Everyone’s done it: you read a label wrong or leave the cooking to your teenager and end up with a scorched smell in your microwave. Whether you’re trying to get rid of the smell of burnt popcorn or another food odor, our guide is here to help. Just start with the first method and work your way down as needed.

A clean, open microwave

Method 1: Clean the inside of your microwave

Your first defense against odors is a good cleaning. Start with this quick and easy process before trying anything else.

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Step 1: Steam with water
Remove any debris or loose burnt pieces from the microwave, then heat 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe container for 3 to 4 minutes. The steam will help loosen up grime.

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Step 2: Clean with dish soap
Wipe the interior with a soft cloth dipped in water and a little dish soap. On stainless steel models, rub in the direction of the metal’s grain.

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Step 3: Rinse and dry
Rinse the microwave with clean water and dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Leave the microwave open for 2-3 hours to let it air out.

Cooking tip: Because microwaves cook by heating and evaporating the water in food, dishes that are dry or starchy (think bread or popcorn) are more likely to burn. Keep a close eye on your food and leave toasting to the toaster.

Tall and short beverage containers in a steamy microwave

Method 2: Steam your microwave with lemon juice or vinegar

Some particularly strong odors, like burnt fish or plastic, may call for a little extra help. If cleaning your microwave using the steps above doesn’t do the trick, the acid in natural cleaners like lemon juice and vinegar can help to neutralize smells. 

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Step 1: Make solution and steam
Remove any debris or loose burnt pieces from the microwave, then mix 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or vinegar in a microwave-safe container. Heat for 2-5 minutes.

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Step 2: Wipe clean
Wipe the interior with a sponge or paper towel.

Cleaning tip: Don’t like the smell of vinegar or lemon juice? You can try either 4 tsp of vanilla extract or 2 tbsp of coffee grounds mixed with ½ cup of water.

A closed microwave

Method 3: Deodorize microwave overnight

If the odor persists after using one of the cleaning methods above, a longer term solution may help. This overnight method may help get your microwave back to smelling normal.

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Step 1: Place deodorizer
Place an open box of baking soda inside your microwave before you go to bed. If you don’t have baking soda, you can also use either 1 cup of activated charcoal or dried coffee grounds in an open container. Let family members know that they should not use the microwave while your deodorizer is inside.

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Step 2: Remove and reuse deodorizer
Let it absorb odors overnight and remove in the morning. While you shouldn’t use the same baking soda to cook afterwards, you should still be able to use it to clean. If the cabinets above your microwave smell burnt, you can also move your deodorizer there to try and remove the odor over time.

Cleaning tip: If the burnt smell is very severe, it may be trapped in your microwave’s charcoal filter, which normally helps reduce odors. Read more about how to replace and clean your microwave filters.

More about keeping your microwave clean

How to clean a Whirlpool® microwave

How to clean a microwave inside and out

Learn how to clean your microwave quickly and simply, from the interior to the turntable.

A large plate of nachos in an open microwave

What you can and can't put in a microwave

It goes without saying that the only thing you should really put in your microwave is food, liquids and food-safe containers.

An over-the-range microwave over a working stovetop

How to clean and replace a microwave filter

How long has it been since you cleaned your microwave filters? Our guide will show you how to keep both styles of Whirlpool microwave filters clean, fresh and in tip-top shape.

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