Microwave ovens are used every day, both at home and in
the workplace. When used properly, the microwave is safe and convenient for
heating a variety of foods in a short time. When you become complacent about
microwave safety, however, your appliance can cause painful burns and become a
potential fire hazard.
The following tips will help make the use of your
microwave oven a safe method of food preparation.
- Before using a new microwave oven, always read the
manufacturers operating procedures and safety precautions first.
- To minimize risk of fire, never attempt to heat
articles that are not approved for use in microwave ovens.
- Remove food from packaging before defrosting in a
microwave oven. Do not use plastic storage containers, foam trays and plastic
wraps in microwave ovens because they are not heat stable at high temperatures.
Melting or warping can occur which may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into
- Never use recycled paper products in microwave ovens
unless they are specifically approved for microwave use. Some recycled products
including paper towels and even waxed paper may contain minute metal flecks.
When a microwave oven is operating, the interaction between microwaves and the
metal can cause sparks and even flames.
- Do not leave a microwave oven unattended when
microwaving popcorn, since the heat buildup can cause fires. Heat the popcorn
according to the written instructions, but begin with the minimum time
specified because some microwaves can scorch popcorn in as little as two
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off
immediately. This will stop the fan so it won’t feed oxygen to the flames. Then
simply wait until the fire suffocates. Never open the oven door until you are
absolutely certain that the fire is out. If in doubt, call the fire department.
- Use only microwave-safe utensils. The instructions that
come with each microwave oven specify what kinds of containers are safe to use
and how to test the suitability of materials before use.
- Always use oven mitts to remove items from the
microwave oven after cooking. Be careful when removing a wrapping or covering
from a hot item. Hot steam escaping from the container, as the covering is
lifted, can cause painful burns.
- Be careful when heating liquids in the microwave oven.
Since the containers may only feel warm, rather than hot, they are sometimes
handled with less caution. This can easily result in the splashing or spilling
of a scalding liquid.
- Before allowing children to operate a microwave oven,
make sure that they are instructed in the proper use, and that they are tall
enough to reach the oven and handle foods safely. Over 50 percent of those burned
using microwave ovens are under 5 years of age.
If you have any questions concerning microwave
oven fire safety and burn prevention, please contact the Division of the Fire
Marshal, Office of Research Services, at 301-496-0487.