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Closeup of a microwave oven. Flickr.Microwaves: good for more than popcorn! Photo: JoshuaDavisPhotography.COM, Flickr

Popcorn and reheats. I use my microwave for the most boring tasks. (Perhaps we're experiencing a person-appliance relationship rut?) However, I just discovered a ton of unusual uses for microwave ovens and it has me thinking: maybe I need to get more creative in the kitchen! Check out my sweet list of 16 unusual uses for microwave ovens.

First, a little safety note: Drying clothes in the microwave is NOT recommended. It's a fire safety thing, people. I actually know someone whose college roommate started an apartment fire trying to dry lingerie in the microwave. Both girls had to endure the embarrassment of having half a dozen burly firemen coming in to investigate the cause of all the smoke.

As for myself, I've never set fire to anything this way but I did melt a pair of baby booties once while trying to dry them in the microwave. Oops. Bottom line: it's safest to keep clothes out of the microwave.

1. Sterilize and deodorize sponges and cutting boards. Engineers at the University of Florida demonstrated that microwaving a completely wet sponge for two minutes kills over 99% of harmful bacteria. To avoid a fire ensure your sponge is totally wet and heat for no longer than two minutes. Also, be careful not to burn your fingers when removing the sponge from your oven.

This method works for sterilizing cutting boards, too. Scrub thoroughly, then heat on high for one or two minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the board.

2. Sterilize garden soil. Non-gardeners may say "huh?", but keen gardeners know sterile soil is best for starting seed. Spread small amounts of soil on a flat tray and heat 'till it's steaming.

3. Revive dry mascara. Gunky mascara giving you blobby lashes? Heat the tube on high for 30 seconds, then test consistency and heat longer if necessary.

4. Dye fabric. Mix dye with water and immerse the fabric. Heat for four minutes then remove and rinse. Voila! And check out this DIY Life post on dyeing wool and silk with Kool-Aid in the microwave!

5. Warm plates in the microwave. Sprinkle each plate with water and place in a stack in the microwave. Heat on high for about 30 seconds.

6. Get more juice from citrus fruits. Before squeezing or putting through a juicing machine, zap your citrus fruits for 10 or 20 seconds. Aim to warm them, not heat them. This will help you get every last drop of juice out.

7. Peel peaches or tomatoes easily. Microwave a bowl of water to boiling point. Drop your peaches or tomatoes in for a few seconds each. The skin should come off easily.

8. Make sundried tomatoes in the microwave. Okay, no sun involved, but you can still dry tomatoes this way!

9. Dry herbs speedily. Place small bunches at a time between paper towels and microwave for a minute or two. If they're not dry enough to crumble between your fingertips give 'em more heat, 30 seconds at a time until done.

10. Save crystallized honey. A great trick to know about since quality honey is expensive! Simply heat the honey until the crystals melt.

11. Soften brown sugar. Brown sugar can get hard and lumpy over time. Place hard sugar in a plastic bag with a few drops of water or a segment of fresh apple. Microwave for 20 seconds then stir.

12. Proof yeast dough in the microwave. Place a cup of water at the back of the microwave, then place a very large covered bowl containing the dough in the center of the oven. Heat on low for three minutes, leave to rest for three minutes, then zap on low for another three minutes. Let rest for six minutes. The dough should double in size ... in far less time than it normally takes dough to rise.

13. Roast garlic in a flash. Slice the top off a head of garlic to expose the flesh of the individual cloves. Place in a dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the dish, then heat on medium for around seven minutes.

14. Prep veggies for the grill. Zapping vegetables in the microwave just prior to grilling cuts down on cooking time. Great tip if you're cooking for a crowd and need to cook lots of veggies fast.

15. Toast nuts and breadcrumbs. Much faster than oven roasting. Spread thinly on a plate and cook nuts or crumbs on high for one minute at a time.

16. 5 Minute Cupcake. Ahh, the sweetest idea of all. Use your microwave to make an almost instant cupcake in a coffee mug. Yum.


  • Rob O.

    You can also nuke nearly-empty bottles for 10-15 secs. to help get the last few dabs of hand lotion outta the bottom of the bottle.

  • billymiao

    You can also nuke nearly-empty bottles for 10-15 secs. to help get the last few dabs of hand lotion outta the bottom of the bottle.
    ----Does this really work? I'm definitely gonna try this,i've a nearly-empty bottle of lotion on my desk now.

  • GJ Amber

    I have used the microwave to melt lipstick. There is still a lot of lipstick in a tube when you have used it as far as you can. I use a toothpick to scrape into a tiny container then zap. Only takes a few seconds. I add a drop of oil, Crisco, lanolin, caster oil are a few possibilities. Then stir with a the toothpick. You can pour it back into a tube or put in a small container for lip and cheek rouge.

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