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