Friday, December 11, 2009

My dirty microwave got me thinking

Usually, I keep the microwave pretty clean and disinfected. With the holidays and leftover chili, however, I have been in too much of a rush to wipe it out each time (because that would take a whole extra 30 seconds each time, right?).  So, it got a little funky:

I can't see all the greasy, filmy stuff in this pic- but it's there!
 As I was wiping out the greasiness and crusties, I began to wonder if it was actually bad for you to have stuff left on the inside surface, what is the safest way to clean them, are microwaves healthy in general ...?
Here's what I found.
FYI on what a microwave actually is- microwaves use elctromagnetic radiation to vibrate molecules inside the food.  This, in turn, will cause the food to heat up.  I am just waiting for my husband to say something (anything!) about the microwave so I can astound him with my new knowledge!

Do dirty microwaves contaminate food?
  • It is argued that the food splatters inside of microwaves can contain bacteria.  However, if used frequently, heating can kill the bacteria.  Food particles that sit for a longer period of time between microwave usage can have more bacterial growth.  So, beware if you are somewhere using a microwave with gunk inside and you do not know how long it has been there!
  • The more proven problem with food splatters is that as they coat the inside of the microwave, the heating ability is hindered.  So, foods may not be heated properly and it could ultimately shorten the life of the appliance.
Your best bet is to keep it clean!  How?
Natural cleaning tips for the microwave:
I have used the bowl of water trick to create steam and loosen food particles inside the appliance.  Here are some other ideas:
  • First and foremost- wipe up after every usage.
  • Add cut up lemon or a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to a bowl of water.  Heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add more lemon to help with stronger cooking odors.
  • Use baking soda sprinkled on a sponge.  Wipe surface with a clean cloth to remove residue (it is not a chemical residue like some other cleaners).
  • Mix 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Bring it to a rolling boil inside the microwave. Wipe clean.
*Be very careful when handling the bowls of liquid as microwaves are known to superheat them and can cause serious burns. 

Does microwave use cause cancer or other conditions ? Here are 2 views:
  • The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. That means it does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays, ultraviolet light and high-energy particles. I still do not feel comfortable standing right in front of one while it is cooking! This site claims it is also okay to cook in the microwave stating that all cooking methods affect the nutritive value of foods due to heating.
  • This site goes all out to explain how microwaves do cause food to develop carcinogenic (cancer causing) properties as they are heated. He sites a few studies, but seems to think the negative effects will be evident later (I guess similar to cigarettes or maybe cell phone use... another topic!). The results of some of the blood studies are intersting, for sure (different groups of people were given foods cooked in a variety of ways, including microwaved and then had their blood tested).
"Significant changes were discovered in the blood samples from the intervals following the foods cooked in the microwave oven. These changes included a decrease in all hemoglobin and cholesterol values, especially the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) values. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more distinct short-term decrease following the intake of microwaved food than after the intake of all the other variants. Each of these indicators pointed to degeneration."
Here pretty much sums it up- microwaves may or may not cause cancer, but there is not conclusive evidence either way!

For my family I have been trying to find alternative heating methods for food that I would usually stick in the microwave (like re-heating leftovers on the stove, actually taking meat out to thaw the night before...).  Oh, I still use it frequently.  I am just trying to cut back and maybe, eventually forgo it altogether.  Until then, here's my girl all cleaned up:

Oh- and when I turned around for 10 seconds to snap the picture, this is what happened:

Normally I would not have stopped to find the camera... I just had it "on" and in my hand already!  FYI- he opened it himself.  He likes to get into e-v-e-r-y-thing. 

1 comment:

  1. I love reading this blog. Michelle has so many good ideas!