Putting metal objects like aluminum foil or metal cutlery in your microwave can cause dangerous electrical sparks and damage the appliance. If you’ve accidentally microwaved something metallic, your microwave may still be salvageable.
Here’s what you need to know about using and repairing a microwave after putting metal in it.
Can You Still Use a Microwave After Putting Metal in It?
It depends on the extent of the damage. Small pieces of foil or metal can cause sparks and burn marks but may not permanently ruin the microwave. However, larger pieces like aluminum trays or full sheets of foil can severely damage the magnetron tube, which generates the microwaves.
If you see burn marks inside the microwave or the food is burnt after putting metal in, stop using it immediately. Try running the microwave empty on low power. If it still works normally, produces heat evenly, and doesn’t spark, the damage may just be superficial.
However, if the microwave fails to heat up, produces smoke or strange noises, sparks excessively, or shows any signs of electric arcing, it is unsafe to continue using. Metal has likely caused permanent damage to the internal components. The microwave will need to be repaired or replaced.
Why Does My Microwave Spark After Putting Metal in It?
Metal objects cause sparking and arcing in microwaves because of how microwaves work to heat food. Microwave ovens contain a magnetron that generates electromagnetic waves. These waves cause water molecules in food to vibrate rapidly, creating internal friction that heats the food.
Metal reflects electromagnetic waves instead of absorbing them. The waves get trapped, bouncing back and forth between the metal and interior surfaces. This disrupts the waves and leads to electric arcing as electricity seeks a path to ground. Arcing can burn out the magnetron tube or other components.
Any size or type of metal can cause sparking, including aluminum foil, steel wool, gold jewelry, forks, spoons, metal trim on dishes or bakeware, twist ties, staples, CDs, and more. Arcing and sparks are a warning sign your microwave is being damaged.
Is it Safe to Use a Microwave After it Sparks From Metal?
Microwaves contain dangerous electrical components, so safety should be your top concern after metal sparking occurs. The sparking itself doesn’t necessarily make the microwave unsafe. But it means potential damage has occurred.
Do not continue microwaving anything once sparks or arcing happen. Stop the microwave immediately if you see:
- Sparks or electrical arcing inside when microwaving food
- Smoke coming from food or interior
- Burn marks on interior surfaces
- Food is burnt or doesn’t heat evenly
- Unusual noises like humming or cracking
The microwaves may still function normally but components can be damaged. It’s risky to keep using it before having it inspected. The issue will likely worsen with further use if proper repairs aren’t done.
Is a Damaged Microwave Safe to Use?
You should cease using a damaged microwave completely until it can be professionally examined. Using a malfunctioning microwave puts you at risk of:
- Electric shock from exposed wiring or components
- Electrical fires from short-circuiting
- Microwave radiation leaks from cracks in sealing
- Inferior cooking performance and uneven heating
- Damage worsening resulting in complete breakdown
A damaged microwave may seem like it’s still working normally, but safety mechanisms have likely failed. Components like the door sensors, latches, and gaskets that contain radiation may be compromised. Continued use is extremely dangerous.
The moment you suspect damage, unplug the microwave. Do not use it again until a microwave repair expert can assess it and perform necessary repairs. Some damage like a broken door or latch may require total microwave replacement.
Will Putting Metal in the Microwave Ruin It Completely?
It depends on the circumstances. Small pieces of foil or metal often just leave burn or scorch marks. But don’t assume that’s the only damage. There still could be invisible issues like:
- Cracks or holes in internal parts allowing leaks
- Damaged door sensor so microwave operates with door open
- Weakened door latch allowing microwave radiation escape
- Melted wiring insulation leading to exposed conductors
Larger sheets of foil, long utensils, aluminum trays, or metal plates are more likely to cause permanent damage. The magnetron tube could arc, melt, or short circuit. Other damaged parts may include the high voltage transformer, capacitor, diode, blower fan, and circuitry.
It’s impossible to tell the true extent of damage without disassembling the microwave. An expert repair technician will know how to properly assess all components and determine if repair is possible.
Certain damage like a ruptured waveguide, destroyed magnetron, or perforated cavity cannot be fixed affordably. In these cases, the microwave will need total replacement.
Steps to Fix a Microwave After Putting Metal in It
If you’ve accidentally microwaved metal objects, follow these steps to safely assess and fix any damage:
Immediately Stop the Microwave
Press Stop/Cancel as soon as you notice sparks or arcing. This will minimize damage. Do not open the door until fully stopped; this could expose you to radiation.
Unplug the Microwave
Disconnect power to prevent electric shock risk and further usage. Make sure children and pets cannot access the microwave.
Check for Damage
Carefully inspect the interior and exterior once unplugged. Look for scorch marks, melting, cracks, holes, or deformities. Note any unusual smells like burnt plastic. Any visible damage is a warning sign – do not use the microwave.
Run the Microwave Empty
If no damage is visible, plug in and operate the microwave for 1 minute with nothing inside. Use a low power setting. If any sparking, smoke, odd sounds occur, unplug immediately. This indicates interior damage.
Contact a Repair Professional
Do not attempt repairs yourself. Microwave components hold high voltage even when unplugged. Consult an authorized service technician to properly diagnose issues. Describe what happened and any damage noticed.
Assess if Repair is Possible
A technician will disassemble the microwave and thoroughly inspect all components for damage. Depending on the severity, they can recommend if repair or replacement is the best option.
Complete Recommended Repairs
If repairable, all damaged parts should be replaced. Door sensors, seals, and latches are common fixes. Severe internal damage often warrants total replacement. Carefully follow all technician instructions.
Retest Microwave Performance
Once repaired, run the microwave empty again at low power in short bursts. Watch for uneven heating, hotspots, sparks, or odd sounds. The microwave should now heat properly without issue if all damage has been addressed.
Preventing Metal Damage in Your Microwave
You can avoid costly microwave repairs by taking simple precautions:
- Never microwave metal of any kind including aluminum foil, utensils, dishes with metal trim, food twist ties, etc. Read packaging carefully.
- Remove ties, metal handles, or staples from microwaveable products like popcorn bags or frozen meals.
- Use only microwave-safe cookware labeled as such. Never use regular metal pots, pans, or plates unless explicitly allowed in your owner’s manual.
- Double check containers before placing in the microwave. Metal bakeware and pots often look similar to safe glass or ceramic.
- Stop the microwave immediately if you see sparks. Do not open the door until fully stopped.
- Supervise children using the microwave to prevent them putting metal inside.
Following these rules will prevent costly microwave damage. But accidents still happen occasionally. Now you know how to safely assess and repair a microwave after metal sparking or arcing. With proper servicing from a professional, most microwaves can run safely again after minor metal damage.
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