I want to talk about the best way to clean a microwave; but first before we get into the maintenance, we must understand how a microwave oven operates. The electronics in it are complicated to the average person, but the way these electronics operate together is not all that difficult to understand.
How Does a Microwave Cook Food
We all have had leftovers, dump some frozen or refrigerated food on a plate, hit some numbers on a screen and hit start. Microwaves are probably one of the most convenient appliances that we own, but few people know exactly how they heat up food or liquid.
Microwaves are electromagnetic waves that run at a higher frequency that radio waves but lower that x-rays. X-Rays and Radio waves are two other types of electromagnetic waves, light waves are another.
An American inventor in the 1940’s names Percy Spencer, who was a radar engineer for Raytheon, used magnetrons in radars. Radars are used to detected objects from ships and planes before they are visible to the naked eye.
The proliferation of the radar in the 1940s where they key to the Allies success in World War 2; especially for the Navy. One day while experimenting on a magnetron he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted once he turned the magnetron on.
He then tested it on popcorn kernels and noticed how quickly and full they popped. He then experimented on an egg and the egg blew up in an observers face. At this point he started using an enclosed metal box to contain the microwaves and the modern microwave was born. A magnetron is made of a copper rod, a copper tube and a vacuum space between them.
A voltage is applied to the magnetron and this causes electrons to move between the tube and rod. A magnet surrounds the inner part of the magnetron and causes the electrons to spiral around inside the magnetron.
There are cavities in the magnetron that catch some of the electrons and when other electrons whiz by them, the electrons in the cavities vibrate and this is how microwaves are produced. The microwaves are then directed to the oven to cook the food. Microwaves run at a frequency that are near perfectly absorbed by water, fats and sugars; some of which can be found in anything we eat.
Microwave Oven History
The first home microwaves ovens where produced by Raytheon, but did not sell well because they were too large and expensive. They were sold to some restaurants and commercial kitchens. Raytheon produced a slightly smaller version a few years later but those did not sell well, probably because of the price, $1.295 (over $11,000) today.
In 1961 Sharp began to mass produce the ovens and shortly after Raytheon acquired Amana which began to make even smaller versions of the microwave and the mid 60s saw homes all over the world owning microwaves as people moved away from every night home cooking to quick meals as women started entering the job force and a higher rate. Amana today is now owned by Whirpool.
Can a Microwave Harm a Human or an Animal
The short answer is, no. In the late 60’s government regulations came about and limited the amount of microwave leakage from the units to lifetime maximum. Although some of the regulations went far and above what was necessary, our understanding of electromagnetic radon on the human body was primitive so no one wanted to take any chances.
The Microwave Door Switches are a fantastic preventive measure to avoid any type of accidents resulting from microwave exposure. Even upon the tiny chance of failure, exposure to microwave energy in a wide open space is not really harmful if you can get away from it failry quickly.
You haven’t heard of too many accidents and injuries from microwave energy from these units in your lifetime and when you have, it was usually people being reckless by microwaving things they should not.
What is a Microwave Door Switch
Do you here the click when you close the microwave door? You are activating the microwave switches, that little hook sticking out from the top and bottom (or in some cases the sides) activate these switches when you shut the door and deactivate when you open it.
Just a short description of what microwave switches are. These same switches are found in many of the appliances in your home today. They direct electricity to the proper places when the right conditions are met. In the case of the microwave, it is mainly when the door is closed.
There are 3 to 4 switches in every microwave that deal with, turning on the magnetron, turning on and off the inside light, spinning the turntable motor and even allowing you to power on the unit. These switches protect you and the microwave from any type of potential harm and if one goes bad, you will definitely notice.
Best Way To Clean A Microwave
There is only one fantastic way in my opinion and experience to clean the inside of the microwave depending on how dirty it is inside.
The Microwave Oven Steam Cleaning Technique
This is so simple that you will love it.
- Remove the glass turntable and plastic turntable holder underneath it
- Get about 4 thick paper sheets. Using thicker paper towels like Bounty would be best,
- Soak them in water then ring them out until they are only dripping a little bit. It is important that the towels are as wet as possible, but not overly wet so it makes a mess.
- Put them in the Microwave and run it for 2 minutes on high power.
- After the 2 minutes leave the towels in the microwave for about 10 minutes. Notice the steam. Do not open the door during the 10 minutes and allow the steam to penetrate.
- Wipe out with dry paper towels
The steam will loosen most food particles and can be wiped away.
For extra messy microwave add step 7
Step 7 – Cut a lemon in half and place it in a bowl of water ALONG with the wet paper towels
The added acid from the lemon will penetrate even further and should completely clean out messier microwaves.
Notice how I don’t have anything about vinegar in these cleaning tips.
There can be paper, foam or soft plastic coverings in the electronics above the microwave and that smell can stick in there for quite a while and may transfer into your food for a few microwave cookings.
I know Suzy Homemaker will always tell you that it is perfectly fine. I wonder how many of them end up having to buy a new microwave every few years or call someone like me to figure out how to get the smell out.
Some models are not going to handle the constant vinegar steam clean all to well. To clean the outside of the microwave, use warm soapy water. NEVER use Windex on the glass inside our outside of the glass.
You should never have dripping inside the glass, if you do please call a technician to take apart the door for cleaning. There are parts of the door that you will break off at the tabs if you are not experienced enough to do this and you will be stuck ordering door parts for repair.
8 Microwave Safety Rules that Everyone should live by
- Microwave ovens have a 3 prong cord. The third prong is for grounding which is so important for microwave operation and safety. I have seen people cut off that third prong to fit it in a 2 prong electrical outlet. Your microwave will not last too long after that
- Sometimes when you buy a microwave oven you will see a circular metal grill plate that comes with it. This plate is rated to use in the microwave that comes with it. Never use any other metal, including aluminum foil inside a microwave oven. The fireworks that follow are not as pretty as the 4th of July and personal and property damage could come next.
- Never try to open a microwave oven yourself if you do not have experience. There is a large capacitor inside that holds a dangerous amount of electricity long after it is turned off or unplugged. It is not a pleasant feeling when that power courses through you. I have felt it before.
- Please do not place eggs in water and try to boil them in the microwave. The heat will affect the eggs a lot faster than the water and you will have a big “eggsplosion” and nice clean up afterwards.
- When food is fully cooked, the inside of the food is hotter than on the outside. Please let it stand for a few minutes after removing. Burned lips and tongues are momentarily painful.
- When heating liquids in a microwave, let this also stand a bit when you take out the cup. Stirring the liquid will help in the cooling.
- See the vents behind and on top? All they need is a tiny space to promote heat dispersement. So covering these vents with a cloth can overcook your food and also cause damage to the appliance.
- Finally keep your microwave away from the kitchen sink. Just a few splashes of water up and into those same vents can cause all kinds of sparking and electronic issues.
Dont take your Microwave for granted Microwave ovens are one of the most used appliances in a person’s home and if and when it breaks down, you usually just buy another.
If you have one of the more expensive units that sit over your cooktop or range, ALWAYS call a technician when you have issues with it. Other than cleaning, there is NOTHING you should be doing to try to repair the microwave oven.