Can You Microwave a Paper Towel? It’s Not as Safe as It Seems

Can you microwave a paper towel? That is not a question that entered my mind for the majority of my life. I just always did it without question. I’d use a paper towel to cover my food as it cooked. My parents appreciated it more than a potential mess from exploded food.

I guess I got lucky because it never caught fire, which is apparently a thing I’ve come to learn, that happens!

So, can you microwave a paper towel? I’ve done all the research, so you don’t have to! You can microwave a white paper towel if the packaging clearly states it’s microwave safe. You should never microwave colored paper towels or those with a print on them because they can leech toxins in your food.

There are a few more rules about microwaving paper towels which we’ll go over below as well as the science behind it!

So, read on if you’d like to learn more!

Can You Microwave a Paper Towel?

According to the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, “white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use.”

You should always take certain precautions though when microwaving paper towels.

Safety precautions for Using a Paper Towel in the Microwave

  • Do not place folded paper towels in the microwave. Lay it flat. Paper towels absorbs heat and moisture from food and liquids being released from the electromagnetic energy. If the paper towel is flat, it is able to release the heat. If it’s all bunched up, the heat gets trapped and can accumulate. You are now at risk for your paper towels catching fire.
  • Recycled paper towels have a higher chance of catching fire. More and more paper towels are being made with recycled materials. This could mean a chance of more metals in the paper towel. You also have to be careful what else you put in the microwave alongside the recycled paper towels.
  • Use low heat settings. Using the lowest heat setting possible may mean it takes longer for your food to cook, but it could mitigate the risk of paper towels catching fire.
  • Microwave for the least amount of time possible using short intervals. You can safely microwave a paper towel for up to 30 minutes. Check your food every 5 minutes to be on the safe side.
  • Keep the print away from your food. Printed paper towels might be cute, but they can contain toxins that can leech into your food.
  • Moisten the paper towel before putting it in the microwave. Keeping the paper towel moist will help prevent it from drying out.
  • Don’t microwave a paper towel by itself. Not sure why you would, but paper towels should never be microwave by themselves, especially dry. They can heat up quicker and possibly catch fire.

The best way to know for sure if the paper towel you have is microwave safe or not is check the warning label on the back. Always follow the guidance of the manufacture when in doubt.

Benefits of Using Paper Towels in the Microwave

Why do we use paper towels in the microwave? There’s a ton of reasons!

  • Prevents food splattering and making a mess. Paper towels are absorbent, so they will quickly soak up any liquids that splatter or drip inside the microwave. This will help to keep your microwave clean and free of grime. They can also be used to line the bottom of the microwave, which will help to catch any drips or splatters.
  • Helps foot heat evenly. Placing a paper towel over your food dish can help protect your food from becoming overcooked or burnt by absorbing any excess heat.
  • Helps food retain moisture to avoid drying out. Covering food with paper towels in the microwave prevents moisture from escaping as you reheat food.
  • Prevent food from overheating. Paper towels can help prevent food from overcooking or burning in the microwave. They work by absorbing excess heat and distributing it more evenly, which then prevents the heat from damaging the food.

Are Bounty Paper Towels Microwave Safe?

According to the Bounty page, their white paper towels are safe to use in the microwave for short durations of heating and reheating food. If using a printed paper towel, do not cover the food with the printed side to avoid leeching of chemicals and ink to the food.

Several blogs talk about Bounty having more moisture in them and that’s the reason they are microwave safe. I haven’t found anything to back up that claim. But I did check the back, and there is a microwave warning label!

It clearly states that any paper product used in the microwave can catch fire if used improperly.

Our takeaway? There isn’t anything special about Bounty paper towels that make them more microwavable than other paper towels. Read the back label and get the advice of the manufacturer.

Final Answer, Can You Microwave a Paper Towel?

We will be continuing to use paper towels in the microwave, but might take a little more precaution when doing so!

Take some time to read the back of the warning label when purchasing and get to know your brands and what’s safe and what’s not!

Related Post: Can You Microwave a Paper Plate? Depends on the Plate

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