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VERIFY: Can microwaving water explode and burn your hands and face?

Is it dangerous to microwave water? Can it explode from the cup scalding your face with 1st and 2nd degree burns?


Is it dangerous to microwave water? Can it explode from the cup scalding your face with 1st and 2nd degree burns?


Yes, it's real! It's a scientific phenomena when water becomes "superheated."


Dr. Taryn Travis- Attending Physician, The Burn Center- MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Food and Drug Administration- "Risk of Burns from Eruptions of Hot Water Overheated in Microwave Ovens."

Samsung- "Can Water Explode in a Microwave?"

GE Applications- User Manual- Superheated Water (page 4)


Wintertime is prime time for couch time with a cup of tea, cocoa or hot soup, but microwaving liquids, while convenient, comes with unsuspecting hazards.

A Facebook post shared almost half a million times says that water heated in the microwave can explode on your hands and face when you go to retrieve it. That water can scald your skin with 1st and 2nd degree burns.

To Verify we checked with microwave manufacturers Samsung and GE. They say, it's true.

"When water is heated in a smooth vessel in a microwave, there is no place for bubbles to form," Samsung warns. "The water continues to heat beyond the boiling point without actually boiling, in a phenomenon known as superheating. Since liquids expand as they convert to gases, this means that the water will "erupt," possibly causing severe burns."

On page four of GE's Microwave Oven user manual, there's a small caution of superheated water.

"Liquids, such as water, coffee or tea, are able to be overheated beyond the boiling point without appearing to be boiling," GE cautions. "After heating, allow the container to stand in the microwave oven for a short time before removing the container."

Health professionals at the Food and Drug Administration and MedStar Washington Hospital Center's burn clinic have seen these eruptions land people in the hospital. Dr. Taryn Travis at MedStar treats about one patient every month for hot water microwave burns.

"Those water molecules vibrate back and forth really fast and build up steam and heat and so foods and drinks can explode based on that very fast heating of them in a closed space like a microwave and this is especially dangerous when you have a sealed or a lidded container," Travis said.

Travis says water scalds can be either 1st degree burns--like a bad sunburn--or 2nd degree which could require prescription lotion or even skin graft surgery.

Her takeaways when superheating water is use caution, wait a minute or two before retrieving your cup, help children and wear oven mitts.


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