How to Clean a Microwave Filter in 6 Easy Steps

A clean microwave filter is essential for optimal microwave performance. Over time, splatter, grease, and food particles accumulate on the filter, blocking airflow and reducing microwave efficiency. Cleaning the filter regularly keeps your microwave working its best so you can quickly and evenly reheat leftovers or prepare quick weeknight dinners.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to clean a microwave filter in just a few simple steps. With some warm soapy water, vinegar, and a little elbow grease, you can have your microwave filter looking like new again. Read on for our comprehensive guide on how to clean a microwave filter in 6 easy steps.

Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Before tackling microwave filter cleaning, gather together a few key supplies:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge or soft cloth
  • Vinegar
  • Toothbrush or other small brush
  • Microwave-safe bowl

You likely already have most, if not all, of these microwave filter cleaning supplies in your kitchen. The warm, soapy water and vinegar will help dissolve and lift away grease and debris. The sponge, toothbrush, and cloth allow you to scrub away any stuck-on particles. And the microwave-safe bowl is useful for the vinegar-soaking step.

Remove the Filter

The first step is to remove the microwave filter so you can clean all sides. Check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure of how to remove the filter in your specific microwave model.

On many microwaves, the filter screen simply lifts or pulls out after removing a couple screws or clips. In some models, you may need to remove the grease shield covering the filter before taking out the filter itself.

Set the filter in the sink or on paper towels after removing so it’s ready for cleaning. Take care not to bend or warp the delicate metal screen.

Soak the Microwave Filter

With the microwave filter removed, now it’s time to loosen all the stuck-on gunk and debris.

Fill the microwave-safe bowl with undiluted white vinegar until the bowl is about half full. Carefully submerge the microwave filter in the vinegar. Allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes, or up to a few hours for quite dirty filters.

The acidic vinegar will help dissolve and cut through grease, stuck-on food, and lime deposits on the filter. As it soaks, you’ll see bubbles form around the filter as the vinegar does its work!

Scrub Away Debris

After soaking the microwave filter in vinegar, it’s ready for scrubbing. Start by taking the filter out of the vinegar bath and giving it a quick rinse under warm running water.

Use the sponge or soft cloth to gently scrub both sides of the filter screen. The metal will likely still look dirty, but you should notice food bits starting to slough off with light scrubbing.

Next, grab the toothbrush or small brush. Carefully scrub around the mesh screen, especially in crevices or corners where grime collects. The bristles will help dislodge any remaining particles. Rinse periodically to check your progress.

Add a small squirt of dish soap to the sponge or brush and continue scrubbing. The soap will help cut through oily residue. Rinse thoroughly when done.

Rinse Well

Once you’ve scrubbed away all visible grease and debris, give the microwave filter a thorough final rinse.

Run warm water over both sides, using your fingers or a soft cloth to give it a final wipe down. Double check that no food bits or residue remain stuck in the mesh screen.

Shake off excess water and set the clean filter on a towel to air dry completely before replacing in the microwave. You don’t want drops of water splattering in your microwave!

Replace the Filter

Your microwave filter is now sparkling clean and ready to be put back into place!

First, make sure the filter is completely dry. Insert it back into the microwave cavity in the proper position. Replace any screws or clips to hold it firmly in place.

If there is a grease shield, replace that too. Refer to your owner’s manual if you need a refresher on proper microwave filter placement for your model.

Run the microwave empty for 30 seconds to ensure everything is installed correctly before using it to cook food again.

Maintain with Regular Cleanings

Get in the habit of cleaning the microwave filter at least every few months to keep it free of grease buildup. Add this task to your other kitchen deep cleaning routines.

For quick maintenance cleans between deep cleanings, simply wipe down the outside of the filter with a damp sponge or cloth to remove any splatter.

By regularly cleaning the microwave filter, you can avoid needing to scrub away really stuck-on grime down the line. Your microwave will run more efficiently so you can keep enjoying all its reheating, defrosting, and cooking conveniences!

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Microwave Filters

Cleaning the microwave filter is an essential maintenance task. Here are answers to some common questions about the process:

How often should you clean the microwave filter?

Ideally, deep clean the microwave filter every 2-3 months. Quick wipe downs when you notice splatter will help maintain it between deep cleanings.

What happens if you don’t clean the filter?

Grease and food buildup will accumulate, leading to decreased airflow and microwave efficiency. This could eventually shorten the lifespan of the microwave.

How do you clean a microwave filter naturally?

Soaking in vinegar followed by scrubbing with warm water, dish soap, and a brush cleans filters without harsh chemicals. Baking soda also works to cut grease.

Why does my microwave smell bad?

Odor is often due to grease and old food stuck in the filter. Cleaning the filter should eliminate any bad smells.

How do I get rid of the smell in my microwave?

First clean the filter. Then run a microwave-safe bowl of water, lemon slices, and rosemary for 2-3 minutes to refresh the interior.

Does the microwave filter need to be replaced?

The metal mesh filters are designed to be cleaned and reused. Only if the mesh is very warped or damaged should you replace the filter.

How to tell if microwave filter needs replacement?

Look for extreme warping that keeps the filter from laying flat or mesh holes that have become excessively stretched out. If normal cleaning doesn’t fix issues, it likely needs replacing.

Can you use a microwave without the filter?

It’s not recommended. The filter is there for a reason – to protect the microwave components from splatter. Operating it without risks grease buildup on parts.

How do I know if my microwave needs cleaning?

Signs your microwave needs a deep clean include grease splatter buildup inside, food/smell lingering after use, taking longer than normal to heat, or excessive noise.

What’s the best way to clean a microwave?

  • Clean the filter.
  • Mix microwave cleaner or baking soda + water and run on high 2-3 minutes.
  • Let sit before wiping down with a cloth and warm water.

What should you not clean in the microwave?

Avoid bleach, steel wool, abrasive cleansers, and scrubbing pads. Only use microwave-safe cleaners or natural cleaners.


Cleaning a microwave filter regularly is one of the best ways to maintain your microwave’s performance and lifespan. With just a few basic supplies on hand, it’s a straightforward process that anyone can tackle in about 10 minutes.

Following these simple steps, you’ll easily eliminate built-up grease and restore optimal airflow through a clean filter:

  • Remove the filter
  • Soak in vinegar
  • Scrub away debris
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Replace filter
  • Wipe down interior

Be sure to clean the microwave filter every few months. And incorporate quick wipe downs after messy splatters or spills to prevent excessive buildup. With this simple maintenance, you can avoid problems and enjoy clean and effective microwaving for years to come.