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10 Habits That Will Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan

The invention of the microwave in 1946, and it becoming a household staple in the mid-1960s sure was life-changing for many homeowners. It allows us to enjoy leftovers, and prepare speedy snacks with minimum effort and time spent. If you’re a fan of your microwave and want to keep it running for as long as possible, there are few things you should refrain from to avoid shortening its life-span.

If you maintain your microwave correctly, its life expectancy should be about nine to ten years. Here are the risky actions you need to avoid in order to actually make that happen.

1. Forgetting to check if the container is microwave-safe Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, unsafe containers

It’s easy to just chuck a dish in the microwave without giving it too much though, or assuming that a few minutes of heating won’t do any damage. That, however, is wrong. It’s important to make sure that the container holding the meal you’re about to microwave is safe. As most of you probably know, metal is off-limits for the microwave. Other containers you should avoid microwaving include aluminum, styrofoam, and anything that is meant to be used in the cold, like butter tubs or yogurt containers.

When it comes to plastic, opinions are split. “I would recommend reheating all food on a plate or switching to a glass container to heat, rather than keeping food in the plastic container,” said registered dietitian Melissa Bailey to Reader’s Digest. Any plastic that isn’t microwavable could melt, and even small smudges of melted plastic inside the microwave can cause problems. According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), however, some plastics are deemed microwave safe, so do check for that label if you want to microwave food in a plastic container. 

2. Microwaving certain foods Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, broccoli in microwave

While microwaves can be handy in many situations, there are certain foods that should never be microwaved. Not only will it harm the food quality, but also the microwave itself. Potatoes and eggs, for example, can build up pressure when microwaved, and, when they blow up, they send a mini-shockwave through the unit, which can be damaging.

A safe way to microwave potatoes is to poke a few holes in them with a fork so that the pressure buildup will have somewhere to go. Whole eggs cannot be microwaved under any circumstance. To learn more about foods that are not microwave friendly, check out our previous article: NEVER Put These 5 Things in the Microwave!

3. Neglecting to clean your microwave Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, cleaning microwave

One of the simplest tips for prolonging the life of your microwave is to clean it regularly. And we don’t only mean cleaning it when there’s a sizable mess but making sure not to leave those small everyday stains as well. Food that remains on the sides will continue to absorb energy in future heatings and will burn the interior over a long period of time.

This means that your microwave will expend unnecessary efforts to heat up those lingering remains which will eventually impact the components and shorten the lifespan of the appliance. For some handy tips on cleaning the microwave, take a look at this handy guide: Clean Your Microwave in 3 Minutes with this Natural Remedy.

4. Slamming the door Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, slamming microwave door

We’re all guilty of not treating our appliances very gently from time to time, and the infamous closing the door with your elbow. But when you’re getting something out of the microwave the next time, don't slam it shut, even if you’re in a rush. Remember that doing so will shorten the lifespan of your appliance.

“There are actually some quite delicate mechanisms in most microwave doors, as it’s obviously important they secure properly to keep the energy on the inside,” according to John Bedford, founder of Viva Flavor, a site dedicated to helping amateur cooks. Moreover, if the microwave door gets damaged, it might no longer be sufficient to keep all the energy in and that could really be a safety issue. 

Related: Make Your Kitchen Appliances Last with These Tips

5. Running the microwave empty Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, burning microwave

This one is easy to do by mistake. Sometimes we take the dish out of the microwave a few seconds early, and let it finish its run empty instead of resetting it. If you notice this happening, it’s important to stop it immediately as it can seriously damage your microwave. When nothing is inside, all the microwave can do is absorb its own energy. If left running on empty for long enough, the microwave can even ‘die’ on the spot.

6. Pushing the weight limit Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, food weight

It turns out that every microwave has a weight limit. Most dishes are well below the microwave capacity, and that is why most of us never bother to check what that limit is. However, experts advise being cautious with heavier dishes and large frozen items. Microwaving something overly heavy can potentially damage the turntable and motor, and strain the unit and shorten its lifespan. The weight limit is usually printed on the microwave door or can be found in the manual. 

Related: 15 Super Useful Microwave Tips

7. Boxing the microwave in Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, microwave next to hob

Not having enough space on the countertop is a common problem. But even if yours is packed, try to find a spot where the microwave can have some space. Boxing it in could prevent proper airflow and cause damage over time. If the microwave is located in a location where the heat vents are too close to a wall or cabinet, restricting airflow, the electronics will get too hot and lead to an early failure. 

This means you should also avoid keeping anything on top of the microwave, and of course, avoid keeping it too close to your oven or any other heat source.

8. Microwaving sponges Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, sponge in microwave

A popular kitchen hack is popping a grimy kitchen sponge in the microwave in order to clean it. Alas, we have to tell you that if you don’t thoroughly disinfect your microwave after doing so, it is better to refrain from this method. The kitchen sponge is one of the dirtiest household items - it could harbor salmonella, staphylococcus, and other bacteria for days after you use them. 

While the dishes you clean with the sponge will dry and negate the bacteria, the same can't be said about microwaves. Because they retain moisture and are warm often, they are a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of diseases. By putting a dirty sponge in the microwave you’re risking the health of your family members and yourself. 

9. Running a few appliances in the same circuit Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, kitchen circuits

Your microwave shouldn’t be run on the same circuit as larger kitchen appliances. The reason kitchen devices need multiple circuits is that “appliances, especially in the kitchen, have been getting larger and larger over the years. The conflicting electricity demands are too much for one circuit and can threaten to damage or inhibit your appliances,” according to electrician Craig Anderson. 

While this is useful information to have, the average homeowner is not expected to know how to figure out the kitchen circuits. It can be a tricky business, best left to an electrician to handle.

10. Microwaving stainless steel mugs Habits That Shorten Your Microwave’s Lifespan, stainless steel travel mug

We’ll finish with something that might come as a surprise to some, but travel mugs could really damage your microwave. The stainless steel reflects the waves instead of letting your coffee absorb them, resulting in the waves bouncing between the mug and the microwave surface and causing damage to the appliance. As a result, your coffee won't heat up and the lifespan of your microwave will be shortened. If you have a stainless steel travel mug, pour in the liquid when it is already hot.

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