What not to put in your microwave … and other tips to avoid kitchen explosions!

August 21st, 2013

Appliance Talk Dishwashers Kitchen Ovens & Cooking

Let’s put things in perspective. The ultimate kitchen disaster isn’t a collapsing soufflé or a bit of a whiff from your fridge – it’s an explosion.

How to avoid accidental kitchen explosions

Because this kind of thing will cause a certain amount of damage. At best, it will seriously impede the ability of the appliance to provide anything like normal service.

Here is a list of precautions for those that want their appliance to stay whole, functioning and without its constituent elements splattering themselves about the place.

We shall deliver our first piece of sage wisdom, sternly and unequivocally:

Don’t put anything in your microwave you shouldn’t.


The list of things not to put in your microwave is long and varied.  It has, for example, been proved conclusively that a propane tank will not last for very long once put into a microwave set to high heat. There are few more ordinary things you shouldn’t put in a microwave:

• Metal is a no-no. Unless, of course, you are looking for a spectacular light-show – and the possibility of the house burning down.

• Potatoes: A potato will explode in the microwave unless it’s cut up a bit or has more than a few holes jabbed through it for ventilation.


That’s because the ‘tater’s internal moisture will boil, producing steam, building up pressure against the tough outer skin. Result – Mount Vesuvius in minature. And the same goes for anything else with a certain amount of moisture trapped within a hard shell. Speaking of which …

• Eggs: If you ever badly needed an egg boiled, don’t put it in the microwave. An egg is basically a wad of protein trapped inside a hard shell. When microwaved, this protein expands – and the shell will do what it’s gotta do to get out of the way. By exploding itself all over the inside of your microwave.

exploding_water• Boiling water: This is a bit of a weird one, but it’s something to be aware of.

Microwaves can heat up your water for you. Heating water molecules is what they do. However, they are also capable of heating water faster than it can turn into vapour – causing it to become superheated. Thus charged, the water has the nasty potential to suddenly “bubble-up” – in effect, exploding – and is particularly susceptible to this when being moved from the microwave cavity or when encountering a foreign object, such as a tea-bag.

If boiling your water in the microwave, it might pay to add another element while doing so: such as a wooden spoon … these will diffuse the heat and provide a surface upon which the bubbles can form.

Amongst more obscure – if less explosive – items not to put in your microwave:

• Fine china: because it is likely to have metal in it. You’re also likely to screw with the paint-work which is, in turn, likely to screw with the resale value.

• Sponges: apparently there’s  an old wives’ tale that says you can disinfect a sponge by sticking it in the microwave and burning off the bacteria. It’ll burn the bacteria – it’ll also set fire to the sponge and the bottom of your microwave.

NB – for proof-positive, check out any number of exploding microwave Youtube videos. They will keep you happy and your curiosity satiated for, literally, hours of explosive entertainment.

On a similar theme of “what not to put in your appliance”, here’s another one:

Ammo-In-OvenDon’t store bullets in your oven

There was a massive fail earlier this year when Florida’s Javarski “JJ” Sandy decided to store the magazine of his Glock 21 in the oven.

It meant that when his friend, 18-year-old Aalaya Walker, began to heat up waffles in the oven – so were the bullets. Aalaya was hit in the chest and leg by flying shrapnel caused by the resulting explosion.

If you ever wondered whether it was a good idea to store your ammunition in your cooking appliance, let this be a lesson to think again. ‘Cos even the pyrolytic function ain’t going to clean up the mess.

Don’t use the dishwasher in a house that hasn’t been occupied for a while

Okay, so this one is kinda out of left-field – but, there’s at least (one) precident. Apparently, a US Navy housing inspector conducting a routine check of a vacant unit at his base turned on the dishwasher as a routine test – only for the appliance to explode some three minutes later.

Exploded_dishwashersNo one was hurt in the blast, but it managed to propel the underbench dishwasher across the kitchen as well as ripping out surrounding cabinetry and plumbing. The solution to the mystery was found to be a build-up of hydrogen gas in the hot water.

According to reports on the incident, authorities were saying that – under certain circumstances – a hot-water system can produce a surplus of hydrogen gas, which can build up in pipes which have not been used for two weeks or more. Hydrogen being an extremely flammable substance, the theory was that it had been ignited by the timer or relay switch inside the dishwasher.

Lesson? Safety inspectors recommend that occupants returning to a building after an extended amount of time, should first run the hot-water faucets to relieve gas build-ups.

Which brings us to just a few more less specific pieces of safety advice to prevent the generation of flammable situations … giving particular emphasis to those that are a potential source of a gas leaks of any kind.

• Make sure all your gas appliances are inspected and serviced each year by a trained professional, yo.

• Be ready and aware of the dangers of a gas leak – once you’ve picked up of the tell-tale “rotten egg” smell, evacuate your home immediately, pausing neither to touch any electrical switches, operate your phone, or light up a cigarette before putting a CD in the microwave and turning the machine up to 10.

• Read the operating manual carefully. To make sure you can cook with this or that. Whether your oven can deal with fan-heating the propane tank.

• Be aware of flammable substances you may have (cooking spray, insect repellants) and make sure they are stored well away from heat sources. Oh, and funnily enough, that includes flour – which is definitely explosive.

• When in doubt, back away slowly. Get out your phone, press record on the camera function. Then upload to Youtube.

Richie is a Sydney based writer with sophistication, flair and hair. Aside from blogging and writing for Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he is also a new playwright who had his first play, ‘The Local’ performed last year at the Sydney Fringe Festival. He is also the wicketkeeper for the Gladstone Hotel Cricket Club and his favourite appliance is any 3D Blu-ray Home Theatre System that can be delivered to his house free-of-charge in the near future. He was the lead singer of Van Halen in 2002. Google+

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