How to Clean Burn Stains in a Microwave Oven

We take the microwave for granted as a simple and safe kitchen appliance. However, when the heating appliance isn't used correctly or items placed in the unit catch fire, it can create havoc that needs immediate attention.

Woman's Hands pressing button on black microwave for cooking
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When the inside of the microwave is riddled with burn marks, there are a few ways to reduce the mess and cut down on problems with the appliance's functioning over time.

Burnt-on food stuck to the sides and ceiling of a microwave, a misaligned metal rack or metal items inadvertently placed inside the appliance can cause sparks to fly. When the inside of the microwave is riddled with burn marks, there are a few ways to reduce the mess and cut down on problems with the appliance's functioning over time.

Burn stains in a microwave oven that are left to sit in the unit can create issues later on with the appliance's safety and optimal function. Waiting will make it harder to clean and may cause a foul odor, so the scorched mess should be addressed immediately.

When Burns Occur From Metal

It happens to the best of us. A piece of metal finds its way into the bowl or dish that has been placed in the microwave. The immediate spark and subsequent scorch marks that radiate around the inside of the appliance can be removed with natural household cleaners.

If the scorch marks are recent, immediately wipe the area clean with a mix of mild detergent and warm water. Keep the door of the microwave open to allow all moisture to evaporate before you use the appliance.

Avoid Using Metal in the Microwave

Although you may have a metal rack in your microwave oven, don't take it as a sign that you can put any type of metal in your microwave. This includes forks or other metal eating utensils, aluminum, a generic metal rack, small pots or pans and lids to cover food. They'll create sparks, become hot and can cause damage to your microwave.

The rack that came with your oven has been tuned to that oven for safety reasons. The rack can never be placed on the bottom of the oven cavity or it will cause burn marks and be too hot to handle.

Food as a Fuel Source

A smoking microwave may not mean it's broken. It may just need to be cleaned. Globs of grease and bits of burnt-on food that are left in the microwave can create a fire hazard in the appliance.

Wipe down the microwave regularly, especially if it's used heavily. If food or hot liquids have found their way onto the sides and ceiling of a microwave, it should be wiped up with a damp paper or cloth towel immediately to prevent future issues.

Removing Stubborn Burn Stains

Getting rid of burn stains in a microwave is fairly simple. Before going after more difficult stains or burn marks, wipe down the microwave and remove any bits of food or splotches of grease.

  • A solution of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and a few drops of dish liquid is powerful enough for regular cleaning.
  • For microwaves that have caked-on stains and food buildup, place a ceramic bowl filled with straight vinegar in the unit and cook it on high for 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Scrub down the interior of the microwave with CLR or a commercial cleaner to remove the discoloration and scorch marks.
  • A cotton ball soaked in acetone can take out serious burn marks. Wearing gloves, scrub at the mark with the acetone until the discoloration fades.
  • Mix 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water until a thin paste forms. Apply a layer of the paste to the problem areas and allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes before wiping it up with a damp rag.

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.