Don’t microwave water

Did you know that it can be dangerous to microwave water?

boiling water
boiling water

If you ever want to heat water on it’s own in the microwave you should put something else in the cup to diffuse the energy, like a wooden spoon or a tea bag (not metal).

It is fairly common, according to a doctor, for people to suffer minor burns from water that has ‘exploded’ on leaving the microwave after heating. Microwaved water and other liquids do not always bubble when they reach the boiling point. They can actually get ‘superheated’ and not bubble at all. The superheated liquid will bubble up out of the cup when it is moved or when something like a spoon or tea bag is put into it. Superheating can occur in a microwave anytime water is heated and will particularly occur if the vessel that the water is heated in is new, or when heating a small amount of water (less than half a cup).

What happens is that the water heats faster than the vapour bubbles can form. If the cup is very new then it is unlikely to have small surface scratches inside it that provide a place for the bubbles to form. As the bubbles cannot form and release some of the heat that has built up, the liquid does not boil, but continues to heat up well past its boiling point. What then usually happens is that the liquid is bumped or jarred, which is just enough of a shock to cause the bubbles to rapidly form and expel the hot liquid. The rapid formation of bubbles is also why a carbonated beverage spews when opened after having been shaken.

To prevent this from happening and causing injury, do not heat any liquid for more than two minutes per cup. After heating, let the cup stand in the microwave for thirty seconds before moving it or adding anything to it.

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One thought on “Don’t microwave water

  1. Great point and very interesting food for thought. I’m not sure I have any clients I can replicate this with, but will bear in mind for the future. Regards

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