Can You Put a Dish Towel in the Microwave?

Putting a dish towel in the microwave may seem like a quick and easy way to dry it or warm it up.

Can You Put a Dish Towel in the Microwave

However, microwaving towels can be dangerous if not done properly.

Is It Safe to Microwave a Dish Towel?

Microwaving a dry dish towel is never safe, as it can easily catch fire or burn within seconds. However, you can microwave a damp dish towel for a short time if you take proper precautions.

The key is that the towel must be wet throughout. This allows the microwave radiation to heat the water molecules in the towel evenly. If the towel has any dry spots, those areas will heat up much faster than the wet areas and can scorch or ignite.

So you can microwave a soaked dish towel for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to warm it up or hasten drying. But extreme care must be taken, as we’ll discuss next.

Major Risks of Microwaving Towels

There are some significant risks to be aware of when microwaving towels:

  • Fire hazard – If the towel contains any dry areas, it can combust almost instantly once exposed to microwave radiation. This poses a serious fire risk.
  • Inconsistent heating – Microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot and cold spots. This makes it hard to control the towel’s temperature.
  • Overheating – Portions of the towel can become extremely hot and burn skin on contact if microwaved too long.
  • Damage to microwave – If the towel catches fire, it can damage the interior of the microwave. Burning plastic fumes are also toxic.
  • Metal components – Any towels with metallic embroidery or appliqués are unsafe, as metal sparks and arcs in the microwave.

So microwaving towels requires great care and vigilance to avoid these hazards. It’s generally better to use safer methods.

Precautions for Microwaving a Dish Towel

If you do decide to microwave a towel, follow these precautions closely:

  • Ensure no metal pieces – Carefully inspect that there are no metallic threads, snaps, or appliqués on the towel before microwaving.
  • Soak thoroughly first – Wet the entire towel under a faucet until saturated. Wring out any excess dripping water.
  • Use short cooking times – Microwave in 30 second increments, rechecking the towel between cycles.
  • Don’t leave unattended – Stay by the microwave the entire time to watch for problems.
  • Check temperature before use – Feel the towel first before putting it on your skin to prevent burns.
  • Have fire extinguisher ready – As a precaution in case the towel ignites unexpectedly.

Even with these steps, microwaving towels is inherently risky. There are much better options available.

Safer Alternatives for Heating Towels

Instead of taking risks by microwaving, consider these safer ways to get a warm towel:

Use a towel warmer

Electric towel warmers or racks specifically designed for heating towels provide consistent, safe heat. Towels rest on heated bars, gradually warming up. Models are available in various sizes and designs to match any decor.

Run through dryer

Tossing a towel in the dryer for 5-10 minutes with a dryer sheet is an easy way to warm it up and add fresh scent. This avoids the fire risks of microwaving.

Add to washing machine tub

While the washer runs its rinse cycle, throw in a towel to let it soak up the hot water. Then wring it out for a lightly heated towel.

Apply warm water

Soak a towel in a sink or tub filled with very hot water. Then wring it out thoroughly. The residual heat will keep it warm for a while.

Use rice heating packs

Make a homemade heating pack by filling a towel or small sack with uncooked rice. Microwave the pack for 1-2 minutes then apply to sore muscles.

Try a heated mattress pad

Turn on a mattress heating pad then lay the towel on top. This transfers warmth effectively without direct contact to the coil wires.


Can you put a paper towel in the microwave?

No, regular paper towels should never go in the microwave, even when damp. The fibers can easily ignite since paper contains little moisture. At most, use a lightly dampened paper towel to cover food for splatter protection.

What happens if you microwave a dry towel?

A dry towel will almost instantly scorch or catch fire when microwaved. Without moisture to absorb the radiation, the fabric rapidly burns once exposed. Never microwave a dry towel.

Why can’t you microwave towels?

When dry, towels have an uneven consistency that leads to hot and cold spots when microwaved. This differing heat distribution allows parts of the towel to heat up exponentially faster. Any slightly dried areas then ignite rapidly.

Is it safe to microwave a wet washcloth?

Yes, a thoroughly soaked washcloth can be microwaved for about 30 seconds to warm it, but ensure there are no dry areas. Check frequently and stop immediately if you see smoking. Use care when applying to avoid scalding.

Can you microwave something for 5 seconds?

Microwaves can be safely run for 5 seconds or less. This short heating rarely generates enough energy to spark or burn. So a quick 5 second burst is generally safe, but anything longer requires caution to prevent overheating.


It’s generally risky business microwaving towels, but technically can be done with a completely soaked towel for very short periods if extreme care is taken. Any dryness vastly increases fire risk.

For a safely heated towel, better options exist like towel warmers and dryers. But if microwaving, keep it completely wet, watch closely, and stop immediately at any sign of smoking or irregular heating. Exercise great caution, as a moment of inattention can make towels combust.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.