Can A Microwave Kill The Coronavirus?
The microwave in your kitchen heats and cooks food by using electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range. This energy causes the water molecules (which have hydrogen and oxygen) in the food to rotate and twist and produce heat. See the visual below:
Viruses contain plenty of hydroxyl groups, also hydrogen and oxygen, so the same should happen to them. It does.
So, will your microwave kill the Coronavirus?
First, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “currently, there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.”
Now, to the question.
In short, microwaves can kill a Coronavirus, but it depends on two things: cooking power and cooking time. So, if you find takeout leftovers in the fridge but can’t be sure if someone has snacked on them, just heat the food for 2 minutes or so to get it boiling hot and reduce the viral load.
What’s the research on microwaves and Coronavirus?
Two different studies show how a run-of-the-mill kitchen microwave oven can kill a virus.
One, a 2016 German study where the HIV virus was deactivated (AKA killed) after being microwaved at 800 watts of power for 2 minutes1. For reference, the average microwave oven these days has a wattage of about 1,000, so yours likely has more than enough power, but I’d suggest you double-check.
The second, a study published in a June 2004 issue of the Avian Pathology journal, where an Avian Coronavirus called IBV was killed after being microwaved for 5 seconds2.
In 2003, The World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a multi-laboratory study that found that the SARS virus — a coronavirus — could be deactivated by heat. The study showed that 15 minutes at a temperature of 56C (132 F) reduced the alive virus by 10,000 times3. The hotter temperature, the faster the process.
- Be a fact-checker. Seek information from credible sources such as the CDC and the WHO.
- Wash your hands and clean frequently touched surfaces often.
- And yes, microwaving your food until boiling (about 2 minutes) does kill the Coronavirus.
1. Siddharta A, Pfaender S, Malassa A, et al. Inactivation of HCV and HIV by microwave: a novel approach for prevention of virus transmission among people who inject drugs. Sci Rep. 2016;6:36619. Published 2016 Nov 18. doi:10.1038/srep36619
2. Elhafi G, et al. Microwave or autoclave treatments destroy the infectivity of infectious bronchitis virus and avian pneumovirus but allow detection by reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction. Avian Pathology (June 2004) 33(3), 303/306. https://doi.org/10.1080/0307945042000205874
3. World Health Organization. First data on stability and resistance of SARS coronavirus compiled by members of WHO laboratory network. https://www.who.int/csr/sars/survival_2003_05_04/en/ Accessed 3/21/20.