Can You Put Paper Towels in the Microwave? What to Know

Published Categorized as Journal

If you think you know the answer to the question, “can you put paper towels in the microwave?” stick around. You just might find yourself surprised by the answer! In this post, we’ll be sharing the facts about using paper towels in a microwave oven, as well as giving you a few pointers on how to safely microwave your food. So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in.

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Can You Put Paper Towels In The Microwave

Table of Contents

Paper Towel in Microwave: What’s the Point?

If you’re new to the idea of placing paper towels in the microwave, you may be wondering why a person might choose to do this in the first place.

If it sounds like a weird concept to you, brace yourself – people do it all the time!

The reasons behind why people do it vary greatly. But one thing is for certain – there’s a way to do it safely and a way to do it dangerously! Thus, it is important that you are informed of the risks you are taking when choosing to place paper towels in the microwave.

Can You Put Paper Towels In The Microwave?

Why Put Paper Towel Over Food in Microwave?

A paper towel can be placed over food in the microwave for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the most common:

To Keep Food From Splattering

Anyone who’s ever used a microwave knows what a headache scrubbing old splattered food from the inside of the microwave can be. One super efficient way to curb this problem is to lay a single flat piece of paper towel over your food. This will prevent your food from splattering all over your microwave walls, and thus, will keep your stress over mess much less!

To Heat the Food Evenly

If you’ve ever experienced uneven heat distribution when using the microwave, you aren’t alone. Heating almost anything in a microwave is bound to yield food that is a little cold in some areas and hot in others.

Thankfully, paper towels can help with this, too. Not only does laying paper towels over your food while microwaving help contain messes, but it also helps to heat your food more evenly.

To Keep Moisture From Escaping the Food

Did you know that laying a single sheet of damp paper towel over food can actually keep it from drying out?

The microwave can be brutal on food texture and consistency. Still, you can at least retain a little moisture in your food if you lay a damp paper towel over it. This is especially helpful when you are warming meats, bread (such as when you’re heating up croissants), or anything with cheese on it.

Tip: Sprinkle a little water over food items before topping them with a damp paper towel. This will provide even more moisture when microwaving your food. Just be sure not to overdo it–otherwise, you’ll end up with a soggy mess!

Can You Put Paper Towels In The Microwave?

Can Paper Towels Go in the Microwave?

Now you know why people often use paper towels in the microwave. Finally, it is time to find out whether or not this practice is actually safe to do.

So, can you put paper towels in the microwave? Yes – most of the time. But to do so, you’ll need to follow certain protocols.

It is worth mentioning that a few experiments have been conducted to show that some paper towels can, indeed, catch fire while in the microwave. And though most of these experiments are done with a single crumpled paper towel with no food involved, the outcome is quite shocking.

Therefore, we recommend you always keep an eye on your microwave when you place paper towels in them. And you should be particularly careful if they are dry or crumpled.

Stay tuned for safety protocol to avoid flaming paper towels in the following segment!

Is It Safe to Put Paper Towel in Microwave?

Paper towels can be safe to put in the microwave under certain guidelines.

Let’s review some of those guidelines now!

Use Microwave-Safe Paper Towels

Did you know that there is such a thing as a “microwave-safe” paper towel?

Yes, there really are some paper towels that are safer than others, and many paper towels will indicate whether or not they are safe for use in a microwave. Some paper towel packages will feature a single label or image to signal their ability to be microwaved, while others may use specific language on the package to indicate that they are microwave safe.

So, before placing your paper towels in the microwave, be sure that they are advertised as being safe to be used that way, to begin with.

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Skip the Prints and Designs

Though buying paper towels with designs and prints are fun to look at, the truth is that these dyes can end up in your food if you place them over your plate.

Therefore, we recommend that you always use plain white paper towels when laying them over your food for microwaving.

If you have no white paper towels on hand, consider turning the printed side away from your food. While it is still preferable that you use plain white paper towels, you at least lessen the amount of dye coming in contact with your food when you turn it facing the opposite direction.

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Moisten the Paper Towel

As we mentioned before, moistening paper towels before covering your food can keep your food from drying out. On top of that, dampening your paper towel may make it much less likely to catch fire than a dry paper towel.

Therefore, when possible, you may wish to dampen your paper towel before placing it over your food. This isn’t a requirement if you can’t do so, but we strongly encourage it if you can!

Use Only One Paper Towel

Using more than one paper towel, especially if you are using a large number of paper towels, can really increase the risks of contents catching fire in the microwave. For this reason, we recommend that you use only two maximum paper towels at a time.

Otherwise, the heat from the paper towels may not be able to escape, and thereby, may cause a fire to break out.

Lay the Paper Towel Flat

One of the most defining factors in many incidents in which paper towels catch fire is that they aren’t laying flat.

Paper towels that are “scrunched” are much more likely to catch fire than paper towels lying flat. This is especially true if you plan to microwave your food for a long period of time.

Many ask the question, “Who would ever put a scrunched paper towel in the microwave, anyway?” This is a good question, but it might happen easier than you think.

To be sure, take the time to ensure that your paper towel is laying completely flat over your food before you start the microwave.

Watch the Time

Oftentimes, paper towels that catch fire have been in the microwave for extended periods of time. This naturally creates an environment where the paper towel can become so hot that it bursts into flames.

Therefore, when using paper towels, be sure to keep the heating time to a minimum, preferably under 2-3 minutes to ensure that your paper towel isn’t getting too hot. You may also try microwaving your food at intervals so you can keep a better watch on your food–and your paper towels.

Whatever You Do, Try Not To Use These…

Though we love recycled materials as much as the next person, we don’t recommend putting recycled paper towels in the microwave. Recycled paper towels are made up of a variety of substances that will vary from towel to towel. Because of this, it is impossible to know which contain flammable materials and which do not. For this reason, it is best to pass on recycled paper towels when using them in a microwave.

Other materials you should avoid putting in the microwave include cardboard, plastic bags, plastic containers, take-out containers, china with metal trim, silverware, aluminum foil, and brown grocery bags.

Microwave-friendly materials include most types of glass, anything labeled microwave-safe, parchment paper, wax paper, and oven cooking bags.

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How Long Can Paper Towel Be in the Microwave?

How long can you put a paper towel in the microwave? Not too long!

The longer you microwave a paper towel, the more risk it poses. This is of chief importance for paper towels that are placed in the microwave dry.

To err on the side of safety, we recommend not microwaving a paper towel for more than 2-3 minutes. Some paper towels have caught fire at or before the 5-minute mark, so be sure to watch microwaved paper towels carefully!

Can You Put Paper Towels in the Microwave? Well…

The answer to, “Can you put paper towels in the microwave?” is yes, in most cases. However, you’ll want to be careful to lay your paper towels flat, to use only one at a time, and to keep your heating session under 3 minutes for safety. Follow the other instructions in this post to get evenly heated microwaved food without the risk of your paper towels igniting in flames.


Why can’t paper towels burn in the microwave?

They can! Paper towels can easily burn in the microwave if you aren’t following the necessary protocols. Therefore, you should always exercise caution when placing a paper towel in the microwave. 

Are Bounty paper towels microwave safe?

Not only are Bounty paper towels amazing for cleaning up, but they are also safe for microwave use in short durations.

Categorized as Journal

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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