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Does the Microwave Kill Coronavirus?

Libraries don’t want you to microwave your books, but is there anything the microwave COULD disinfect?

When has putting a non-food item in the microwave ever worked in someone’s favor? It’s pretty much always a recipe for a fire, explosion or at least making your kitchen smell horrific for the next six months. Why exactly anyone thought microwaving their library books in order to disinfect them was a good idea is beyond me, but apparently it’s enough of a problem that public libraries have had to remind patrons to please not microwave the books they borrow

Not only could microwaving any book potentially lead to a fire by nature of it being, you know, a regular flammable book, but many libraries keep track of books utilizing a metal chip system. As I hope we already know, metal and microwaves aren’t friends. Fortunately, libraries have only had to deal with replacing the chips that have been microwaved, but there’s potential for exploding chips to actually injure someone. So, that’s why that’s a problem. 

The other issue with microwaving library books is that it’s just not even going to do any good, coronavirus-wise. Libraries are already holding books for 72 hours before passing them on to other patrons, and there’s no evidence to indicate that the virus can be spread from a book, anyway. 

According to the CDC’s webpage on food safety and coronavirus, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.” 

Hypothetically, a microwave could kill the virus. Microwaves kill germs and bacteria by raising the temperature to a point where most can’t survive. However, this heat is generated by molecular friction caused by the vibration of water molecules. Books, for the most part, don’t contain that many water molecules. This is why they eventually catch on fire. In the event that coronavirus was sitting on the surface of food or its microwavable packaging, it likely would die in the microwave if left in there long enough for the item to heat up. But again, there’s not much evidence you could catch the virus from a surface, anyway.  

Your best preventative measure against the virus is still to just stay home, and to wear a mask if you must go out. If disinfecting the objects you bring into your home with a CDC-approved cleaner makes you feel better, that’s just fine, but a microwave doesn’t need to be part of the equation.