What is the easiest way to clean dried/burnt-on food out of a microwave?

Cleaning out the microwave was always one of my least favorite tasks back when I worked the graveyard shift at the local diner. The graveyard shift was usually an 11pm to 7am shift, so I usually got stuck cleaning all of the kitchen's appliances after they were heavily used and abused throughout the day.

The microwave offered a special challenge, because you couldn't soak it in water or use the heavy duty chemical oven cleaners in it to loosen the dried/burnt-on food stuffs.

Manual scrubbing would work but it was painfully time consuming, and unpleasant because the microwave was mounted on the wall overhead, so scouring usually meant standing on a stool for 20-30 minutes and applying an awful lot of elbow grease.

Is there a better/easier way to clean out a heavily abused microwave oven?

  • Forgive my cleaning ignorance, but why can't you use oven cleaner in a microwave? Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 14:58
  • @starsplusplus I guess it would depend on the particular microwave, but harsh cleaners can etch/damage some surfaces.
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


After watching me struggle with this a for a couple of weeks, the day-cook showed me a really simple trick for cleaning out the microwave:

  1. Find a microwave safe bowl
  2. Fill it half way with water
  3. Microwave the bowl of water uncovered in the microwave for 5-10 minutes
  4. Let the microwave rest for another few minutes to cool slightly
  5. Wipe out the microwave with a kitchen towel
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 if necessary

It works by filling the microwave with steam which re-hydrates and loosens the dried-on food making it much easier to wipe away. Even the most burnt on stuff will loosen up after a cycle or two.


Use Lemon! Natural cleaner that removes burnt on food!

  1. Take an old lemon and cut it in quarters.

  2. Put it in a microwave safe bowl and fill it with water.

  3. Microwave for 3 minutes or more on HIGH until the window gets steamy. Do NOT open the microwave for 10 minutes.

  4. After waiting 10 minute, simply take a wet sponge and sponge it clean. No scouring required, and kitchen smells nice!


If you cook something that creates a lot of steam, take the opportunity to clean your microwave, taking advantage of the steam.

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