11 Safety Tips on Using a Microwave Oven

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Microwaves are a convenient appliance that most households use daily for quick cooking and reheating. However, microwaves use high-frequency electromagnetic waves that can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. Following these simple microwave safety tips can help avoid accidents and keep your food safe while using your microwave.

Key Takeaways

  • Inspect your microwave routinely for any physical damages and do not operate if damaged.
  • Keep the interior and exterior surfaces cleaned to prevent bacterial growth and overheating issues.
  • Never put metal objects in the microwave to prevent dangerous sparking and arcing.
  • Monitor cooking time closely to prevent overheating and fire hazards.
  • Take precautions when heating liquids to prevent super-heated splatter.
  • Keep microwaves out of reach of children to prevent misuse and injuries.
  • Do not disable the safety interlocks or operate the microwave empty.
  • Use care when removing heated items to prevent burns.
  • Allow adequate ventilation by positioning away from cabinets.
  • Listen for abnormal noises, sparking or other issues and discontinue use if present.
  • Supervise use near children and be aware of safety risks to prevent accidents and injuries.

1. Check for Damages

It’s important to routinely inspect your microwave for any damages that could compromise safety. Look for:

  • Cracks or holes in the door seals or housing that could leak radiation
  • Damage to the door hinges or latch that cause the door to not shut securely
  • Dents in the metal walls or deformation of the door
  • Damage to the control panel like loose or sparking buttons

If you notice any of these issues, unplug the microwave and stop using it until it can be repaired by a professional. Operating a damaged microwave puts you at risk of radiation exposure or electrical hazards.

2. Keep It Clean

Food splatter and spills can lead to bacteria growth and odors inside your microwave. Wipe down the interior walls, turntable, and door regularly using a microwave-safe cleaner. This also helps prevent critters from being attracted to food residue.

A buildup of grime on the exterior can prevent ventilation and lead to overheating. Keep the outside surfaces clean by wiping down with a soft cloth and warm soapy water. Pay attention to the ventilation openings where grease and debris can accumulate.

3. Don’t Use Metal

Metal objects like aluminum foil, utensils, and twist ties can arc, spark and cause fires when microwaved. The microwaves interact with the electrical currents in metals, creating dangerous situations.

Instead, use microwave-safe containers marked for microwave use. Never put any type of metal into a microwave, including dishes with metallic paint or trim which can also spark.

4. Monitor Cooking Times

It’s easy to lose track of time when microwaving food leading to burning, sparking or even fire. Stay near the microwave and listen while cooking to ensure your food isn’t overheating. Set a timer to be safe.

Foods that are smaller, denser or have higher fat and sugar content can heat unevenly and are prone to overcooking. They require more frequent checking and stirring. Cook meats and scrambled eggs in shorter intervals to prevent overcooking on edges.

5. Prevent Super-Heating Liquids

Microwaving water or other liquids can be dangerous because they can easily overheat past the boiling point without appearing to bubble. This super heated liquid can suddenly boil over when disturbed, resulting in serious scalding injuries.

To prevent this, always heat liquids for the minimum amount of time needed. Let it rest afterwards, and place a utensil or something microwave-safe into the container before removing it. This allows bubbles to form at a safe temperature. Avoid using smooth containers when heating liquids or foods with high moisture content.

6. Keep Microwaves Out of Reach of Kids

Children could accidentally turn on the microwave and burn themselves if they put items inside to “play cook.” Hot spilled foods and uncovered rotating turntables can also cause injuries.

Place your microwave out of reach of young children on a kitchen counter or cart. Always supervise children in cooking activities to prevent improper microwave usage leading to injuries or damage. Teach older kids proper usage and dangers like superheated liquids.

7. Don’t Disable the Safety Interlocks

Never tamper with or disable the safety interlocks on the microwave door. These cut power to the microwave when the door is opened. Attempting to operate the microwave with the door open or tampering with the safety switches can result in radiation exposure.

8. Don’t Operate an Empty Microwave

It’s dangerous to run a microwave with nothing inside. This can damage the magnetron which generates the microwaves. The damaging energy bounces around with nothing to absorb it, which can lead to arcing inside the unit or a fire hazard.

If you accidentally turn on an empty microwave, turn it off immediately. Never heat any food or liquid container that is empty, since this also leads to unsafe microwave energy reflection. Always ensure there is food or the minimum amount of water inside before running your microwave.

9. Handle Hot Foods Properly

Use care when removing heated foods from the microwave. Use potholders and open heated foods slowly away from you to avoid steam burns. Hot oils and liquids inside cooked foods can remain dangerously hot while external temperatures are safe to touch.

Stir heated foods and let them rest a minute before consuming to prevent burns. Foods containing a skin or membrane like potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, hot dogs, etc can burst and spray hot contents when punctured or bitten into immediately after cooking. Let them rest and make a vent hole prior to consuming.

Related: Tips for Microwaving Tomatoes

10. Position Away From Cabinets

When possible, position your microwave away from upper cabinets and shelving. As microwaves heat, they can create heat and steam buildup that rises and damages surrounding areas. Leave some clearance above and around the sides if possible.

This also allows better ventilation to prevent overheating. Ensure the vent openings on the unit aren’t blocked by items sitting on top or pushed up against the vents. Keep the top and sides exposed to air.

11. Monitor for Issues

Keep an eye and ear out for any unusual issues with your microwave. Unusual sparking, arcing noises or hot spots mean it’s time for service. Popping or banging noises can occur as metal components expand and contract during heating, but continuous loud noises indicate an issue.

If you see smoke or fire, keep the door closed and unplug the unit immediately. Do not open door until flames are completely out. Reporting any shocks or tingle from touching the oven means the unit needs repair to address improper grounding before using again. Catching issues early minimizes dangers and prevents costlier damages down the road.

Following these microwave safety tips helps ensure you safely enjoy all the convenience and speed of microwave cooking. Always supervise use near children and act quickly if anything seems amiss. With some simple precautions, your microwave can be an invaluable and safe cooking tool. Stay alert and keep these tips in mind for a long and safe microwave lifespan.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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