My Microwave is on Fire – What Should I Do? (3 Steps to Take Right Now)

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: November 18, 2021

Microwave fires are common, and they can cause massive damage when they do occur. According to the National Fire Protection Association, microwaves cause 4% of cooking-related house fires per year (PDF) and 1% of associated deaths.

If you’ve experienced a microwave fire in your household, you’re probably wondering what to do and how to begin the cleanup process. 

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, our team provides comprehensive fire damage cleanup services for households affected by microwave fires and other disasters in the Chicago area.

In this blog, we’re sharing how to put out a microwaves fires and clean up after one, as well as how to prevent future fires.

Let’s dive in.

How to Put out a Microwave Fire Quickly & Safely 

microwave on fire

If you have a fire in the microwave, keep calm and follow these steps:

  1. Close the door and turn off the microwave. Close the door (or keep it closed) and turn off the microwave. This step stops the fan. The resulting lack of oxygen will suffocate the flames and deprive the fire of fuel to keep growing. Dealing with a grease fire? It’s impossible to put out a grease fire with water, which will only repel grease and spread the flames. Instead, throw baking soda or salt on the fire. Both will smother the flames. 
  2. Call the fire department. If the fire continues once you’ve closed the door, contact the fire department. While UL-certified microwaves are designed to contain small fires and prevent the flames from spreading to other parts of the kitchen, it is possible for microwave fires to spread rapidly. In this event, having the fire department on their way can help prevent extensive damage. 

The above tips are the best way to put out microwave fires quickly and safely. Of course, wait until the flames are extinguished completely before you open the door to evaluate the damage. 

6 Simple Steps for Cleaning a Microwave After a Fire

Practicing microwave safety isn’t hard, but accidents can still happen. If something catches on fire in the microwave, unplug the unit. Leave the door shut, and let the flames extinguish themselves.

Burnt paper bag in a greased microwave oven, after an explosion and fire

Once the appliance cools down, you can start cleanup. This isn’t a job for ordinary house cleaning products. Your burnt microwave is covered with a black, oily residue inside and out. A terrible odor fills the kitchen.

As bad as it looks and smells, you can usually save the appliance with the right techniques. Follow these six steps to clean your microwave after a fire.

1. Clear the Counter

Give yourself plenty of room to work on the microwave interior and exterior. You want to be able to reach the back vents too. Move things out of the way for the following cleaning items.

  • Microwave-safe glass bowl
  • White vinegar
  • Sturdy sponges
  • Soft, clean cloths
  • Rubber gloves

2. Boil the Vinegar

Pour vinegar into the bowl until it’s three-quarters full, and boil in the microwave on high for several minutes. You want to fill the inside of the microwave with a cloud of vinegar steam.

3. Be Patient

Keep a close eye on the process. Once the microwave interior is full of steam, turn it off. Leave the door closed for 15 to 20 minutes. This should loosen up greasy soot on microwave walls.

Power Tip: As you open the microwave door, stay away from escaping steam by taking a step back.

4. Clean With Sponges

Protect your hands by wearing rubber gloves. Dip a sponge in the warm vinegar, and begin cleaning the microwave inside and out. Change sponges as needed.

Power Tip: Clean microwave vents by wringing excess vinegar from a sponge and working its edge into vent slats.

5. Remove Soot Stains

To get rid of stubborn soot stains from a burnt microwave, use acetone nail polish remover. You can also use a mixture of trisodium phosphate and water.

Power Tip: Always read package safety instructions before using trisodium phosphate for any type of cleaning project.

6. Wipe Down and Dry

Use damp, clean cloths to wipe away streaks and polish surfaces. Dry the interior by leaving the microwave door open for 24 hours.

Power Tip: In case of a badly burnt microwave, you may need to repeat the above six steps several times.

How to Get the Burnt Smell Out of a Microwave

After you clean the microwave with vinegar, it can still have a strong, unpleasant smell. Eliminating the odor isn’t as big of a job as DIY smoke cleanup, but it can take several tries.

burnt smell in microwave

Get rid of burnt smells by boiling one of these ingredients in 2 cups of water inside the microwave. Let the steam set for an hour or more before opening the microwave door. This process can help freshen up the entire kitchen.

  • One or two medium lemons chopped
  • One medium orange sliced
  • 1/4 cup vanilla extract
  • Several drops peppermint oil
  • 2 tablespoons coffee grounds

When you’re satisfied with the results, leave the microwave door open so that fresh air can circulate inside.

It’s also a good practice to leave an open box of baking soda inside the microwave when not in use. This helps keep the appliance fresh between cooking sessions.

5 Microwave Fire Statistics You Need to Know About

According to recent data from the National Fire Protection Association, US fire departments respond to an annual average of 7,100 home structure fires in which a microwave was named as a cause of ignition.

While these fires caused an average of fewer than 10 deaths and 150 injuries, they were responsible for $31 million in direct property damage. 

Here are some additional microwave fire statistics you should know:

  1. 61% of microwave ovens involved in fires were stationary and 39% were portable.
  2. Nearly all 95% of microwave fires begin in the kitchen.
  3. 17% of microwave oven home structure fires were initially caused by appliance housing or casing.
  4. Fires involving microwave ovens are responsible for more emergency room scald burn injuries than fires that involve any other cooking device.
  5. Children under five are at an increased risk of scalds involving microwave ovens. 

While microwave ovens are some of the safest cooking devices in the kitchen, they’re still responsible for many fires and injuries each year. 

Why Did My Microwave Catch on Fire?

At first, it can be tough to understand how microwave fires happen. After all, there’s no open flame involved in the cooking process, so how does a fire start? 

Ultimately, microwave fires usually start when food overheats. Today, microwave fires almost always start because someone mis-entered cook time. Even something as simple as adding an extra five minutes to the timer can create a fire. 

Another culprit is packaging. Many microwavable meals come in packaging. When this packaging gets stuck near the wave emitter (which is located on the side of the machine) it can overheat and cause the food to catch fire. 

6 Microwave Fire Safety Tips

Prevent microwave fires with the following safety tips:

  1. Read the manufacturer’s operating procedures before using a new microwave oven.
  2. Never use a microwave to heat articles that are not approved for heating in a microwave oven. 
  3. If possible, remove food from packaging before heating it in a microwave oven. If you must heat food in packaging, make sure the packaging is marked as microwave safe.
  4. Do not leave a microwave oven unattended when microwaving high-heat foods like popcorn. 
  5. If you have a fire in the microwave, turn it off immediately and leave the door closed. 
  6. Use oven mitts to remove items from the microwave after heating them. This is a simple tip that helps prevent microwave scalds. 

While there’s no way to avoid microwave fires entirely, these six tips can help you keep your home and kitchen safe from damage. 

Dealing With a Microwave Fire in Chicago? We Can Help

A microwave fire can leave behind damages that are difficult to clean up. If the job turns into more than you can handle, let us help. Our teams clean soot and stains off countertops, fixtures, drywall and ceilings. We sanitize kitchen cabinets inside and out, and we eliminate smoke odors throughout the house.

chicago fire damage restoration team

From appliance mishaps to cooking accidents, our industry-certified technicians handle all types of kitchen fire disasters. When you need expert kitchen fire damage cleanup, you want Chicago’s leading fire damage restoration company.

Our teams here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba are standing by and ready to answer your call: 773-647-1985

How do you safely put out a microwave fire?

Turn off and unplug the microwave. Don’t open the door. Lack of oxygen inside the microwave suffocates flames. If you have any doubts about the situation, call the fire department immediately.

Is it safe to use a burnt microwave after cleaning?

In most cases, yes. Make sure the cord and plug are still in good condition. Give the microwave a trial run after cleaning. If it sparks or smokes, replace it with a new appliance.

How do you get rid of smoke smell in the house after a fire in the microwave?

Try boiling water on the stove with lemons, oranges or coffee grounds. Open up windows and doors. For pervasive smoke odors, contact a fire damage restoration contractor.