This Is When to Replace Your Microwave’s Charcoal Filter

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 Filter

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?

Microwave charcoal filters are found in over-the-range microwaves that aren’t vented to the outside. The filter absorbs unwanted odors while you’re cooking.

Most over-the-range models actually have two filters: a charcoal one and a grease one. The charcoal filter is usually near the top of the appliance behind a vent grill; consult your owner’s manual to confirm the location. The grease filter is underneath the microwave, facing 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 Should You Replace a Microwave Charcoal Filter?

About every six months. You can tell if a filter needs replacing 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 different from the food you’re preparing. This suggests 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 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 pushing a button or removing a couple of screws. 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, take the opportunity to clean the rest of your microwave.

Be sure to clean the vent grill and the charcoal filter compartment because both 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.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

Erica Young
Erica Young is a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in home and lifestyle pieces. She loves writing about home decor, organization, relationships, and pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.