Can the Microwave Kill Viruses and Bacteria?

Microwaves are a handy appliance that helps you reheat food quickly, but can it kill viruses and bacteria? The answer depends on what you are cooking and the power of your microwave.

The answer to this question is yes, but not in the way that you may expect it. The way a microwave works is by producing radio waves that bounce off a reflective interior surface of the device and get absorbed by water molecules in food. The resulting friction causes the water to heat up, which cooks the food.

There is no specific temperature that can kill all germs, but some can be killed by heat higher than 167 degrees Fahrenheit. The CDC shares that most types of influenza and some avian flu viruses are killed by heat over 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the same temperature that professor Stanley Perlman says will make any coronavirus in meat inactive.

According to research from Japan, heating up food in a microwave oven does not disinfect evenly and can leave pathogens behind, even if the food is cooked at the required temperature. This is why it is important to wash your hands after handling any food that may have a virus on it.

While the CDC reports that home microwaves can kill some types of germs within 60 seconds to five minutes, more disinfection takes place with high-powered appliances. For example, researchers found that microwaving cigarette filters and syringes for 3 minutes at 360 watts can deactivate Hepatitis C and HIV.

The CDC shares that a home microwave can also be used to disinfect items such as kitchen sponges, which are common carriers of harmful germs and bacteria. However, if you use a microwave to disinfect a sponge, be sure that the sponge is wet and doesn’t have any metal content.

Some experts say that the best way to disinfect a kitchen sponge is to soak it in diluted household bleach solution or alcohol with at least 70% alcohol. It is also a good idea to regularly disinfect other high-contact surfaces and items in your home, such as doorknobs and keyboards, so that they won’t become a breeding ground for infections.

It is also a good idea to thoroughly clean the inside of a microwave before you use it to zap your kitchen sponge, as microwaves can catch fire when they are heated up. It’s also a good idea to avoid using a microwave to zap masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE), as these can contain materials that are not microwave-safe, such as cloth and metal.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people used to believe that heating up a food item in a microwave could kill the coronavirus on it. This is not a very effective method as the coronavirus can survive for weeks in low temperatures.

In addition, Sugawara Erisa, an expert on infection prevention at Tokyo Healthcare University Postgraduate School, says that the way a microwave oven heats up food does not ensure that the food is fully sanitized. She points out that this is because a microwave oven doesn’t always heat up the surface of the package enough, which makes it difficult to determine if any virus on the package has lost its infectious capacity.