The Microwave Glass is Broken, Can I Still Use It?

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

The microwave glass is broken, ugh. Not Me and I Didn’t Do It struck again. Do they ever visit your house? This time Not Me threw a ball in the kitchen and I Didn’t Do It Either batted it with the broom handle into the microwave or the broom handle itself hit the microwave. I didn’t get the full story, I couldn’t hear over the blood rushing in my ears.

You’ll be proud, I didn’t scream at them. I DID tell them I was disappointed…a few times.

I got all the glass cleaned up. It’s one of those over the stove mounts and I can’t get a new one installed until next week. Are Not Me and I Didn’t Do It relegated to PB&J until the new one is installed or can they continue to heat up their after-school snacks?

Shattered in Shelby

Not Me and I Didn’t Do It are frequent guests here at the Solos-Bergman home, we know them quite well. I have heard that they get around, the little freeloaders.

The microwave glass is broken can I still use it?

Do not use your microwave with the broken glass. Yes, technically, there is a chance it is safe if the metal mesh is fully intact, but it would be reckless to continue to use the appliance.

How do microwaves stay in the appliance?

If you look at the door of your microwave, you’ll notice that there is a metal mesh between the panes of glass. It’s actually that mesh that keeps the waves inside the appliance.

But Heather, there are holes in the mesh. How does that actually keep invisible rays inside the microwave? Aren’t they tiny? Yes, they are tiny, but the holes are sized so that the wavelength doesn’t escape. They continue to bounce around inside.

The glass in the microwave door’s function isn’t to contain microwaves.

empty microwave with door ajar
Microwave Oven close up shot

The glass serves two other purposes:

First, the glass keeps the mesh clean. Please think of how your kids don’t always cover their food. If that schmutz got all over the mesh, it would eventually rust. Also, the drips would dribble down into the seal of the door, and eventually, it wouldn’t close all the way, and THEREIN lies another part of the problem. (Speaking of rust in the microwave, we’ve written about that before!)

Second, the glass allows you to see your food. Microwave doors could be solid, having a glass front is to save energy (starting and stopping consumes more power than simply running).

What happens if the mesh in a microwave appliance is damaged?

If that mesh were damaged, by say rust or if the mesh shifted, was torn, or now has a gap or gaps, you now have a place where the microwaves can leak.

These waves aren’t going to sneak out of the appliance and hunt you and your family down, but they could cause burns if you were close enough to where they were leaking and if a part of your body that wasn’t good at dispersing heat happened to be in the path of those microwaves.

Most often the direct injuries from microwaves happen when an appliance is damaged and people lean on them while they are operating. Typically these injuries happen in commercial settings (restaurants) when workers rest their heads on the appliance and damage their eyes. Minimum wage and workman’s comp don’t feel like enough after reading those stories. (Yes, don’t lean on the appliance, but if you’ve ever worked a double shift, you’ve been that tired, you’ve leaned for just a moment. I know I have.)

What kind of waves do microwaves produce?

Microwaves are part of the non-ionizing spectrum. This is the non-cancer-causing end… it starts with radio waves, microwaves (this is what your appliance produces), infrared (heat), and visible light, and then we hit UV Light which is where we start to get into the cancer-causing end.

Please note that I am talking about the waves just below heat, the microwaves we talk about are non-ionizing radiation, they are not ionizing radiation.

To be clear, ionizing radiation is the “scarier stuff” that you need to be much more cautious around and is not what your microwave produces.

Just like any home appliance, microwaves ARE still and always will be a safety concern. You still have to use caution when using this appliance. Microwaves cause burns all the time, most often scalds. Microwaves also cause fires when used improperly. Has Not Me ever way overcooked a potato? Has I Didn’t Do It forgotten about the popcorn they started? It’s going to happen. Also, I Don’t Know will soon be paying regular visits, if they haven’t already, be on the lookout.

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and teach everyone in the household how to use it safely..

In the meantime, let Not Me and I Didn’t Do It enjoy their PB&Js as part of the consequences of roughhousing in the house. You play, you pay. That’s how the world works.

How to dispose of your microwave with broken glass

It is truly unfortunate that repair is generally not a viable option with microwaves for simple problems like broken glass. I recently priced out the difference between replacing the door on my microwave and replacing the unit. It was more expensive to replace the door than to buy a new one and the timeframe was longer. I don’t like this state of things. I wish repair were a reasonable option.

If your new appliance is being delivered, you can often bundle the removal of the old appliance with your purchase. Many counties offer appliance recycling. In many neighborhoods, it is customary to set appliances that could be repaired out the night before trash day. Also, there are many neighborhood-based Facebook groups you can use to offer items. Whatever you do, don’t be the person that just dumps an appliance on someone else’s property.

abandoned microwave, glass is broken and missing

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