Smelly Microwave? Common Reasons and Solutions

March 14, 2023
Microwave Repair

Why does my microwave smell? 

There can be many reasons your microwave is starting to smell unpleasant. Some of the most common reasons include food debris, burnt food, and mold or mildew. Regularly cleaning your microwave is the best way to avoid unpleasant smells, however some reasons are less obvious and requires a new approach. 

1. Food build up 

It is almost inevitable that a microwave will harbor food remnants. Microwaved food can often boil over or splatter, causing food to build up on the walls or on the turntable in the microwave. If these food particles have been left in the microwave for long enough they can emit foul odors. It is important to regularly clean your microwave (even if it is not used often), to avoid this.

2. Burnt food 

If you have accidentally left food in the microwave too long causing it to burn, you may have noticed that it emits a strong, rancid smell. This burnt food smell can linger, especially if burnt food remnants remain in the microwave. If you have burnt any food in the microwave, the best thing to do is to remove the food and wipe down the microwave straight away to avoid lingering of the burnt smell. Many microwaves have programmed timers, which will help avoid burning food. 

3. Mold or mildew 

When food is microwaved, it naturally emits water vapor. However, this creates a high humidity environment. Combine this with any food particles that remain in the microwave, and this can create a damp, unpleasant smell. To avoid this damp smell, it is important to remove any old food debris from the microwave on a regular basis and ventilate the microwave adequately by keeping the door open for a few minutes after use. 

How to rid your microwave of bad smells 

There are numerous ways to remove bad smells from your microwave. Most of them involve cleaning the microwave and removing the source of the smell. Using a deodorizing agent is also a great way to remove any stubborn smells. Here are the best ways to combat a smelly microwave:

1. Baking soda 

Baking soda is a popular choice when it comes to cleaning, as it effectively removes any lingering smells. After wiping down the microwave to remove any large food debris, sprinkle half a cup of baking soda directly on the microwave and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Baking soda can effectively absorb any excess oils, along with any lingering odors. After this time, the baking soda can be wiped away with a cloth and the microwave should be wiped down again. 

2. Vinegar and lemon

Vinegar and lemon are both great natural cleaning agents, their natural acidity is able to combat any odors in your microwave. Using vinegar and lemon to remove any smells in your microwave is as easy as placing half a cup of vinegar with a few tablespoons of lemon juice in a microwave safe bowl filled with water. 

Placing this bowl in your microwave and running it on high for a few minutes will create a steam that will neutralize any smells lingering in your microwave. Wiping this steam away with a spray or with a wet cloth, will usually eliminate any bad smells. 

3. Ventilation

The microwave is a common appliance that often receives food build up. This food build up can create unpleasant smells that can linger long after your microwave has been cleaned. The best way to get rid of smells that remain after cleaning is to ventilate your microwave. Even if your microwave is not emitting any unpleasant odors, it is a good idea to ventilate your microwave after using it. Keeping the door ajar between uses is a great way to make sure your microwave does not harbor any bad smells. 

4. Rubbing alcohol 

Rubbing alcohol is a good heavy duty cleaning agent and has great antibacterial properties. Rubbing alcohol is a great last resort if you have tried other cleaning agents which have not worked to remove the bad smell. Rubbing alcohol is a strong agent, and should be diluted with water before used to clean the microwave. Wet a cloth with a solution with half rubbing alcohol and half water and wipe down the walls of the microwave, after removing any food debris that could be contributing to the bad smell. 

5. Coffee grounds 

Coffee grounds are great odor neutralizes, plus they have their own pleasant scent. They are popular options in fragrance stores as they refresh your palette and neutralize all smells. Here’s the best place to start when utilizing coffee grounds to neutralize bad smells in your microwave:

  • Clean the microwave first to remove large bits of food debris and stains. This can be done by wiping your microwave down with a damp cloth and some spray or other cleaning product of your choice. 
  • After doing this, place a cup of coffee grounds in your microwave, and leave it there overnight. This should eliminate any of the lingering bad smells. 
  • If the smell persists, try mixing coffee grounds and water in a mug, and microwaving this for 1-2 minutes, ensuring the water does not come to a boil. 

6. Vanilla 

Sometimes if your microwave is emitting a foul smell, it may take multiple tries to get rid of the smell. While deep cleaning your microwave is usually sufficient enough to remove any bad smells, smells can sometimes linger. If you have tried the above cleaning tips with no success, then using a natural fragrance such as vanilla may help neutralize the smell. 

A few drops of vanilla essence or a stick of vanilla, can be put in a glass of water and placed in the microwave. Then, leave it running for 1 minute. The vanilla scent will evaporate and leave a pleasant and sweet scent in your microwave.


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