February 28

Is Microwaving Water Bad? | A Definitive Answer to Your Concerns


Author: Ana Stanar
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No, microwaving water is not bad. Microwaving water doesn't make it radioactive or harmful to our health. It is helpful when you need hot water for coffee, tea, hot chocolate, instant noodles, just to name a few.

If you are concerned that you might be consuming radioactive water, don't worry. There are many more harmful and addictive substances out there that people consume on a daily basis, such as cigarettes and alcohol.

In this guide, I will be discussing in great detail why it isn't bad to boil water using your microwave.

a person holding a cup of water in front of the microwave oven

How do Microwave Ovens Heat Water?

Microwaves are popular kitchen appliances found in millions of households worldwide. They have been a part of our home kitchens since the 1950s, and there is no sign that they will lose popularity any time soon.

Microwaving water is popular because the microwave heats water faster than a stovetop or electric kettle.

The microwave has a magnetron tube inside it that generates microwaves. These microwaves are then absorbed by water, which causes their temperature to increase. Water molecules vibrate when they absorb energy from microwaves. These vibrations create heat that boils water.

Boils Water Quickly

Microwaves boil water so quickly because it heats water molecules directly, while conventional ovens take longer because they must first heat the air inside them then transfer the heat to the water molecules.

The microwave itself: Check for any cracks around the door or on the front of the unit. These could indicate damage that needs repairs.
water and microwave graphic illustration

Is It Okay to Drink Microwaved Water?

Microwaved water is as safe to drink as any other water. There is no evidence that microwaves cause any kind of health effects in water. You can boil water in a microwave oven, but follow a few basic safety guidelines: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises.

Do not microwave water in a sealed container. The boiled water could be superheated and explode over when the container is moved or opened.

If you're heating up water in a glass or ceramic container, make sure to put a wooden stir stick or wooden chopstick in the water before microwaving.

wooden stick over the glass

Microwave Radiation is Not Harmful

Some people say that heating water in the microwave can change the chemical structure of water and produce harmful effects on the body, but this is not the case.

The microwave isn't dangerous because it heats food or boils water using non-ionizing radiation. That means that microwaves don't carry enough energy to break apart molecules and atoms the way ultraviolet light does.

Microwaves have been used in the food industry for more than 40 years to heat and cook food. In fact, microwave ovens are specifically designed to prevent radiation leakage.

Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation

Radiation is everywhere, from the sun to microwaves to the radio waves that keep us connected. Although the amount of radiation we're exposed to at any time is tiny, it can be harmful to people if they are exposed to too much of it over a long period of time.

But there's a big difference between ionizing radiation, which can damage DNA and cause mutations, and non-ionizing radiation, which is safe enough to be used without causing harm to anyone.

Non-ionizing radiation, also known as non-thermal radiation, includes infrared light, microwaves, radio waves, and visible light. Visible light, such as sunlight, is considered non-ionizing because it isn't powerful enough to overcome electrons that protect tissues from damage.

Non-ionizing radiation doesn't have enough energy to strip electrons from atoms or cause damage to DNA or cause cancer.

Ionizing radiation Ultraviolet light is powerful enough to break oxygen bonds in cell membranes, allowing free radicals to enter cells. Gamma rays and X-rays are often classified as ionizing because they're high-energy waves with enough energy to knock electrons out of their molecular targets.

Safety of Boiling Water in The Microwave Oven

Boiling water in a microwave oven is safe. However, all microwaves are not created equal, and it takes just a few seconds for the wrong one to turn out disastrously.

There's also a small risk of scalding or burning yourself when you're heating water in the microwave. But unless you have a malfunctioning unit or one that's been sitting unused for months, this shouldn't happen often. Observe the following safety tips when boiling water using your microwave to avoid accidents.

1. Follow The Manufacturer’s Instructions for Use

Many people are unaware of how to properly use a microwave oven to avoid potential hazards and injuries. If you do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the use of a microwave oven and assume that it is safe-you could be putting yourself at risk.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 270,000 microwave ovens are being recalled each year because consumers don't follow the manufacturer's instructions for using their product safely.

a glass of water and lemon in the microwave oven

Here's what you need to know about using a microwave

  • Always unplug before cleaning. Microwaves are powerful machines that can cause electrical shock if they aren't unplugged before cleaning them.
  • Don't overload it with food or other items. If you put too much stuff in there, it won't be able to distribute the heat evenly.

2. Use Microwave Safe Container

To make sure your water is boiled evenly and safely, use a microwave-safe cup or bowl when boiling water in a microwave. The materials that usually make these types of cups include glass or ceramics.

Do not use plastic cups to boil water since plastic containers are not recommended. Microwaving plastic containers may soften the container's plastic, which could cause it to leach chemicals into your food or cause them to melt and become a fire hazard. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.

two dark cups on the white surface

3. Avoid Over Boiling Water

Avoid over boiling water as this will help prevent superheated water from building up inside the microwave and causing damage.

When boiling water, remember that water boils at about 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). The wattage of the microwave can vary by model, but with a typical 1200-watt microwave, boiling water should take less than 2 minutes.

Having known this, do not heat water for a long time or more than 2 minutes without checking if it has boiled as you will end up with superheated water. The danger of superheated water is that it can explode when stirred, causing injuries to the person stirring it.

Use Gloves When Handling Hot Cups

When boiling water in the microwave, use gloves or potholders to handle hot cups to avoid burns.

Hot liquids, e.g., instant coffee left inside the microwave for a long time, can be scalding when hot plus hot steam from hot liquids can also become trapped in the microwave oven, which can cause injury.

The dangers of scalding and steam are even more obvious when you're handling something like a hot cup of liquid with your bare hands. It is easy to burn yourself if you aren't careful.

a person wearing red gloves for cooking

4. Do not operate a Faulty Microwave

Check to see if the microwave is damaged before using it. If it’s not safe to use, consider taking it for repair or purchasing a new one.

You should check the following items before using your microwave:

Before you turn on your microwave to heat up dinner, check first to see if something is wrong with it. Do this by watching the oven light come on and stay on. If the oven light stays on, but the microwave still makes static sounds or doesn't heat up at all, there's a chance there's damage inside.

a person using the microwave oven

The microwave cord: It has been known for microwave cords to spark and cause fires. Make sure it’s not frayed or exposed to water, bleach, or any other elements that could damage it. Also, make sure the plug is tight on the cord and not loose from use.

The oven door: The door should be tightly closed, and there shouldn’t be any gaps between the door and the frame of the oven.

Now that you've read about tips about microwaving water, you can find out more about different types of modern microwaves to suit all your needs. Check out the extracts from those reviews we shared here:

Microwave Types

Best Convection Microwave

Convection ovens have great cooking power, a child safety lock to prevent accidental usage of the microwave, and different cooking levels. Like we mentioned before, choosing a convection microwave for your needs will be influenced by these 3 main factors - capacity, features for your budget, and your counter space.

Best Microwaves For Home Use

The more features you choose to have, the more expensive the microwave oven for home use would be. The good news is that you can choose to keep things very economical by simply going for a microwave oven with minimal features that meets the size and power requirements as stated earlier.

Best Simple And Basic Microwave Ovens

To reiterate this, a basic microwave oven, in our opinion is a small to midsize, non-inverter solo countertop microwave oven. Why? because a microwave such as this is easy to operate, is affordable, does not occupy much counterspace and is easy to install.

Best 1200 Watt Microwave Ovens

Most of the ovens in this category are quite expensive. This is generally due to two reasons: high powered microwave ovens are heavy duty and thus feature expensive components, secondly, they are very large. Some of the premium ovens in this power category though offer cutting edge technology, albeit at a higher cost.

Best Midsize Countertop Microwave

A midsize model is excellent for a regular family. The smaller models are generally reserved for offices, dorm rooms or garage like spaces. Larger microwave ovens are reserved for commercial spaces, so if you are have regular sized family or 4-5 members, then a midsize microwave oven would work perfectly for you.

About the author

Ana Stanar

An Art Teacher, entrepreneur, and a mother of three, Ana considers cooking a form of art - pleasure for all senses as well as a process that requires creativity, passion and devotion. Since she leads a busy life, Ana just loves testing various kitchen appliances for Kitchen Gearoid, especially those that save her time while preparing food and cooking but also make every meal a masterpiece!


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