How to Clean Your Microwave of Bad Smells: Step by Step Guide

cleaning a microwave

How to Clean Your Microwave of Bad Smells: Step by Step Guide

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In many homes and offices, the microwave is one of the most used appliances in the whole building. More than the washing machine, more than the oven, sometimes more than the stove itself. Microwaves provide you a quick way to heat leftovers, canned and frozen food, and make hot drinks. Of course, with hundreds – maybe even thousands – of uses a year, your microwave has a chance to absorb a lot of smells. If you’re not the kind of person that cleans the inside of your microwave weekly (few of us do), then you may start to notice an unpleasant smell building up inside.

Even if you do wipe down your microwave regularly, it can be disconcerting when the smells of old food and maybe something else won’t leave the cabinet. That smell can get into your food, your tea, and escape into the kitchen. If you can’t get that smell to go away, follow along because this article is here to help with an outline of where bad microwave smells come from and a complete guide on how to get rid of those smells.


Types of Bad Microwave Smells

Most microwave smells come from the food we cook inside them. When food gets hot, some of the moisture evaporates and the food or beverage particles disperse, then touch the microwave cabinet walls and stick. Through evaporation, nearly everything you microwave leaves a small residue inside the microwave – which leaves a smell.

Scorchy Smell

The scorchy smell inside your microwave comes from food that is slightly overcooked when being heated. You know when the sauce on the inside of the bowl scorches just a little so that the centre of your food is hot enough when it comes out – this can create the scorchy smell. Bits of dropped food, spills, or exploded particles (tomatoes are the worst culprit) can then overcook when further things are cooked in the microwave, all potentially creating the scorchy smell.

Sour Smell

A sour smell is actually a potential for mould. While mould can’t typically survive inside a microwave (no organic life can), it might indicate that something sour has been in your microwave and heated so that the already soured particles are dispersed over the internal surface of your microwave.

Mixed Old Food Smells

The most common type of microwave smells are, of course, from old splattered and evaporated foods. Old food smells are what make the microwave smell like your selection of foods, but that mixture can also spoil the taste and smell of future foods you cook inside the microwave.

Hot Copper Smell

Finally, the most alarming smell from your microwave is a hot copper smell. If you’ve ever smelled a wire that burnt out or got too hot, then you know this smell. It’s a sharp metallic smell, possibly combined with a scorchy smell or the stinging smell of burning plastic. If you smell this from your microwave, pull the plug immediately and stop using your microwave until it is repaired or replaced.


5 Steps to Kill Odours in Your Microwave

For the three smells other than hot copper, you can usually clear out the odour with one or more cleaning techniques. There are two issues to address. The first is visible and scrubbable residue left along the inner cabinet surfaces of the microwave. The second is odour that has settled into those plastic surfaces the same way any plastic can absorb smells. Microwaves are designed to let go of odours, but you might need to give your microwave a little help.

1. Sweep and Scrub Out Debris

Start by clearing out everything you can remove with a sponge. Take out the plate and sweep out any debris that just comes right out. Wet the sponge and use the scrubbing side to dislodge any visible debris stuck to the sides, floor, or ceiling of the microwave. Use soap and warm water with the sponge to remove anything visible.

2. Wash the Turntable Like a Dish

For the turntable and it’s removable parts, wash them like dishes. Soak in your sink, then scrub with soap, water, and your favourite cleaning powder if necessary. Borax is a good fallback if you have anything that won’t come off the spinning plate or the microwave walls. You can run your microwave plate through the dishwasher but if you run the roller guide, be sure to put it in the top rack – as this is a plastic piece that may take damage near the heating element in the dishwasher floor.

3. Vinegar Treatment

For lingering smells, the first and best approach is vinegar. Vinegar is a mild acid known for its strong smells but when used in cleaning, it’s a pro non-toxic odor eliminator. Start by scrubbing the inside of your microwave with vinegar. Then rinse and see if the smells are still present.

4. The Steam Method

Another popular way to help clean your microwave of smells and residue is steam. Place a microwavable bowl or cup of clean water (or water mixed with vinegar) and microwave it for one to five minutes. This will coat the entire inside of your microwave with steam – which will both soften the other residue and help to clean out any lingering smells.

5. Baking Soda Paste

Finally, for really tough odours (and spots that need scrubbing) you can make a paste out of baking soda. Baking soda is alkaline instead of acid, and because most odours are acid it is well-known to kill odours both actively and passively. Plus, baking soda makes a great scrubbing powder. Mix  a tablespoon or two of baking soda with just enough water (droplets) to form a thick paste, Spread this over the inside of the microwave. Use it to scrub, and then leave the paste in there for half an hour before wiping it away.


Finally, we’d like to mention that if the smell from your microwave is copper or plastic in nature, this is not an issue that can be fixed with vinegar or baking soda. This is a dangerous repair concern and your microwave may already have frayed wires or damaged parts inside. Unplug your microwave immediately and stop using it. Then call for an inspection and repair.


For more helpful cleaning guides or professional cleaning services, contact us today.

Regional Services

Regional Services

Regional Services are an experienced commercial and office cleaning company based in London. Regional Services are an award winning and fully accredited cleaning company who provide a full range of facility management services and expertise including cleaning, maintenance, waste removal, pest control, gardening and more.


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