This Is When to Replace Your Microwave’s Charcoal Filter

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You probably don't even know about this hidden microwave part! But if your kitchen often smells like yesterday's dinner, it might be time to replace the microwave charcoal filter.

Collage Of Tiktok Showing How To Clean Microwave FilterVia @casey_jo_nc/Tiktok (3)

Between central air conditioners, dishwashers, vacuums and furnaces, there always seems to be a household filter that needs your attention. Well, we’ve got another one to add to the list: your microwave charcoal filter. If you’re wondering what exactly it is, chances are you probably need to replace it.

Here’s the lowdown on this hardworking microwave part.

What Is a Microwave Charcoal Filter?

A microwave charcoal filter is located in over-the-range microwaves that are not vented to the outside. The charcoal filter works to absorb unwanted odors in the air while you’re cooking. Most over-the-range models actually have two filters: a charcoal filter and a grease filter. The charcoal filter is usually found near the top of the microwave behind a vent grill but use your owner’s manual to confirm the location. The grease filter is located underneath the microwave, facing toward the stovetop.

Here’s how TikTok user @casey_jjones discovered her charcoal filter:

@casey_jo_nc Well found another filter to replace! 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️ #charcoalfilter #microwave #thingstiktoktaughtme #cleaning #whoknew ♬ Harry Potter – The Intermezzo Orchestra

How Often to Replace a Microwave Charcoal Filter

Replace your charcoal filter about every 6 months. You can tell if a filter needs to be replaced just by looking at it. Here are a few warning signs:

  • The filter appears to be filled with cooking grease.
  • When cooking, you smell odors that are different from the food you’re preparing (this means there’s a buildup of heavy grease from previous meals).
  • If the surface of the filter appears shiny, there’s a lot of grease present; normally, the filter should look dull and porous.

Check your microwave manual for specific directions on how to replace the charcoal filter and what size to purchase. Most microwaves require you to unplug the appliance or turn off power at the breaker. Then, remove the vent grill (this might be simply a push-button removal or unscrewing a couple of screws). Then take out the old filter and put in a new one. Done!

Can I Clean My Microwave Filter?

Simple answer: no. You cannot clean a charcoal filter, it must be replaced. Luckily they are inexpensive. But while you’re replacing the filter, use it as opportunity to clean the rest of your microwave. Be sure to clean the vent grill and the charcoal filter compartment because both these areas can get gross and sticky. Wash the vent grill in the sink with warm soapy water, and wipe out the compartment thoroughly with a damp cloth.

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Erica Young
Erica is a cleaning and home décor expert. She knows exactly how to tidy a filthy kitchen and straighten out a mixed-up pantry! When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, buying more bins she doesn't need or bingeing her latest TV show obsession.