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Are Paper Plates Microwave Safe? Microwave Safety Tips You Should Know!

man holding a stack of paper plates

Microwaves are a useful modern invention, but they can be dangerous if they are not used properly. There are horror stories about people who have accidentally put things in the microwave that they shouldn’t. These mistakes have led to fires, dangerous smoke, and other hazards. That makes knowing what is safe to microwave and what isn’t very important. Can you safely microwave paper plates in the microwave without causing any problems?

Typically, paper plates are safe to microwave but not always. Here is what you need to look out for when deciding whether to stick a paper plate in the microwave.

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Are Paper Plates Microwave Safe?

Most paper plates are microwave safe. To be absolutely sure, you should check the label and the packaging to ensure that it says microwave safe. If a label does not say microwave safe or you are unsure about the safety of the paper plate, you should not put it into the microwave. That is because there could be dangers lurking in the seemingly safe plate that could cause health issues.

It is a good general rule of thumb for microwave safety to check the packaging of everything before putting it into the microwave. Microwaves emit powerful waves that can melt and break down materials like plastics which can release dangerous chemicals into your food and air. Things labeled microwave safe have been cleared of these potentially harmful materials.

a stack of paper plates
Image By: Alintrx, Shutterstock

Hidden Dangers

Most people think that all paper plates are safe, but that is not the case. Some paper plates have a coating of plastic. These paper plates have a shiny appearance and are smooth to the touch. These plastic coatings are put on certain types of plates but can be harmful if put into the microwave improperly. The coating can melt in the microwave and release plastics into your food. These chemicals can cause harmful health effects over time if you continue to microwave them improperly. That is why it is important to always check the label to make sure that something is microwave safe before nuking it.

Another indication that a paper plate is potentially unsafe is the presence of graphics or logos on the plate. Some paper plates are decorative and are full of paint or ink. These plates are often not safe to microwave. Many party plates fall into this category. If you go to reheat pizza the next day, you might want to avoid the plate with all the ink in it.

Thin paper plates can also lose their integrity after being microwaved. If you heat up greasy, heavy, or oily food, you could go in to pull the plate out and have it fold in the middle. This can cause you to spill your food and even potentially burn you if you drop the hot food onto your exposed skin. Carefully test the plate before picking it up after microwaving it to prevent it from collapsing.

The Safest Paper Plates to Microwave

The safest paper plates to put into the microwave are plain, white, unmarked paper plates. You can tell that a paper plate is 100% paper (and therefore 100% safe) because it will be dull, slightly rough to the touch, and unmarked. The packaging will note the paper plates as being microwave-safe. You can also look to see if they have a components list. You want to microwave plates that are 100% paper or 100% recycled paper. You don’t want any metal, plastic, or coatings on your paper plates.

Always check your paper plates before microwaving them. Even the USDA says that only “most” paper plates are safe to microwave. Not all of them are.

disposable paper plate
Image Credit: Aleksandrs Samuilovs, Shutterstock

Best Paper Plate Alternative

If you are unsure about the viability of a paper plate or want to avoid using paper plates altogether, the best alternative is a glass plate. There are tons of affordable ceramic and glass plates that can be microwaved over and over again. Glass plates are entirely microwave-safe without any doubt. They can be reused. They don’t collapse. They don’t get too hot. These are the best alternatives to use in place of paper plates.

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A lot of people mindlessly put paper plates into the microwave without thinking about it. In many cases, this is fine, but not always. Sometimes, paper plates have graphics, logos, coatings, and more that could be unsafe if heated in the microwave. Always check the label before throwing a paper plate into the microwave to avoid any unforeseen issues.

Featured Image Credit: Nungning20, Shutterstock


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