What Happens if You Microwave Nothing?

Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Mosabbir

Microwaves work using high-frequency radio waves, which is much faster than traditional cooking methods.

The time-saving process of cooking or reheating the food is impressive, but there are some limitations. For instance, if you accidentally ran the microwave empty, then it might damage the appliance. Well, read further to know what exactly happens.

Running microwave empty

Do you know how a microwave works? It uses an electrical component called magnetron to generate electromagnetic waves, which we call microwaves.

Now, how do these microwaves reheats or cooks your meals? Well, these waves hit all the water molecules present inside a food item, forcing them to vibrate.

Vibration causes friction, which will eventually produce heat to warm up your pizza or pasta.

Now, the real question here is, can you run a microwave empty? See, if you let the microwave run within anything inside, then all the waves will keep bouncing back to the magnetron.

A similar situation is possible with something that does not have any water molecules. So, the magnetron will start absorbing those waves, which generally results in damage.

What happens when you run the microwave empty?

If you run the microwave without placing anything inside its chamber, then the appliance will work fine for the first few seconds.

Its cavity, tray and door latches will absorb all the microwaves for starting, so everything will be fine. However, if the microwave continues to run, its chamber, including the cavity, tray and door, will become hot.

Afterwards, these waves will start harming the magnetron. There are chances that the thermal fuse will be blown to save other components, but it depends on the microwave’s make and model.

If the appliance is constructed poorly, then its plastic parts will reach maximum temperature and might burst into pieces.

So, we suggest that you should never run the microwave empty at any cost.

How much time until the damage?

The microwave will be fine for a few seconds if you run it without placing any food item inside. Afterwards, you will notice a burning smell from the appliance. Then the damage and its level depend upon the build quality of your machine.

If you want to check whether the microwave is faulty it’s still working, then we have a straightforward method. Put a half-full bowl of water inside the microwave and run it for 30 seconds.

Check the water, and it should be hot. If the liquid is still cold, then the appliance is not working correctly. So, check it yourself or call a professional.

Additional points to remember

Running microwave empty is only one instance when it can get some damages. However, microwaving dry items will also produce harmful results. So, do not reheat anything that does not contain any water.

Apart from that, it will help if you do not place any metallic object inside the microwave. Metals like stainless steel tend to reflect microwave, which will create a new charge resulting in sparks.

Is there any safety feature to prevent overheating?

It’s not a good idea to run a microwave empty. But, what if it happens by mistake? Will the microwave stop automatically? Well, the appliance will continue to overheat until and unless there is any safety feature that can shut it down automatically.

A microwave with an auto power-off function will shut all the components responsible for generating heat. So, the appliance will not receive any damage.

Furthermore, as the overheating is stopped, the kitchen instrument will not ask for any repairs.



Will an empty microwave explode?

The microwave will not explode if you accidentally ran it empty. Instead, you will notice sparks, meltdowns and finally, a damaged magnetron.

This electrical component generates microwaves that get absorbed by your eatables. With nothing there, these waves will keep bouncing, overheat the microwave and finally damage the magnetron.

What should you not put in a microwave?

You should not place aluminium foil, plastic bags, travel mugs, clothes, boiled eggs, peppers, Styrofoam and metals inside a microwave. These items can damage the appliance.

Will a cloth towel catch on fire in the microwave?

Yes, the cloth will catch fire inside a microwave. So, do not put any fabrics when using such an appliance.



Now we know that the microwave can run safely for the first few or minutes seconds even if it’s empty. The running time depends upon the make and model.

However, we don’t recommend that you should try this ever. The microwaves can damage the magnetron, as we discussed earlier.

So, there is no need to waste electricity or microwaves. It’s better to use electrical appliances according to the instructions.