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What Happens If You Microwave Nothing (Will It Ruin The Microwave?)

Microwaves can cook just about anything, and they do it at record speed. Rather than waiting around for a conventional oven to reach the right temperature and then cook food to perfection, why not simply place it into the microwave?

The simplicity and ease-of-access of microwaves have made them common household products responsible for bringing many hot meals to people across the United States.

There are even products specially designed for use in microwaves, such as microwave popcorn, or microwave macaroni and cheese! But as demonstrated by countless crazy internet videos, people often like to ‘experiment’ with what a microwave can handle.

From mobile phones to even jawbreaker candy. Not only is placing such items into a microwave very silly, but it can also be very dangerous, and can permanently damage the overall mechanism.

But, if placing certain objects into a microwave is so dangerous, what would happen if you were to run the microwave with nothing inside of it? Would the microwave cook itself?

Would nothing happen at all? Would it explode? We understand why these questions have come about, so let’s set about quelling them once and for all! 

What Happens If You Microwave Nothing? 

Put simply, cooking nothing in the microwave, and then setting it to operate would yield very little in terms of visual surprises.

That is if you don’t leave it running, empty, for a long period of time. If you were to leave a microwave running for over 2 minutes with nothing in it, you may start to see damage occurring within it. 

When a microwave operates normally, with food inside of it, it releases microwaves, which are radioactive waves that cause the molecules in food to begin vibrating quickly.

This vibration creates heat deep within the food, which causes it to cook. A microwave can do this without generating any heat itself, and this is why when you take the food out, it is only the food, and not the microwave itself, that is hot!

The radioactive waves in the microwave will seek out food within, and begin the heating process, this is why operating a microwave with nothing in it is dangerous.

When a microwave operates with no food inserted, the radioactive waves will continue to bounce around aimlessly in the oven, looking for something to latch onto. This energy will continue to bounce around indefinitely until the timer runs out. 

Why Is Microwaving Nothing Dangerous For The Microwave? 

When you operate a microwave with nothing inside, the radioactive waves will continue to bounce aimlessly around, constantly hitting the inner walls of the microwave.

This causes long-lasting damage to the structural integrity of the microwave, which can cause it to operate less effectively. 

The radioactive waves that a microwave use is generated by a magnetron tube, which essentially causes electrons to interact with a magnetic field, to create the energy that causes your food to cook.

If these radioactive waves have nowhere to go, of course, they continue to bounce around in the oven, until they return to the magnetron tube.

Eventually, the magnetron tube will be absorbing more radioactive waves than it is actually producing. This can cause immense damage to the magnetron tube, and may even eventually render the microwave entirely useless.

Having to repair a microwave can be very costly, and it may even be cheaper to buy a brand-new model, which in itself is rather expensive, and a significant waste of money.

How Long Can A Microwave Run With Nothing In It?

If you ever find that you’ve activated the microwave without having placed any food into it yet, don’t worry. Simply turn it off, and allow it to rest for a good few minutes, to allow the waves to dissipate, and for the system to cool down.

Provided you stop the microwave within 2 to 5 minutes, you should be perfectly safe to continue using it. Though, the less time it runs with nothing in it, the better.

Some microwave ovens will break within just a minute, with nothing inside, while others may be able to operate up to and over 5 minutes.

This will depend on the age of the microwave, and who manufactures it. Newer microwaves may be able to handle it better, while older ones may not. 

What Shouldn’t You Place Into A Microwave?

You should be sure never to put metal products into a microwave. Metals will conduct the radioactive waves from the microwave, which can have very destructive results.

You should also avoid placing anything that isn’t directly marked as microwave safe. This includes plastics, and glass products, which can shatter or melt if they are not microwave safe. 

You should never place paper products into a microwave oven, either, as such products are extremely flammable, and will catch fire nearly instantly upon being placed into an operating microwave!

Let’s Conclude

Though microwaves make our lives a lot easier, they can also prove quite dangerous if not used properly. There are certain things you definitely should never place within them, and damage to a microwave can be expensive and tiresome to repair. 

It would be easy to assume that, because certain items are unsafe in microwaves, it must be safe to operate a microwave with nothing inside of it. However, this is definitely not the case, and could well prove to be one of the most harmful things you could do to your microwave. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Running A Microwave Empty Cause A Fire?

Yes. There is definitely a risk of a fire developing if you operate a microwave with nothing in it. This would be caused by the radioactive waves damaging the internal mechanisms and causing the microwave to overheat. 

How Long Can You Run A Microwave Empty?

Generally, it’s best not to let your microwave run empty. This may not only lead to overheating of your microwave, but it also uses power needlessly, which costs you money.

Is It Safe To Use A Microwave?

Although microwaves can produce relatively dangerous waves, they are very safe for general use. Provided you don’t place anything dangerous or unreasonable into your microwave, you will be very safe.

Jess Smith

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