How to Keep Your Microwave from Becoming a Hot Mess

Inside view of a dirty microwave with cooking grease and food residue.

Whether you have a new microwave or want to keep your older microwave in top shape, there are actions you can take to make sure your microwave works as well as possible for as long as possible. Microwaves normally have a lifespan of about 5–10 years, depending on the quality of care they receive. A clean microwave will stay in excellent working condition, so let’s review how to clean a microwave so you can get the most years out of yours.

Clean Spills Quickly

Food particles left behind by spills can absorb some of the microwave’s energy while it’s running, creating a burn spot that can damage the interior. The best way to deal with spills is to prevent them, so try putting a microwave cover over your dishes. If spills do occur, most can be removed with warm soap and water or with a cleaner especially formulated for microwave ovens. If you’re having difficulty removing a spot, place a cup of water in the microwave and heat it up for 60 to 90 seconds. The steam created should help loosen any stuck-on buildup and make for easier cleaning. You may have also seen information suggesting you clean your microwave with vinegar. This method works well but cleaning your microwave by mixing vinegar and a little lemon juice works ever better.

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Use Only Microwave-Safe Dishes

Any type of metal—including aluminum foil and dishes with silver or gold accents—can cause a fire in your microwave. Look for a microwave-safe label on dishes before using them. Generally, ceramic, glass and plastic items are safe to microwave, but there are some exceptions, so it is important to look for those labels. If a dish gets very hot when placed in the microwave, it’s probably not safe and you should avoid using it again in the future.

Protect the Door

Get out of the habit of slamming the microwave door when you’re finished cooking. Slamming a microwave’s door can cause damage to the switches and latches and if they don’t line up properly, the microwave won’t run. Also, don’t try to use large platters or bowls that might collide with the door and do damage to the protective mesh screen. Damaging the mesh screen will allow microwave radiation to leak out of the oven. It’s also important to keep the door closed until the microwave has finished its cooking cycle. Opening the door while the microwave is running can cause the safety fuse to blow, which will shut your microwave down.

Don’t Run an Empty Microwave

Don’t get into the habit of running an empty microwave to use it as a timer. When there’s nothing, the microwave’s energy gets absorbed by its inner workings and shortens the lifespan of your oven. Microwaves aren’t designed to withstand this kind of use and repairing or replacing parts can be expensive and cost prohibitive. If you need a timer, most microwaves have a timer setting that doesn’t require it to be running.

Clean the Filter

If you have an over-the-range microwave with an exhaust fan, remember to clean the grease filter on the underside of the microwave. Depending on the amount and type of cooking you do, grease and other cooking residue can accumulate quickly and clog the filter. A dirty filter is a fire hazard and prevents the microwave from working efficiently.

Use Recommended Cooking Times

The most common cause of microwave fires is overcooking popcorn and potatoes. To prevent this from happening, make sure you’re always using the recommended cooking times. Most microwaves come equipped with pre-programmed cooking times for certain types of foods, so if you’re unsure of how long to cook something, try one of those pre-set times to get the best results. Not only will your food taste better, but it will save you from the mess created by overcooking.

Contact the Experts

Microwaves are fast and convenient and, when properly cared for, will last for many years. If you need to make your life even more convenient, call the pros at Molly Maid to clean your kitchen and all the other rooms in your home. Schedule a free estimate today and find out about all the ways Molly Maid can help you make your home shine!