Can You Put Things On Top Of The Microwave: Safety Concerns

storing things on microwave

Kitchen space is always at a premium, but small apartments and tiny houses especially need every available inch of space. It’s perfectly normal to ask yourself if you can or should put things on top of the microwave.

As an appliance that creates heat, you certainly don’t want to melt anything or start a fire. How safe are microwave tops?

Do they overheat, and should you be concerned? Depending on the age and style of your microwave, it may have vents on top.

Undoubtedly, it would be best if you never blocked a vent, but not all microwaves have this feature. I did a lot of research before I bought my last microwave, and some of what I learned may surprise you. Before you put anything on top of a microwave, make sure you have all the facts. 

Can you put things on top of the microwave? You can put things on top of a microwave when it’s not in use. The top of your microwave is a perfectly safe, flat surface that you can use for storage. However, be careful about the weight of things you place there, avoid blocking vents, and remove things before turning the microwave on. Adding small dishes that are glass or ceramic is fine. Nevertheless, remove these items when the microwave is being used.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, if you were to danger the door of a microwave by adding too much to the top, electromagnetic radiation could leak.

Does The Top of The Microwave Get Hot

The reason you can only store things on top of your microwave when it’s not in use is that the top and sides get hot. Especially if you are cooking things that take a while, the heat inside will transfer to the outside case over time. Unfortunately, this can result in melting and damage to the stored items, or the microwave itself. 

Microwaved food has reached as high as 367 degrees Fahrenheit according to an article written by Dr Burdick D. Cox.

By taking electricity from the outlet and passing it through a cavity magnetron, the power gets converted into radiation. That radiation then goes through a waveguide which directs it into the cooking chamber. These waves bounce around inside the shielded box, and a turntable moves the food in circles to get an even heating pattern as the waves pass through it over and over, exciting the molecules.

However, the microwave is not in motion, which can result in unexpected hot spots inside and even on the outer case. Just as the electromagnetic waves heat food, they heat the microwave itself. Although this takes more time, it is still unwise to place anything on top until the microwave has cooled down.

Typically, a few seconds is not long enough to cause concern if you forget to remove something. Nevertheless, it’s always best to take anything you placed on top of the microwave down before hitting the start button. 

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It is not Ok to Leave Things on Top of the Microwave while it is in Use

You should not leave items on top of your microwave while using it. The magnetron generates heat, and that heat needs to escape through the vents of the microwave. Countertop microwaves have side vents and a vent in the rear of the unit.

A Panasonic user manual states that you should not place items on the top of the microwave if you have one side of it placed against a wall.

If you have items on top of the microwave it is going to cause the microwave to need to work harder to keep itself cool. This will decrease the lifespan of your microwave.

Also, if you were to leave a chocolate bar or marshmallows on your microwave, these food items will melt because of the heat that in the top of the microwave while it is running.

Can I Put a Coffee Maker on Top of a Microwave

When you have a small kitchen, it seems natural to use any flat surface you can to maximize space. Can you use the microwave to store and use other kitchen appliances like a coffee maker? Since we’ve already looked at using the microwave while things are sitting on top, let’s consider the effects of a coffee maker in-use. Will it damage your microwave?

Most coffee makers have a hotplate near the base. Below that is a plastic compartment where most of the electronics that drive the operation are stored. There are also usually vents on the bottom and exceedingly small rubber feet. These help disburse any heat so that the electronics inside don’t melt. 

Although I don’t recommend trying it for safety reasons, most times you can touch the plastic near the burner without getting injured because heat rises. Since heat tends to travel upward, most of the hotplate energy goes directly into the coffee pot and coffee above.

Hence, we can safely assume most of the heat from the coffee is traveling away from the area where the maker would sit atop your microwave. 

You can put a coffee maker on top of the microwave, though it’s a sub-optimal location. However, since it is both heated and filled with liquid you should take extra steps to ensure your safety, or else find another place to make coffee. For example, an overfull coffee tank will spill water down the back of both the coffee maker and the microwave. Additionally, I recommend placing a silicone mat with design features that can catch any spilled liquids below the coffee maker.

Can You Put a Toaster on Top of a Microwave

Toasters don’t tend to have the same level of shielding as many appliances. Often, they have only a metal plate underneath and they tend to get much hotter than a coffee maker. As a result, making toast on top of the microwave is a bad plan.

In addition to heat, the crumbs can get into your microwave heat vents and cause issues. Even if you use a similar silicone mat to catch crumbs and disburse heat, the result wouldn’t be the same. Placing a toaster directly on top of a microwave is a terrible idea. 

Can You Put a Plant on Top of a Microwave

While coffee makers tend to be designed to avoid heat and water transference, and toasters tend to transfer a lot of heat, plants are the third part of this triangle. While houseplants do not create much heat, they do store and use water. General dampness and water leaking is detrimental to any appliance. Moreover, the weight of a ceramic pot, dirt, and water is too much for your microwave top. 

Although you can use a large catching basin under a plant, I still do not recommend putting it on the microwave. The heat from the microwave may slowly cook the roots of your plant while the added weight and moisture can damage your microwave. This is a bad match and should be avoided. 

Can You Put Bread on Top of a Microwave

Bread falls outside of the heat, water or both problems, so you can put it on top of the microwave, right? Well, in this case, the answer is a yes and no. Bread in a standard thin plastic bag could easily be an issue.

Not only does thin plastic melt easily, but it blocks vents exceptionally well, and heating plastic might release chemicals into your food that you don’t want there. Additionally, breadcrumbs could be an issue depending on how well you seal your bags after you eat.

However, a relatively lightweight breadbox would solve this issue. Since most breadboxes are made of wood and well-sealed, you could store your bread in a proper breadbox. Still, you would need to remove it just like everything else when you cook things in the microwave

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Is It OK to Have a Shelf Directly Over a Microwave

It is only sometimes okay to put things directly on top of a microwave, but you could install a shelf above it instead. Both countertop shelves that stretch over the microwave and wall anchored shelves should be no problem. Unlike sitting something directly on the hot case, this gives you more space for any built-up heat to dissipate. 

Just a few centimeters gap above a microwave would allow more airflow. Heat will rise and disburse naturally in the kitchen. hence, you still want to avoid putting say, a thin plastic bread bag too close, but most other options would be safe enough. Plants and water over a microwave are still a bad idea but using a solid shelf would keep any crumbs from a toaster out of the microwave easily enough.

The Amazon Basics Microwave works with your Alexa for hands-free cooking.

Items that should not go on top of microwave because of the Weight

  1. Fruit bowls
  2. Air Fryer
  3. Kettle
  4. Toaster Oven
  5. Another Microwave
  6. Radio
  7. Keurig Machine

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of dos and don’ts where microwave safety is concerned. Luckily, placing things on top of your microwave isn’t a big concern. So long as it’s not turned on, setting a few items out of the way is merely a smart use of space. Set some lighter weight objects on small microwaves or a bowl of fruit on a larger, more durable appliance. It should be fine as long as it’s not damaging the microwave case.

I recommend avoiding some items when you set things on top of your microwave. For example, paper and fabric are generally a bad choice. Anything that might get stuck to a vent or sucked into one is a sub-par option.

Moreover, make sure nothing drapes down in a way that catches in the door, and skip anything wet or damp to prevent accidental damage. The top of a microwave is usually a sturdy, flat area that can handle having some ‘stuff’ sit on it. If you are worried about accidents, then don’t do it, but otherwise, just remember to move things before you cook, and you’ll be fine. 

Related Topics

is it normal for the top of microwave to get hot

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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