Guru Kate: Microwaves myths debunked: Magic or madness?

What materials are never microwave safe?

First, just check the bottom of whatever you’re using. Usually it’ll have a little symbol with a microwave (it’s good to go), or a microwave with an X through it (don’t do it!).

Sometimes there’s a picture of a tray with some squiggles above it, this means that sometimes noodles will float above your tray when you put it in the microwave.

Just kidding, that’s just another microwave safe symbol.

For those things you just have no clue about, and have no symbols or markings of any sort, don’t ever put this stuff in the microwave:

1)    Margarine tubs, yogurt containers, cottage cheese containers or anything like that for microwaving.

2)    Re-used tv-dinner trays that you already microwaved in. It’s a one time deal.

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3)    Aluminum foil (or any kind of metal for that matter)

4)    Really fancy china

5)    Styrofoam that isn’t labeled microwave safe

6)    Don’t let plastic wrap touch your food when you’re microwaving with it. If you’re that scared of it touching, try a plain white paper towel instead. Printed or recycled papers can’t always be trusted.

If you’re still not sure, just don’t do it. If you need to eat whatever it is hot, transfer it to a microwave safe container. Be safe, not scared.

Can you get direct radiation from standing too close to a microwave?

Let’s look at the anatomy of a microwave to answer this question. A microwave is basically a metal box with a microwave generator inside of it, and sometimes a rotating plate. The whole thing works by microwave radiation’s ability to vibrate water at a fast speed.

As taught in an elementary chemistry course, the faster a molecule vibrates, the warmer it is. This property is due to thermodynamics and kinetics (although I don’t know the all the little details, I hear it’s pretty complex).

So if these microwaves are contained in a closed box, they shouldn’t get out. There are little pockets of rumors here and there: stay two inches away, get a new microwave often, you get one-hundred-bazillion times more radiation from your cell phone, TV, dog, etc.

But lots of these rumors have absolutely no basis other than paranoia. Paranoia will destroy ya. It’s probably a good idea to update your microwave every once in awhile, if just to avoid cleaning it.

Regardless, don’t let the word radiation scare you all the time. For instance, you cook toast (in an open toaster, gasp!) using infrared radiation. All light in the visible spectrum is called radiation. You listen to the radio in your car that’s transmitted through radio wave radiation. In fact, microwave radiation has a longer wavelength (and is therefore is less cell-invasive) than visible light.

It’s only in the context of ultra violet, x-rays, gamma rays, nuclear stuff, really powerful radiation that it gets hairy. But hey, that’s how you also make a superhero.