Can Microwave Ovens Explode? (3 Reasons Why They Can Explode)

Image of a man keeping food in microwave oven

Microwave ovens make cooking, baking, and reheating very easy. Due to their versatility and usefulness, they have found their way into almost every kitchen. Nonetheless, these devices are not entirely risk-free, and things can go wrong with them. That is why it is essential to be careful when using microwave ovens. So, can microwave ovens explode?

Yes, microwave ovens can explode. If microwave ovens have faulty wiring or are misused, they can emit smoke, catch fire or explode. The oven can also catch fire if you use unsuitable materials for cooking, like metal. Certain foods like grapes, water, and whole eggs can also trigger fires in ovens.

Let’s now take a detailed look at microwave oven explosions. But first…

How Does A Microwave Operate?

The microwave oven is a complicated electrical appliance. It uses microwave radiations to heat or cook food.

The most important part of a microwave oven is a magnetron. When power is applied to the device, the magnetron produces electromagnetic waves of microwave frequencies. These microwaves sweep through the compartment of the oven.

When you place food inside the microwave, the molecules absorb these microwaves and vibrate quickly.

This vibration produces heat, which in turn causes the food to cook.

What Causes Microwave Ovens To Explode?

Although the microwave oven is a relatively safe device, improper usage can trigger fires and explosions. Here are the common causes of such accidents.

1. Use Of Metals For Cooking

If you look at the instruction manual of any microwave oven, you will notice that metallic containers are unsuitable for microwave cooking.

Do you know why? In metals, the atoms have free electrons. When microwaves pass through these electrons, they rapidly vibrate. This generates heat inside the metal. As the temperature rises, the metal will continue to heat and reach a temperature at which the metal can burn the microwave.

Now, this does not always trigger a fire or explosion. So, if you accidentally left a metal container in the microwave, it may turn out fine. But this is usually because the metal is very thick, and thick metal heats up very slowly.

The problem arises when the metal has sharp edges or uneven surfaces. When the surface is uneven, the free electrons that bounce back and forth form concentrated negative charges.

When these charges are exposed to air particles, sparks form. Such sparks can trigger a fire or explosion if it hits something flammable. Since you cannot predict when this will happen, always avoid using metals inside the microwave.

2. Cooking Certain Foods

Some foods, like grapes and eggs, can trigger microwave fires due to their shape and structure.

Problems arise when you try to cook a whole egg in the shell.  Since the shell is intact, there is very little space inside it for the food to cook. When you microwave the egg, the moisture inside it turns to steam, causing the pressure to increase. The lack of space and pressure from within forces the egg to explode.

Hot pepper is another food that will explode because it contains a chemical substance called capsaicin, which is volatile.

Another ingredient that can explode is grapes. Grapes that are cut in half concentrate the microwave energy between them. As the temperature increases, the water in the grapes will transform into plasma and catch fire.

Equally dangerous is heating pure distilled water in a clean cup. Microwave radiations can cause the water to become superheated. So, instead of boiling, the surface remains flat. However, when you move the water, it will cause an explosion.

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3. Faulty Construction Or Wiring Problems

Most microwave oven companies focus on safety aspects when designing this equipment. A safety certification indicates that a microwave oven meets standard safety guidelines. Accident risks are smaller for such devices. The sturdy construction and safety measures put in place will ensure that the device shuts off in case of any unexpected power issues.

However, there may be a construction defect in rare cases that causes the device to explode or go up in flames. So, check for any such previous complaints on the model before you buy it.

Explosions or fires can also happen due to installation issues. Overflow of electricity can trigger microwave accidents. Faulty wiring can lead to short circuits or sparks that can damage the device. If the oven continues to run in the event of a short circuit, it can indicate current leakage. Should sparks be produced, they can cause fires in the presence of flammable objects.

Although we cannot entirely rule out equipment or installation errors, they are rare. Most accidents are caused by improper usage of the device. So, you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use the microwave oven as suggested. You cannot hold the microwave company responsible if an accident happens due to improper usage.

How To Avoid Microwave Oven Accidents?

The best way to avoid an accident is to understand how to use the microwave oven properly and follow the instructions by the manufacturer.

Familiarize yourself with the instruction manual. Follow the recommendations for installation, use, and maintenance. Do not overlook any warnings by the manufacturer. With careful usage, you can extend the lifespan of this device as well as get the most out of it.

Follow the below guidelines to prevent fires or other dangerous microwave oven accidents.

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when choosing the power source for your microwave oven. Always use a wall socket with the recommended power rating to avoid short circuits or electrical damage to the equipment.
  2. Use only microwave-safe containers to heat or cook food in the oven. Avoid anything with metallic surfaces, including aluminum foil or metal rims.
  3. Never place flammable objects like cloth or paper on or near the microwave oven.
  4. Always unplug the device for cleaning. Regular and proper cleaning of all surfaces will reduce the risk of fire.
  5. Follow the specific instructions and guidelines for cooking different types of foods. It will prevent burning or worse, accidents.
  6. Be careful when placing items in or taking them out of the microwave oven. Use proper gloves or safety gear to avoid burns and injuries from hot food.
  7. Do not allow children to operate the microwave oven without adult supervision.
  8. If the microwave oven has a convection mode of operation, ensure the settings are right before you begin your cooking. Convection cooking takes longer than microwave cooking. So, if you accidentally set the mode to microwave cooking, you can end up burning and damaging the food.
  9. Attend to any problems like food spillage, rust on surfaces, or damages immediately. Always consult a qualified technician for repair and maintenance work.

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What To Do If A Microwave Oven Catches Fire?

If a microwave oven catches fire, you should act immediately. Firstly, check whether it is safe to go near it. If the fire has just started, quickly turn the appliance off and remove the power cord from the socket. Remove inflammable items like wooden spoons, clothes, or paper from the vicinity of the appliance. Step away from it.

Once the power is cut off and the fan stops supplying oxygen, the flames will die out. Do not open the door of the microwave oven till the fire is extinguished.

If the fire does not go out quickly, safely exit your home and call for help. Get in touch with the local fire department and inform them of the situation.