Microwaves offer efficiency that’s impossible to ignore. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore cleaning them! In fact, as easy as it is to heat up your leftovers or cook up some veggies, it’s pretty quick to wipe it down after every use. But there’s an even bigger reason to clean this kitchen appliance after every use than to keep it sparkling to the naked eye. And your health will thank you too!
According to a swab study completed by Kimberly Clark, which surveyed almost 5,000 locations in a variety of office settings, 48 percent of the microwave door handles tested had adenosine triphosphate (ATP) counts of 300 or higher. ATP is a molecule that provides the energy needed for living things. It’s also used to measure how dirty something is. An ATP count of 300 or higher represents a surface that’s at high risk of transmitting illness. Get your microwave and counters sparkling with these 11 tips for cleaning your kitchen quickly and thoroughly.
Further research found the presence of E. coli inside a swabbed microwave. Of the study, Julie Torruellas-Garcia, PhD, who analyzed the samples, said: “We use it [the microwave] to cook our food, but also to defrost meat. Raw meats carry bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Sometimes, the food splatters around the microwave and we don’t always clean it.” Check out these 30 ways to revolutionize your kitchen space.
Keeping food from spilling in your microwave may not be easy, but clean-up sure is. By wiping down your microwave (including the exterior handle) after each use, you stop a bacterial breeding ground in its tracks. To get the job done, you can simply use warm water and mild soap.
For a “deeper” clean, grab 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, a microwave safe bowl and a damp sponge or microfiber cloth. Place the water and vinegar in the bowl, and microwave on high until the window steams up and the mixture boils. Let the microwave cool for a few minutes, then wipe down. Next, find out 11 other everyday items you aren’t washing nearly enough.
Don't use your microwave for these foods:
Foods to never reheat in a microwave
Foods to never reheat in a microwave
Thankfully, you’re still safe to nuke a raw spud for a quick and easy side dish. The danger comes when you try reheating cooked potatoes. Cooking potatoes in aluminum foil protects the bacteria C. botulinum from the heat, meaning it can still thrive if the potato stays at room temperature too long, and potentially cause botulism. Popping that contaminated tot in the microwave won’t kill the bacteria, either, so play it safe by cooking them on a baking sheet instead of wrapped in foil and refrigerating leftover potatoes as soon as possible. Stick with these foods even professional chefs cook in the microwave instead.
Microwaved grapes won’t make raisins, but they will make plasma, which is a form of matter that’s created when gas is ionized and lets electricity flow. In a video, Stephen Bosi, PhD, physics lecturer at the University of New England, shows nuking two pieces of a plain ol’ grape in a microwave can create enough plasma to melt a hole through a plastic container. Plasma might not be produced from other fruits, but you could still be left with a mess. Whole fruit traps steam under the flesh, meaning it could burst while it’s heating.
8. Hot peppers
When hot peppers are reheated in the microwave, capsaicin—the chemical that gives them their spicy flavor—is released into the air. Airborne, the chemical can burn your eyes and throat. In fact, one Rochester, New York, apartment building was evacuated after a microwaved pepper caused residents to start coughing and have trouble breathing. Don’t miss these other 18 ways you’ve been using your microwave wrong.
The same chemical conversion that happens to spinach holds true for reheating nitrate-rich beets and turnips! Good thing they’re just as delicious cold. On the flip side, here are 16 foods you never knew you could microwave.
6. Leafy greens
If you want to save your celery, kale, or spinach to eat later as leftovers, plan to reheat them in a conventional oven rather than a microwave. When blasted in the microwave, naturally occurring nitrates (which are very good for you on their own) may convert to nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic, studies show.
The most important thing to realize about microwaves is that their heat does not always kill bacteria, because microwaves heat from the outside in instead of the inside out. As such, certain bacteria-prone reheated foods will have higher risk of causing sickness when these bacterial cells survive. Bearing this in mind, you can see why chicken, which is at risk of salmonella contamination, could be a dangerous food to microwave. Before eating chicken, you have to cook it thoroughly to eliminate all present bacteria. Since microwaves don’t fully or evenly cook all parts of the meat, you’re more likely to be left with surviving bacteria, such as salmonella. In one study, out of 30 participants who reheated raw meat, all 10 who used a microwave became ill, whereas the 20 who used a skillet were fine. This goes to show how much bacteria can survive in meat when microwaved, compared to other cooking methods. Check out these other 50 foods nutritionists never eat.
Rice, really? Well, according to the Food Standards Agency, microwaving rice can sometimes lead to food poisoning. The issue with rice involves the common presence of a highly resistant bacteria called Bacillus cereus. Heat kills this bacteria, but it can have produced spores that are toxic, according to findings in the International Journal of Food Microbiology—and surprisingly heat resistant. A number of studies confirm that once rice comes out of the microwave and is left out at room temperature, any spores it contains can multiply and cause food poisoningif you eat it. (The humid environment of the warm rice makes it an ideal breeding ground.) As is explained on the U.S. government website Food Safety: “B. cereus is a type of bacteria that produces toxins. These toxins can cause two types of illness: one type characterized by diarrhea, and the other, called emetic toxin, characterized by nausea and vomiting. Sources: a variety of foods, particularly rice.” To avoid contaminated rice, heat it to near boiling and then keep it warm (above 140 degrees F) to keep it food safe.
Many new mothers freeze and store their breast milk for later use, which is great, as long as it’s not reheated in a microwave. In the same way that microwaves heat plates of food unevenly, they can also warm a bottle of breast milk unevenly, creating “hot spots” that can severely burn a baby’s mouth and throat. Then there’s the carcinogen hazard that comes with reheating plastic. The FDA recommends that breast milk and formula be thawed and reheated in a pot on the stove, or using hot tap water. As a workaround, you could heat a cup of water in the microwave and then drop the bag or bottle of breast milk in it to thaw. Check out these other 12 things you should never put in the microwave.
1. Hard-boiled eggs
Shelled or unshelled, when a hard-boiled egg is cooked in a microwave, the moisture inside creates an extreme steam buildup, like a miniature pressure cooker, to the point where the egg can explode! Even scarier, the egg won’t burst inside the microwave while it’s being heated, but afterward, which means the scalding hot egg can erupt in your hand, on your plate, or even in your mouth. To avoid turning your egg into a steam bomb, cut it into small pieces before reheating, or better yet, avoid putting it in the microwave all together.