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Can You Put Paper Towels in The Microwave? (Microwave Safety Tips)

paper towel on the table

You’d never put a paper towel in the oven, so many people believe it is dangerous to put them in the microwave. However, most paper towels are perfectly safe to be put in the microwave and can be useful to put over the top of food and liquids that would otherwise “spit”. If you do use paper towels in this way, however, it is a good idea to use the microwave in shorter intervals so that you can check the condition of the towels. Eventually, because of the lack of moisture in the paper towel, the edges can become burned or charred.

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Paper Towels and Microwaves

Microwaves do not cook food in the same way as an oven, toaster, or grill. As such, we need to use them differently from these other cooking methods. Most people know not to put metal in the microwave, and that adding moisture to food can help food cook better. It is also possible to put paper towels in the microwave. You can put one over the top of a bowl of food and the paper towel will prevent the food from spitting and causing a mess that is difficult to clean up.

Paper Towel Holder
Image By: Andrey_Nikitin, Shutterstock

Cook For Shorter Periods

However, paper towels are very low in moisture and the microwave will dry out what little moisture there is. Eventually, this can lead to the paper towel catching fire, so you do need to cook in shorter intervals and keep checking the paper towels to prevent fire.

Paper Towel Material

You should also check exactly what the paper towels are made of. Some, especially those that use recycled materials, may contain some materials that cause a spark when placed in the microwave.

Unfolded Only

Leave the paper towel unfolded when you put it in the microwave. When the paper towel is unfolded, the heat molecules are allowed to escape from the paper and dissipate around the microwave chamber. If the paper towel is folded, these molecules move from one layer of the tissue to another, increasing the chance of it catching fire.

Why Put Paper Towels in the Microwave?

Microwaves are convenient and fast. They can be used to cook a wide range of different dishes, heat leftovers from the day before, and in a variety of other ways. But unless the food is prepared in a closed container, it can get really messy with splashes of sauce and other ingredients all over the microwave chamber and the cooking plate.

Obviously, you can wash the microwave every time you use it, or you can cover food that is placed there. Placing a single paper towel over your food could prevent this mess and, as long as you are careful, it won’t be a hazard.

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If something is designed for being used in cooking, it will usually be labeled as microwave safe if it is considered safe for use in the microwave. But this isn’t always the case, and with some items, you may not even think to look and just assume that they aren’t safe. Below are three more items that you can usually put in the microwave without fear of causing a fire.

1. Tupperware

Image of two containers with green lid
Image Credit: Sergey Mironov, Shutterstock

Although you shouldn’t put thin, single-use plastics like yogurt containers in a microwave, you can put Tupperware in there. This is ideal for heating leftovers, which are commonly stored in Tupperware in the fridge because it means you don’t have to dirty any more dishes.

2. Paper Plates

a stack of paper plates
Image Credit: Alintrx, Shutterstock

Paper plates that are made purely from paper and paper products are usually labeled as microwave-safe. Some of the sturdier plastic plates, though, have a plastic coating, and this thin plastic coating is not safe for use in the microwave, so you should always check before putting these products in your microwave.

3. Ziploc Bags

Small transparent ziploc plastic bag
Image Credit: Dzhamilia, Shutterstock

Ziploc bags are great for storing dry food in the cupboards, leftovers in the fridge, and food in the freezer. The company also claims that its bags are microwave safe. This means you can store your leftovers in the bag and then put it straight in the microwave without having to transfer the food to another plate or container first.

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Microwaves are convenient. They heat up or cook food quickly, and most modern kitchens have a microwave of some sort. While you do have to be careful what you put in the microwave, generally checking to ensure that items are labeled as microwave-safe, there are some household items that are safe.

Paper towels, as long as they are unfolded and not made from recycled products, are usually safe to microwave. A single one can be placed over a bowl of food to help prevent splashes and to keep the microwave clean inside.

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock


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