September 5

Can You Microwave Styrofoam? | We Addressed Your Safety Concerns


Author: Cornelia Suehr and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

No, it is not safe to microwave styrofoam. This is because styrofoam, a commonly used material in various industries, has raised significant environmental and health concerns. 

Its resistance to decomposition and recycling poses challenges, plus it leads to harm to animals who mistake it for food. This has prompted several cities in the United States to ban its use.

Moreover, the styrene compound found in styrofoam has been linked to cancer, this is according to Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC

Microwaving styrofoam raises additional risks as substances used in its production may seep into food. While regulations exist for microwave safety, controversies surrounding nutrient destruction while microwaving and the radiation microwave ovens emit warrant further research.

It is crucial to follow the instructions from the microwave manufacturer and use containers that have microwave-safe labels only. 

Key Takeaways

  • Styrofoam is actually a brand name for polystyrene foam. It's made from a combination of polystyrene, and various chemical additives.
  • Styrofoam is difficult to recycle and does not decompose easily, leading to environmental concerns.
  • Microwaving styrofoam containers may cause substances used in manufacturing, styrene to leak into food, posing potential health risks
  • The FDA regulates the use of plastic and polystyrene containers in microwave due to safety concerns, and it recommends to use microwave-safe labeled containers only.

Can You Microwave Styrofoam? - Is it Safe?

The safety of microwaving Styrofoam has been a subject of concern due to substances used in its manufacturing, such as the styrene compound, to leach into food. Many people wonder if it is safe to microwave Styrofoam containers or polystyrene foam containers. The answer is not straightforward and requires careful consideration.

Meal in styrofoam in fron of the microwave oven

Leaching Concerns

Microwaving Styrofoam can be risky because microwave ovens get hot and high temperatures cause the material to melt or warp hence, releasing harmful chemicals into food. 

The styrene compound found in Styrofoam has been linked to health issues, including cancer.This is the main reason why I dont use  styrofoam containers in my microwave.   

FDA Guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain types of Styrofoam for use in microwave ovens. These are typically containers that are labeled "microwave-safe" or "heat-resistant." They are safe for single-use microwave heating.

Alternative Containers

If you have concerns about using Styrofoam in the microwave, consider using glass, ceramic, or microwave-safe plastic containers

These options are generally considered safer choices for heating food in the microwave. This is because they are made of materials that do not release harmful substances when exposed to high temperatures.In my experience also, glass and enamel containers warm food very well in microwave. 

A stack of styrofoam trays

What Is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a trademarked product by The Dow Chemical Company. Its made of polystyrene (EPS) foam.  Polystyrene foam is a type of material commonly used in the building industry and for making disposable take-out containers, plates, coffee cups, and packaging peanuts.

These polystyrene foam containers are favored for their low cost and excellent insulating properties.

Safety Concerns of Styrofoam

There have been concerns about the safety of microwaving polystyrene foam containers. It is believed that substances used in the manufacturing process may potentially leach into food when heated in a microwave. Moreover, there is worry regarding the styrene compound found in polystyrene foam, which has been linked to cancer in animal and human studies.

To address these concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates plastic and polystyrene containers for microwave safety. It is recommended to use containers labeled as 'microwave safe' when reheating food in a microwave oven. Additionally, transferring food from polystyrene foam containers to ceramic or glass before microwaving can offer an extra layer of precaution.

Can You Microwave Styrofoam Plates?

It is not advisable to microwave plastic plates unless they have microwave-safe labels.  This is because styrofoam can release harmful substances into the food when microwaved. Therefore, it is important to determine whether the Styrofoam being used is microwave-safe or not, as only certain types are suitable for this purpose.

Microwave-safe Styrofoam has undergone FDA testing and approval for its safety in microwave use, whereas traditional Styrofoam could present risks due to potential chemical leaching.

A person putting the meal into the microwave oven

What happens when you Microwave Food in Styrofoam?

Heating food in Styrofoam containers can result in the release of harmful toxic compounds such as benzene and styrene.  These harmful substances have been linked to reproductive system damage and cancer. 

However, there is a newer version of Styrofoam available on the market that is designed specifically for microwave use. This microwave-safe Styrofoam is made from materials that are able to withstand heat more effectively, reducing the likelihood of hazardous chemical release.

It is important to exercise caution when heating any type of Styrofoam in the microwave due to the potential health risks involved. Moving forward, it is crucial to explore alternative options such as microwave-safe containers made from ceramic or glass.

Microwave-safe Styrofoam

The microwave-safe Styrofoam containers are made using materials capable of withstanding high temperatures. Therefore, they cannot release chemicals when food is heated in them. 

These specially engineered Styrofoam containers are labeled as 'microwave-safe,' showing that they have been tested and approved by the FDA for microwave use. 

The materials used in these containers have been carefully chosen to ensure that they do not release harmful substances into food when heated.

Using microwave-safe styrofoam containers provides a convenient option for heating food quickly and efficiently. It eliminates the need to transfer food to another container before microwaving, saving both time and effort. Additionally, the stability of these containers when exposed to high temperatures reduces the risk of leaks or spills during heating.

Various types of styrofoam plates

Traditional Styrofoam

When exposed to high temperatures, traditional Styrofoam will melt or break down, potentially releasing toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment. It melts at 464 degrees Fahrenheit. This will off course worry many people who want to use microwave ovens to heat food in styrofoam containers. 

The polystyrene foam used in these containers contains a compound called styrene, which has been linked to health issues including cancer. When microwaved, substances from the styrofoam can leach into the food, leading to the potential ingestion of harmful chemicals. This is the main reason I always opt not to use styrofoam for reheating my meals.

To ensure safety when using microwaves, it is recommended to use microwave-safe labeled containers made of alternative materials such as glass or ceramic, two of my favourite dishware materials. These alternatives provide a safer option for heating food without the risk of chemical contamination.

What are Styrofoam Alternatives?

Styrofoam alternatives include microwave-safe containers made of other materials. One potential solution to solve the limitation of styrofoam is  to use containers made with materials that are biodegradable and recyclable;  more environmentally friendly materials.

These containers have insulation properties plus reduce their negative impact on the environment.

Another alternative to Styrofoam is the use of biodegradable materials like paper or compostable plastics for food packaging purposes. These materials have gained popularity due to their ability to break down naturally over time, minimizing their contribution to landfill waste.

Plant-Based Alternatives

Furthermore, innovative research has led to the development of new materials that can replace Styrofoam for various applications. For instance, some companies have introduced plant-based alternatives derived from plantslike cornstarch or sugarcane.

These alternatives offer similar functionalities as Styrofoam but are biodegradable and more easily recyclable. I have also tried using these containers and I'm quite happy with their heating results while also decreasing environmental footprint when they decompose. 

Microwave oven and food containers

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any health risks associated with microwaving styrofoam?

Microwaving styrofoam may pose health risks due to the potential leakage of substances used in its manufacturing, such as the styrene compound. Further research is needed to fully understand these risks and their impact on human health.

What happens if you accidentally microwave a styrofoam container?

Microwaving a styrofoam container can have bad consequences. The heat can cause the styrofoam to melt hence release harmful chemicals into the food. It is important to use microwave-safe containers to avoid any potential risks.

Can you microwave styrofoam cups or coffee cups?

Microwaving styrofoam cups or coffee cups is not recommended. The substances used in their manufacturing may potentially leach into the food when heated, posing health risks. It is advisable to use microwave-safe containers instead.

Is it safe to use styrofoam in the oven or toaster oven?

Using styrofoam in the oven or toaster oven is not recommended due to its low melting point. Styrofoam can release toxic fumes when exposed to high temperatures, which may pose health risks. It is safer to use oven-safe materials for cooking.

What are the environmental impacts of using styrofoam?

Styrofoam does not easily biodegrade,it is not recyclable, , and some animals can mistake it for food leading to their death when they eat it. Styrofoam bans have been issued in some cities due to these concerns or problems


In conclusion, microwaving styrofoam is not recommended due to its potential health risks and environmental concerns.

Styrofoam, a widely used material in the building industry and for disposable containers, does not decompose easily and also poses a challenge when it comes to recycling it. It can also harm animals and may release harmful substances when heated.

Instead of using styrofoam, it is advisable to opt for safer alternatives such as microwave-safe labeled containers or eco-friendly materials like paper or biodegradable plastics.

Proper consideration of these alternatives will promote sustainability and safeguard our health.

About the author

Cornelia Suehr

A professional chef and a passionate writer on all topics related to cooking, baking, appliances and kitchenware. Her posts resonate with foodies, home chefs and professionals.


You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}