Can You Put Styrofoam in the Microwave? – Perfect Guide

Microwaves have been one of the most widely used gadgets these days. The most widely frequented question that microwave users have been into is – “Is it suitable to use Styrofoam when using microwave”? Can you put Styrofoam in the microwave? Well, that is a million-dollar question. And that is precisely what we would be covering today – Is it safe to use Styrofoam in the microwave?

What is Styrofoam Made Of?

When we refer to Styrofoam, we mean foam like the lightweight product that we use for storing food and drink temporarily. However, there are two types of Styrofoam currently available. Which type of Styrofoam are using would make a huge difference.

what is Styrofoam made up of

The first of these options is the traditional Styrofoam. This is made of the material referred to as polystyrene. This is a plastic product and is made from compounds like styrene and benzene. If you have followed the science of plastics and chemicals properly, we would be aware that these two are bad compounds – if you really care about your health. It has been found that these two chemicals are carcinogenic and cause cancer.

The second type of Styrofoam is not as traditional as what we covered just now. These are made from a similar product as used in a traditional Styrofoam but use safer components. That should not necessarily mean the chemicals are completely safer, but you can be assured of lower levels of dangerous compounds.

The ingredients used in the manufacture of this second variety of Styrofoam appear similar to the traditional ones but have been designed to handle the heat more effectively. Now, let us consider safety when it comes to using styrofoam in the microwave.

Is it Safe to Microwave Styrofoam?

The major problem with the Styrofoam is it is affected by heat. While the food-grade Styrofoam has been designed to work with microwaves, it is not much able to withstand heat. High heat or prolonged exposure to heat can make the Styrofoam to melt or break.

If this happens in the case of the first Styrofoam that we just talked about, you are likely to end up with the broken or melting Styrofoam. This will make the styrene and benzene to mix into your food items. From that point of view, you would definitely not want to put the Styrofoam into your microwave or burn it.

Styrofoam has been certified for use with food items only to a certain extent, but the exposure beyond that threshold may not be the right option. Microwaving it can certainly cause severe issues. It can make the Styrofoam to leech into your food, and that is exactly what you would not want to happen with your food. Especially when you are using the first type of Styrofoam.

But, we do not know which type of Styrofoam is used in our case, right? That would make it an obvious option not to go with a Styrofoam inside a microwave.

Do note that the second type of Styrofoam is microwave safe. Of course, nothing can be stated for sure. The FDA needs to check the constituents of the Styrofoam to arrive at the best possible analysis. In case the material passes through the FDA approval, the same will be indicated on the package. The best way you can be assured of the type of Styrofoam and whether you can rely upon it when microwaving it can be to check the sides or the bottom of the cup or any other Styrofoam container. If it is microwaveable, you should find a label or symbol that should let you know if you can use the container in a microwave.

How Long to Heat Styrofoam in the Microwave?

Well, there can not be a specific answer to that question. Never use it beyond a certain time that may have been specifically shown on the information page for the product. You would also find it on the package if the Styrofoam can be microwaved and if yes, till what time period.

The best idea would be to use only a container that has been marked as microwave safe. If you do not find any such marking or sort of reassurance, it may be a good idea to transfer the food items to a ceramic or another container that has been marked microwave safe.

Is it Safe to Use Styrofoam in a Microwave?
Well, we made it clear in the preceding sections of the post. Migrating chemicals can be one of the issues that can create problems for you. Do note that Styrofoam is a type of plastic. In fact, the word plastic is not used for one single type of material.

The term plastic is used to describe a wide range of products that can include both organic or inorganic. Some of the elements added to the plastic to make it more stabilized would be the use of plasticizing components.

The widely used plasticizers would include BPA and phthalates. These are referred to as endocrine disrupters. They tend to behave like human hormones and thus can be quite dangerous enough. When the food wrapped inside the plastics is placed inside a microwave, the BPA and phthalates break down and leak into the food.

These migrating chemicals are what would make it dangerous enough to use Styrofoam inside a microwave. In fact, Styrofoam is a type of plastic, and you would find it rather unsafe to microwave it. There can be no single conclusion as to whether you can use Styrofoam in a microwave. They may not necessarily be unsafe – at least, not all types of Styrofoam options. But there is no uniform opinion about their safety or about them being unsafe.

Ideally speaking, Styrofoam and other styrene compounds can be safely used in a microwave. The best option, as we have already stated above, is to check the labeling and never use it for a prolonged period inside a microwave.  

Recommended Reading - A Few Tips on Using Styrofoam in Microwave

A Few Tips on Whether Styrofoam can be Used in Microwave

Having understood how effective finding the right Styrofoam container that can be put in a microwave, it may be worthwhile enough to give a thought to a few important pointers to arrive at the best practices for taking care of your health – when it comes to using Styrofoam with your microwave.

Some key factors in caring of would include:

  • If you are unsure of the safety or microwave ability of your Styrofoam containers and other plastics, transfer the contents to a microwave-safe vessel. A glass or ceramic can be the best option. Never use a metal container with a microwave.
  • Do not let the plastic part touch the food when using it in a microwave. It can melt and mix with food. Wax papers, paper towels (preferably white ones), and kitchen parchment paper can be a few better alternatives.
  • Older, scratched, and cracked containers can be a few good or bad choices. Take care not to use them. They are likely to release more plasticizers into your food.
  • Most of the takeout containers are not microwave safe. Avoid using them.
  • There are microwaveable take-outs as well, but these are designed for one-time usage. Check the label on the package and use them accordingly.
  • Never microwave the plastic storage bags as they are not marked safe for use with the microwave.  

Staying safe can be achieved by being information savvy. Make sure you follow the safety precautions that form part of your microwave instruction manual. Take time to go through the instructions on the food containers to decide if you can really microwave the Styrofoam.

Conclusion on Whether You can put Styrofoam in Microwave?

Well, that was all that should guide you. The key options are simple – if you are in doubt, just stay away and throw out the container. Never use a Styrofoam container in microwave oven if you do not see any sign that indicates that it can be used in a microwave. Infact, one shall always ensure safety before using any kitchen appliances.

And if you have used it by error, and find that the material has any signs of leaking into the food, avoid using the food and throw it away!

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