8 Best Ways To Get Rid Of Gross Smells In Your Microwave

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So you left the popcorn in the microwave a few pops too long, and burnt your late night snack — what now? Well, once the smoke alarm stops obnoxiously beeping, and after the charred pieces are picked out (fingers crossed that there's still enough perfectly popped kernels to chow down on during tonight's movie), you'll likely still be left with one undeniable problem: your microwave smells, and it smells bad, per Fred's Appliance.

That midnight snack mistake will not only make the inside of your microwave smell like burned popcorn, but it'll also make anything you heat up taste sort of faintly crisped, too. That means tomorrow night's TV dinner will quickly go from bad to worse — ugh. Say goodbye to fresh leftovers until you scrub it down! Fortunately, we've found some of the best solutions to airing out the microwave fast, so you can enjoy your next zapped meal.

1. Soap and water

The classic combo of soap and water is a great first step to deodorizing your microwave, even if it requires a little bit of extra elbow grease. Whirlpool even suggests starting here, since it's simple and you already have the supplies on hand — all you need is some warm water, dish soap, and an old cloth.

Usually, if a smell is lingering in your microwave, that means that there's some caked-on grease and food inside. Pour 1 cup of water into a microwave safe bowl and heat it up for about four minutes — the steam should help loosen anything stuck on, and set you up for success. Then, use a gentle water-soaked cloth and some dish soap to really scrub down the interior. Don't be afraid to get in the nooks and crannies of the microwave, but be mindful of your appliance's material. If it's stainless steel, you'll want to work in the same direction as the grain of the finish, notes Whirlpool.

Once you've given your microwave a good basic cleanse, use a fresh cloth to wipe it dry and leave the door propped open for a few hours. This will help air out any remaining smells — but be warned, you may want to break out a candle to burn while you wait!

2. Vinegar

If the scent of burnt popcorn or last night's reheated Chinese takeout is still lingering, you may want to break out something more than just the soap and water. To that end, vinegar is a classic option for a quick and natural cleaner in the kitchen since it's effective and food-safe.

"Clean My Space" host Melissa Maker shared her top microwave cleaning tips with PureWow, and vinegar is one of her go-tos. Start by removing the rotating plate inside the microwave, which you can soak and hand clean separately. Then, either give the walls of the microwave a quick spray with vinegar and a scrub, or you can let the vinegar do all the work — sounds like the ideal solution, if you ask us.

To do so, mix about 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and zap it in the microwave for a few minutes. Once it's completely cooled, remove the bowl and give the microwave a good wipe — any stubborn grime should come off, and the appliance should be ready for the next set of leftovers once again.

3. Baking soda

You've probably heard of homeowners leaving an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to keep things smelling fresh (forgotten produce who?), but did you know that the same trick can help treat scents in your microwave? Universal Appliance Repair suggests opening up a box or container of baking soda and keeping it in the microwave overnight. This will completely neutralize any leftover scents and bring things back to smelling brand new again — just be sure to give the microwave a good solid clean beforehand to get rid of any crusted on food or debris.

Another option, says Lifehacker, is to mix about 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 cup of water and heat the mixture up for a few minutes. The steam will give more of an effective clean, and it'll take considerably less time than leaving a box inside overnight (which leaves plenty of time for more midnight popcorn).

4. Cloves

If you're looking for another passive option like baking soda to remove any lingering microwave smells, check your spice cabinet. Bob Vila says that cloves are actually super absorbent, and can soak up any unwanted scents in no time. All you have to do is pour some ground cloves into a dish — Bob Vila recommends about a 1/4 of a cup — and shut the door. You can leave the cloves in for an extended period of time or even overnight, or you can keep them stashed away whenever you aren't using the microwave. 

Ground cloves are a resourceful option that allows you to reuse the same DIY fix over and over again, so it may be helpful to keep some on hand for any future microwave dinners gone rogue. This approach is better for preventing any major scent buildups, since you'll be keeping up with all of the times your kids heat up their food uncovered — so long as the cloves make their way back into the microwave!

5. Coffee

If your favorite smell is a steaming cup of joe when you wake up in the morning, then we have some good news: That very same scent can replace the foul odor currently coming from your microwave.

Coffee is actually a natural deodorizer since it contains nitrogen, which works to absorb and neutralize any unwanted scents. Its properties are often likened to baking soda, but with some extra bonus points for smelling delicious (via El Dorado Coffee). That's why Kitchenistic recommends coffee to freshen up your microwave — simply mix 1/2 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds (they can even be used and repurposed), and then microwave the mixture for about 10 minutes, stopping every two or three minutes to add more water if necessary.

You can even whip up a combination of equal parts baking soda and coffee grounds to really double up on the neutralizing power, notes Kitchenistic. Leave the mixture in the microwave overnight, and any foul odors should be gone by morning.

6. Vanilla extract

More of a decaf person? Then we've got just the solution to your microwave woes: vanilla extract. That's right — if you live for the scent of warm chocolate chip cookies coming straight out of the oven, then rest assured, this will be your new go-to for getting rid of any scents in the kitchen. SF Gate explains that you can easily clean your microwave with some serious results by filling a small dish with a few drops of the common baking ingredient. Microwave it for just one minute, and the sweet aroma will fill the once unfavorable appliance. Add a few extra drops, and your entire kitchen will smell like the exact opposite of old, burnt food.

The only con? Vanilla extract, especially pure, can be expensive. A 1-ounce bottle at Target costs around $5.00, making this a costly fix. It may be more cost effective to go with a cheaper DIY method like vinegar. But if you find yourself burning a side dish in the microwave just before entertaining some guests, this is a great hack to keep in the back of your mind!

7. Citrus peels

Nothing smells better than some freshly squeezed citrus, and everything smells better than burnt food, so giving this method a shot to squash any microwave smells is a no-brainer. According to Good Housekeeping, one of the best options for cleaning your microwave starts with your fruit scraps. Peel and enjoy an orange for a quick pre-cleaning snack, then put the scraps in a bowl filled with water. You can even squeeze some of the extra citrus juice into the water for some extra smell-fighting power — a little more can never hurt! If you'd like, you can also swap the orange for a lemon — either zesty scent should help naturally deodorize your microwave.

Then, microwave the DIY cleaner for a few moments, until the doors fog up with steam. Let the citrusy steam work its magic for another couple of minutes, then open the door and wipe the walls with a cloth or sponge. Not only will the microwave be spotless, the bright and powerful scent will fill your kitchen — just in a good way, this time!

8. Charcoal

If you just so happen to have some leftover charcoal outside next to the grill, try tossing it in your microwave to mitigate any pesky smells. Since charcoal is extremely absorbent, it'll eliminate any stubborn scents with minimal effort — all you have to do is cut up some pieces and leave them in a bowl inside the appliance when it's not in use. Eventually, last night's dinner should officially be left to last night, with no lingering scents or signs of your microwaved meal. Easy enough!

If you're hoping to stay one step ahead of the problem in the future, you can even swap your microwave's filter to be charcoal-based, suggests Upgraded Home. They typically cost between $9 and $20, but have to be replaced every so often. After all, your filter is the first line of defense when it comes to all of those burnt bags of popcorn. And while you'll still have to regularly maintain your microwave after spills and smelly leftovers, if it means just a little less cleaning later on, it's certainly worth the upgrade.