How to Use Rice to Clean Your Microwave

It’s easy to forget about cleaning the microwave until it’s too late. Everyone’s guilty of leaving a spot of soup splattered on the side from time to time, but that soup can build up pretty quickly. Before long, the inside of your microwave starts looking like a Jackson Pollock — and smelling like a garbage dump.

Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to clean a microwave goes hand-in-hand with one of its most convenient uses. Microwaves are perfect for heating and reheating rice, and other foods that produce steam thanks to the way that microwaves react with water.

While you can buy specialized microwave rice cookers, you can also cook rice by combining water and rice in a loosely-covered microwave-safe bowl and cooking for several minutes before allowing the steam to finish the rice off. While the ratios of time, water, and rice will vary based on the type of rice you’re using and the specifications of your microwave, the end result will be the same. 

Once you’ve zapped your rice, uncover it and let it stand as the hot, steamy environment can help you with another job, because this steam can easily serve a secondary purpose. The layer of condensation you see when you open your microwave is perfect for wiping the machine down between deep cleans. Grab a sponge or paper towel and give the inside of the microwave a quick once-over before you shut the door: It’s a quick way to keep things clean without much additional effort. 

Steam is perfect for cleaning the microwave

Cleaning a microwave

You might be wondering, aren’t you just using new food splatters to wipe away old ones? Not really, no. You’re not wiping down the machine with last week’s minestrone. This isn’t any old food residue: Water left over from steam is pure, since food and other contaminants get left behind as the water evaporates. The heat and steam used to cook foods like rice can also soften any older stains left on the sides of the microwave, making them easier to wipe off.

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Wiping your microwave clean as often as possible doesn’t just keep it sparkling clean — it also protects you against bacterial contamination. While people argue that microwaves kill bacteria anyway, certain food splatters can create bacteria that produce toxins that won’t be killed by heat if they’re left to fester for too long. While the best, safest practice is to wipe down your machine with warm water after each use, most of us don’t bother to clean every single time, as we’re usually busy preparing a meal. Using steamy foods like rice helps make regular cleanings less of a hassle. 

Of course, you’ll still need to do a deep clean every once in a while. Use steam from a bowl of water mixed with lemon or vinegar to break down tougher stains. A damp cloth with a little dish detergent is best if you want to make sure that everything is extra squeaky. Just don’t use harsh chemicals — they can damage your microwave. 

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