Though it’s hardly the tastiest way to fix food, the microwave’s speed and efficiency are essential in making it through a busy day. I certainly depend on it at several points if I plan to stay on schedule. But when an appetite-killing stink hits my nostrils as I open the microwave door, it can ruin my meal plans and my routine.
Everyone knows that spills, splatters, and burnt popcorn in the microwave are all too common, as are the ensuing odors. If you’re like me, you don’t need a stinky, unusable machine disrupting your entire day. Keep your kitchen odor-free and your appliance ready to use by following our guide on how to get a smell out of microwave ovens.
How To Get Smell Out of Microwave
Removing microwave smells only takes a few minutes and some mild, natural ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen. In many cases, you can stop the smell simply by cleaning the microwave. Other odors can bury themselves in the appliance. For these, you may need to take an extra deodorizing step to make the smell disappear entirely.
Clean the Microwave
After unplugging the microwave for safety, pull out the turntable and ring to wash separately. Sweep the microwave’s interior to remove crumbs and chunks of food. A small toothbrush is often handy to get into the corners and around vents.
After removing large debris, you can clean the inside of the microwave with a clean cloth and dish liquid. But before you do so, microwave a bowl filled with fresh water for 2–3 minutes. The steam will spread throughout the compartment, loosening stubborn grime to make the next steps easier.
Add a few drops of dish soap to warm water in a bowl, and wipe the compartment with the sudsy water. Alternatively, use a homemade cleaning spray to saturate the interior and add a pleasant scent.
Let the soap solution/cleaning spray sit for about 10–20 minutes to break down the grunge, stuck-on food, and grime causing the bad smells. While you wait, wash the turntable and ring in the sink with soapy water. After letting the cleaner sit, rinse the microwave interior with a damp cloth. Follow up with a dry cloth to finish cleaning.
Deodorize the Microwave
The stains and grime are gone, but the stink remains. If you’re still stuck with unpleasant odors wafting from the microwave whenever you open the door, try these easy deodorizing tricks to make it bearable.
White Vinegar and Water
Vinegar is a safe, all-natural, and effective option to clean and deodorize throughout the home. Here’s how you can use it to get a lingering smell out of the microwave:
- Fill a microwave-safe bowl with half a cup of water and half a cup of distilled white vinegar
- Put the bowl in the microwave, and heat on high power for 3–4 minutes
- After the time is up, let the bowl sit for 10–15 minutes with the microwave door shut
- Remove the bowl, and wipe down the interior with a clean cloth
Tip: Soak your kitchen sponge with the vinegar and water solution, and place that in the microwave instead of a bowl. Microwaves can eliminate up to 99.99% of bacteria and molds on sponges within only about one minute of operation. By deodorizing this way, you can kill two birds with one stone, refreshing your sponge and microwave. You can then use the clean sponge to wipe down the microwave!
Vinegar is a quick, cheap, and simple cleaner, but most people can’t stand the smell. And if you microwave vinegar, it will create a distinct odor throughout the kitchen and possibly beyond. Rather than put up with an irritating scent, try our other favorite household cleaner, baking soda.
The most straightforward, albeit slowest, approach is to leave the baking soda inside the microwave overnight (or at least for a few hours) to absorb the foul odor. Or, you can microwave a baking soda solution, using these steps to get your microwave smelling fresh:
- Mix a few teaspoons of baking soda with a cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl
- Microwave the bowl for about five minutes
- When the timer stops, let the microwave sit with the door closed for another 5–10 minutes
- Wipe down the condensation on the microwave’s interior walls with a clean cloth
Tip: Don’t cut corners by leaving an open box of baking soda in the microwave. Baking soda can remove bad smells more efficiently with increasing surface area. Spreading it on a plate maximizes exposure while leaving it in a box keeps most of the baking soda from having an effect.
You can use coffee in a couple of ways to get rid of bad odors from the microwave and replace them with a fresh smell. The easiest method is putting some coffee grounds on a plate (with or without some baking soda mixed in) and leaving it to deodorize your microwave overnight. Or, you can try this method for faster results:
- Put a couple of tablespoons of ground coffee in a microwave-safe container, and add about half a cup of water
- Set the microwave to 10 minutes and heat the mug on high, stopping every few minutes if it starts to boil
Activated charcoal is one of our top odor absorbers for everything from smelly sneakers to musty basements. Available in spill-free pouches, the porous material sucks in and holds odors like a magnet until you recharge them in the sun. Products like Vergali’s bamboo charcoal bags can sit in the microwave to adsorb odor compounds, or you can place them around the room when a recent round of burned popcorn makes the entire kitchen smell.
Foul food can make the microwave, oven, and refrigerator stink, but kitchens also offer delightful scents when we use them properly. As we’re cooking, our flavor-enhancing collection of herbs and spices emits those tantalizing aromas. Why not repurpose them to fix your microwave odor issue?
Cloves are a perfect choice. Put whole cloves in a bowl, and let it sit in the microwave for several hours or overnight to swap out the microwave odor.
Vanilla extract is an invigorating room freshener and a delightful way to add a sweeter smell to a foul microwave. Mix a few teaspoons of vanilla extract with a cup of water in a microwavable bowl, and heat it for 1–2 minutes.
Rubbing alcohol doesn’t smell amazing, but it’s undeniably effective at killing even worse odors in your microwave. With its rapid evaporation, you won’t have to deal with the smell for too long. Apply some rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth, and wipe down the inside of the microwave. Leave the microwave door open to let the rubbing alcohol dry faster.
Nothing will help you take control of the way your microwave smells better than essential oils. You have countless fragrances to choose from and combine for custom aromas to replace the smell of burned popcorn and food splatters. Add a few drops of your favorite scents to a microwave-safe bowl with water, and microwave for 1–2 minutes. The bright aromas can deodorize inside the microwave and even the entire kitchen when you leave the door open.
Deal With Persistent Odors
When you have particularly hardy smells hanging around despite your best attempts, you still have another option to try — the power of citrus!
Natural citrus aromas are uplifting and refreshing without being overpowering. When you have tough odors in the microwave, lemon could be your best weapon to power them out. Follow these steps to clear those unrelenting microwave smells:
- Cut a fresh lemon in half
- Squeeze the lemon juice into a microwave-safe container, and toss in the lemon rinds
- Add a cup of water, and place the bowl inside the microwave
- Microwave for 4–5 minutes
- Leave the bowl to rest for about five minutes before removing
- Repeat as needed, and wipe the microwave with a clean sponge or paper towel when the odor is gone
Tip: Oranges will also work. Cut an orange into several pieces, and steam them in a bowl as you would the lemon juice. For an added deodorizing kick, drop 1–2 teaspoons of baking soda in the water alongside the lemon or orange before putting the bowl in the microwave.
How To Prevent Microwave Smells
The best way to make your microwave smell fresh is to stop those foul odors from settling in the first place. Here are a few tips for keeping the cleaning needs to a minimum.
Cover Your Food
Covering your food is the easiest way to stop splatters and spills, but it does much more than help you avoid a cleanup. Once you understand the benefits, you’ll see why it should be a common practice whenever you use the microwave.
Microwaves only heat water molecules in food. The heated water then warms the surrounding material through conduction. Since only the water gets heated, it produces lots of steam. That’s why we often get dried-out reheated food.
Loosely covering food traps the steam. Recirculating it in the container to heat the food faster, more evenly, and without losing moisture. I always cover my dishes with a damp paper towel and find the food comes out perfect. Plus, covering your dish is a crucial part of food safety, as the steam more effectively kills microbes.
Read the Manufacturer’s Guide
The user manual is the best resource to help you keep your microwave clean and well-maintained. Before cleaning for the first time, check for instructions, warnings, and tips to ensure a comprehensive and effective effort. You may discover concealed access points and cleaning steps that can make all the difference in removing a bad smell.
Clean your microwave regularly to keep the inside free of tough cleaning jobs and worsening odors. Wipe the interior with soap and water once weekly. Deal with fresh food spills immediately, or they’ll quickly dry into a stubborn grime.
Refresh Your Microwave’s Filter
Over-the-range microwaves have a filter that catches grease and other airborne materials when you cook. As it accumulates gunk and debris, the filter can affect the exhaust fan’s performance and release foul odors into the kitchen.
Replace the filter at least twice annually. Your needs will change if you cook frequently. If you’re always making meals on the stovetop, you may have to check and replace your filters as much as once every 2–3 months.
Why Does My Microwave Smell So Bad?
Microwaves develop bad smells from uncovered and overcooked foods. As they heat, vapors carry odorous compounds from the food and deposit them around the interior surface. We continue adding and recooking these particles whenever we use the microwave, eventually creating a well-established smell.
How Do You Freshen the Inside of a Microwave?
In my opinion, nothing beats lemon or orange for improving a microwave’s smell. But for a solution to satisfy your unique preference, reach for an essential oil. They’re easy and safe to use in the microwave, and you can pick the exact scent you want from your machine.
How Do You Get the Burnt Smell Out of a Microwave Without Baking Soda?
Baking soda is one of the more effective and versatile deodorizers in our lineup, but it isn’t the only tool to get rid of the burnt smell. For the harshest burned smells, I recommend skipping straight to steaming lemon juice and rinds. If the odor breaches into the kitchen, you may want to grab an activated charcoal deodorizer to freshen the entire space.