the heating cabinet. Make sure you wash it out properly, as it has a sterile smell that might contaminate food when you heat it in the device.
This is as good of a place as any to mention that you may decide to use Windex simply because it's on hand. That can be okay for the inside of the microwave but don't clean stainless steel with Windex or any other ammonia-based cleaner.
FAQs Regarding Deodorizing a Microwave
You probably have a series of questions in your head that I can predict, because it’s the same questions I had at first and the same ones that pop into other people’s minds when I discuss this with them. Let’s cover those now.
How Do I Get a Burnt Smell Out of the Microwave?
If you cook something in the microwave and burn it, use one of our deodorizing tips to remove the burnt smell. Our top natural choices for burnt smells are baking soda, coffee grounds, lemons, and vinegar.
What Are the Causes of a Smelly Microwave?
When the food gets hot, the water inside causes it to crackle and sometimes explode, leaving a mess in the heating cabinet. Some foods are more prone to this than others.
Sauces are the biggest problem as they contain large amounts of water. Over time, the food attracts bacteria to the microwave, which can cause it to smell. This food residue can hide in the crevices and corners as well.
Should I Clean & Deodorize My Microwave After Every Use?
No. It’s not necessary to do this. However, cleaning and deodorizing it after cooking foods with strong smells is a good idea. You can wipe down the interior after every use to prevent the buildup of food waste on the roof and walls of the heating cabinet.
How Long Does it Take to Deodorize a Microwave?
Typically, it takes around three days to remove pungent smells from the microwave. Leave your baking soda or deodorizer in the device for as long as possible between cooking meals.
Do I Need to Unplug My Microwave Before Cleaning & Deodorizing It?
No, it’s not necessary to unplug the microwave, though it's a good chance to make sure your microwave is on a dedicated circuit. The device can only turn on if you close the door due to safety mechanisms built into the system. Don’t spray cleaner into any openings leading to the vent or lightbulb, though.
That’s How to Deodorize a Microwave to Remove the Bad Smell
To do a re-cap, basically your goal is to soften all of the baked on food from the surfaces of the microwave by heating up water to create steam. Then you need to remove all of that food residue but also pay attention to the corners where grime and gunk can be hiding. You need to remove all of this as it’s the main source of the bad smell in your microwave.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to deodorize it using the cleaning options above. You can try more than one in succession if you want to do a very thorough job or if you have a tough stench at hand. But you will succeed.
If it doesn’t solve the problem you probably need to try deep cleaning it again. That is how to deodorize a microwave and how to get rid of odors in your microwave that otherwise seem like they won’t go away.