Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials in the world. You can find it being used in a variety of areas, from your car to even your hairbrush.
Because it is so widely used, this material has been engineered to be resistant to almost everything. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for you to know whether you are able to put certain plastics into the microwave or not.
Plastic is a versatile material that can be used in many applications, but not all plastics are meant for the microwave. When heated, some types of plastic will release chemicals into food or drinks, which could potentially be harmful to your health if ingested.
When microwaving, watch out for two things: The type of plastic your container is made from – If it’s marked with a 3 or 7, you should be okay. – If it’s marked with a 6 or another even number, you might want to find another way to reheat your dinner.
So, Can you microwave plastic? Can I microwave plastic? Read along to find the answers to these questions and more.
What Happens If You Microwave Plastic?
Plastic does not react well to microwave radiation.
Plastics are indeed made of long molecules, called polymers, that contain carbon. However, microwaves work by agitating the water in food, which transfers into other materials.
So if you put any kind of plastic in the microwave for enough time, you will get a reaction—and usually an explosion.
You can test this yourself by putting some water or coffee into a cup and covering it with plastic wrap before microwaving it. You should get a nice little explosion out of it when you take off the cover!
Why Does Plastic Melt in the Microwave?
Plastic melts in the microwave because the electromagnetic waves produced by microwaves cause the molecules present in plastic to vibrate uncontrollably, which makes them lose their shape.
This is similar to what happens when you heat up any solid object.
Plastic melts in the microwave because of a process known as depolymerization. This is the breakdown of polymer chains into their chemical parts.
Polystyrene plastic is made up of chemicals called styrene and methane, and it’s these components that begin to separate when they’re placed in a microwave.
Styrene molecules have a positive charge, while methane has a negative one, which causes them to attract each other.
How Do You Know If the Plastic is Microwave Safe?
There are 3 ways to know if the container is microwave safe:
- First, check the container for a microwave symbol next to the recycling sign. This will appear on any number of plastics, not just microwave-safe materials.
- Locate the number inside the symbol that matches one of these numbers: 2, 4, 5, or 6. These four plastics are all microwave-safe options.
- Find out if it’s dishwasher-safe (which it almost always is).
Tips to Microwave Plastic Container
Microwaving plastic is something people do every single day. Most of the time, it isn’t very dangerous. However, it can be potentially life-threatening if done improperly. Here are some tips on how to microwave plastic.
- You should NEVER microwave a baby bottle or any other type of container that could be used to feed an infant.
When you microwave your plastic containers, they can sometimes get ugly. This is because the molecules in the plastic move around rapidly when it’s heated up. When they move, they leave behind small holes in the material, which leave it looking weak and damaged. To avoid this problem, don’t put your plastic containers in the microwave unless you need to. If you need to use them, try not to fill them with food that has a lot of water or moisture.
It’s important to note that not all plastics can be heated in the microwave safely. If it has a recycle symbol with numbers 2 or 4 on it, then you should be okay. However, some other plastics may melt when using this method, so proceed with caution if you choose to use them.
What is a microwave-safe plastic symbol?
A microwave-safe plastic symbol is a triangle with a number in it. All plastic items that come into contact with food need to be marked with this symbol, which means that they can withstand heating of the food without leaking any chemicals into the food.
Is BPA-free plastic safe to microwave?
BPA Free Plastics are safe to use in microwave ovens. Bisphenol A or BPA is an industrial chemical used to manufacture many plastics, especially polycarbonates and epoxy resins. It is also found in thermal paper cash register receipts, dental sealants, and enamel coatings on metal cans.
How long can you microwave plastic?
It turns out that you can microwave your container for a long time without it getting damaged. In fact, the only type of plastics that will melt when microwaved are polystyrene and polycarbonate. Most other plastics won’t melt, even if microwaved in a bowl of boiling water or boiled in a saucepan on the stovetop. Some may warp, but it’s usually not enough to make them unusable.
What plastic should not be microwaved?
When the plastic melts down, it releases its chemical components back into the environment in a very small package. Microwaving plastics releases harmful chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals cause cancer and disrupt hormones at low levels. Even if the plastic doesn’t release any harmful chemicals when microwaved, it will become more porous.
Can You Put Plastic in the Microwave?
In a nutshell, you should avoid microwaving plastic. While the FDA has deemed it safe to use plastic containers in the microwave under certain conditions, heating up food in plastic can release chemicals into your food that may not be good for you.
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