Since the inside of the microwave is out of sight, out of mind when you're not using the appliance, it's easy for spills and splatters to go unnoticed until they've dried. But cleaning the microwave with chemicals isn't the safest option. Instead, steam clean the inside of the microwave with wet paper towels.
Microwave Cleaning Hack
Steam cleaning is the ultimate microwave cleaning hack, as it loosens those caked-on messes with minimal effort. To steam clean with a paper towel, wet a paper towel, then fold it twice for easier handling. Squeeze just a little bit of the water out over the sink, then put the paper towel in the microwave atop the glass tray or turntable inside. Set the microwave to high power and let it heat the paper towel for one minute, or just until the window starts to steam up.
Leave the microwave door closed for five to 10 minutes while the microwave steam cleans itself. This also allows ample time for the paper towel to cool down. Afterwards, use the paper towel to wipe down the inside of microwave, focusing on those spills and splatters first. Use additional wet or dry paper towels to wipe down other areas if the first paper towel gets dirty.
Cleaning Stubborn Messes
If it looks like a pot of chili exploded in your microwave and no one noticed it for days, a little more cleaning power may be needed. Baking soda and steam cleaning team up to provide enough abrasive power to scrub away those massive messes in a completely natural way, with no chemicals needed.
Pour a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda into a shallow bowl, then stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of water, or just enough to make a paste. Exact measurements aren't necessary; the goal is to create enough of this cleaning paste to coat all the problem spots in the microwave. Spread the paste over the problem areas with a sponge or paper towel. Place a glass measuring cup containing 1/2 cup water inside the microwave, then heat it for several minutes or until it steams the microwave window. Leave the microwave door shut for another 10 minutes beyond heating time.
Open the microwave door and carefully remove the measuring cup. Dip a sponge into the warm microwaved water and wipe down the inside of the unit to clean up all the baking soda and food residue. Rinse the sponge frequently.
Added Cleaning Power
For even more power while steam cleaning the microwave, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the water before heating it. The acidic properties of both citrus and vinegar help remove mineral deposits and spots inside of the microwave. They're great at cleaning up the glass tray that sits in the bottom of the microwave, as well. After steaming the microwave and allowing the water to cool a bit, remove the glass tray and wipe it down thoroughly with the watery solution. Removing the tray allows you to thoroughly clean its edges to remove drips that you may not have noticed.
This same citrus or vinegar water can be used to wipe down the exterior of the microwave, too. This solution does not harm plastic or metal microwaves, as some cleaning products may.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.