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Can You Safely Microwave Plastic Food Storage Containers?

If you are like me, you might be wondering, can you safely microwave plastic food storage containers or bags? Plastic was one of the greatest inventions of its time. When it comes to food storage, it is an easy, quick, and low cost solution for many chefs and home cooks alike. Storing food for later use has never been easier. And microwaves have made the process even easier, with many people tossing their plastic containers right into the microwave.

But is it safe? The answer might surprise you.

First, let’s look at what types of plastic containers there are and what they are made. This will help to understand what can safely be microwaved.

Can You Safely Microwave Plastic Food Storage Containers

What are Ziploc containers made of?

Plastic containers are part of our daily lives, serving a myriad of purposes ranging from food storage to product packaging. These versatile receptacles are primarily made of polymers, which are long chains of molecules derived from petroleum or natural gas resources.

Polymers are combined with various additives like plasticizers to enhance durability and flexibility. Stabilizers to inhibit degradation caused by exposure to environmental conditions, and pigments to provide color.

Furthermore, the specific type of polymer used in manufacturing plastic containers greatly influences their characteristics and end-use applications.

For instance, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is widely employed in the production of soda bottles and food containers. Due to its lightweight and robust nature. Whereas polypropylene (PP) is a popular choice for kitchenware and microwavable containers. Due to its high-temperature tolerance and resistance to staining.

Ultimately, the composition and type of plastic used in container manufacturing are carefully selected to ensure functionality and longevity while catering to the diverse needs of users.

High-density polyethylene vs low-density polyethylene plastic

While both are common in our everyday plastic ware, these two different types of plastics are used for different products. High-density polyethylene plastic is what our stronger, more durable containers are made of. Examples include Ziploc containers, water bottles, milk jugs, and reusable plastic bags. It is thick and rigid, so it holds up to shipping or reuse.

Low-density polyethylene plastic makes products such as plastic sandwich bags, snack bags, and plastic wrap.

Reheating Food in Plastic Container in Microwave

Can you microwave all plastic containers?

The short answer is, technically yes, you can microwave plastic containers. Most of them anyway. Even ones that are not labeled to be microwaved can withstand a few seconds in the microwave. Just enough time for you to melt honey a bit or peanut butter or the like.

There are many plastic container manufacturer’s like Ziploc that market their products for microwave use. These products are made to withstand the higher temperatures of the microwave. They are made of plastics with a high melting point.

Some plastic wrap is also safe to place in the microwave. Assuming you follow the label directions, these products are normally thought of as safe for regular use.

Can you put Ziploc bags in the microwave?

Some Ziploc brand bags can be placed in the microwave. Ziploc freezer bags are labeled so you can defrost food items right in the bag. They are also able to be used at high temperatures such as boiling them. This is convenience for uses such as making an omelet in a bag or boiling bagged vegetables.

They can even be used for sous vide cooking. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to microwave a Ziploc bag or place in boiling water.

Food Storage in Plastic containers

What is the definition of Microwave-Safe?

Microwave-safe simply means that something won’t melt or warp if you expose it to the high temperatures of the microwave. Some food storage products are labeled as a microwave-safe container. Many Ziploc products, coffee mugs, ceramic containers, and dinner plates are labeled as microwave safe.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have a specific definition for “microwave-safe.” Instead, it simply outlines that a product must not exceed a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This just happens to be the temperature at which water boils.

Is Microwaving Plastic Food Storage Containers Safe?

Many plastic containers have a microwave-safe label. But are they really? That’s a loaded question.

Many plastic food storage containers are marketed as such. However, new research has discovered the health risks microwaving plastic.

For instance, BPA is a dangerous chemical that could leach into your food. This could cause health problems such as endocrine disorders with repeated use of plastic chemicals. Phthalates are also one of the harmful chemicals that could leach into your food and cause concerns.

What is BPA?

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic compound. Which manufacturers of consumer goods uses. Examples include plastic bottles, food containers, and even the lining of cans.

It has gained significant attention in both the medical and scientific communities due to its potential negative impact on human health. BPA exhibits endocrine-disrupting properties. Meaning it can interfere with the proper functioning of the hormones within the body, leading to potential adverse health effects. These may include developmental, reproductive, and metabolic complications.

As a result, numerous regulatory authorities and industry sectors worldwide are engaging in ongoing research. They are adopting precautionary measures to limit consumers’ exposure to this potentially harmful substance.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates represent a class of chemicals that have gained significant attention in recent years. Due to their widespread use in numerous consumer products. Additionally, there are growing concerns surrounding their potential impact on human health and the environment.

Find them in a myriad of items such as plastics, cosmetics, and even pharmaceuticals. Phthalates function as plasticizers and stabilizers, contributing to the flexibility, durability, and longevity of these materials. Despite their noteworthy applications, an increasing body of research has pointed to the possible adverse effects of phthalate exposure. Examples include hormonal imbalances and reproductive complications.

Investigations continue to unravel the complexities and implications of phthalates. It is crucial for both industry leaders and regulatory bodies to remain vigilant. In both assessing and addressing the potential risks associated with these pervasive chemicals in today’s modern world.

Why does spaghetti sauce stain plastic containers?

Plastic containers can be a convenient option for storing food. However, their usefulness is declines as the stains of the contents like spaghetti sauce sets in. Every tomato-based sauce contains carotenoid molecules that latch onto porous plastic surfaces. It is not easy to remove the stains as they stick like glue.

The acidity and the extended contact time cause plastic containers to degrade over time. Especially staining. Plastic may remain a convenient choice. But it is also essential to pay attention to the aftermath of storing sauces in plastic containers. You may want to opt for glass or ceramic food packaging containers.

Cleaning Stained Plastic Containers 

Tried and true methods of cleaning stained plastic containers. There are a few that we tried, but only two rose to the top that were easy and actually worked. The results might just surprise you. Especially if you have seen any kitchen cleaning hacks on social media that show how to clean stains.

We tried the following combinations:

  • Dish soap, warm water, and paper towels
  • Vinegar
  • Dish soap, sugar, and ice cubes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baking soda

The Winner.

The best method was using the Hand Sanitizer.

Process. Pour hand sanitizer over the stain, let sit 45 minutes. Wipe clean with a damp paper towel.

Result. The stain was completely gone.  

Runner Up.

The second best method was using Baking Soda Paste.

Process. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom of the stained container. Slowly add warm water until there is enough to mix a paste. The consistency of the paste should be just a tiny bit thinner than toothpaste.

Spread the paste all over the stained areas of the container, then let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a damp cloth to rub the stained areas with the paste. Rinse with dish soap and warm water.

Result. This method removed most of the discoloration. When examining closely, a faint discoloration left yet. However, the baking soda also removed any persistent odors.

Meal Prep in Plastic Container

Safer microwave heating

Here are some recommendations for more safely heating food in the microwave. Never microwave thin plastics as they can melt. Look for products specifically labeled as “microwave-safe”.

  • Try not to microwave foods that have high fat in the plastic.
  • Never place plastic in a conventional oven.
  • Microwave 30 seconds at a time.
  • Never microwave non microwave-safe containers for risk of personal injury or fire.

Why does fat cause plastic containers to warp in the microwave?

High fat foods have the potential to warp plastic containers when microwaved.

When this happens, it is normally because of the fact that fats absorb higher amounts of microwave energy compared to other nutrients, such as carbohydrates or proteins. Consequently, the higher energy absorption leads to an increase in temperature. Which in turn causes the plastic material to weaken and ultimately warp.

This phenomenon not only diminishes the durability and visual value of the containers. It also raises concerns about the potential release of harmful chemicals from the plastic into the food.

It is essential for individuals to be aware of this issue. Take appropriate measures, such as using microwave-safe containers. Avoid microwaving high fat foods in plastic containers. Lastly, to ensure both the longevity of their kitchenware and the safety of their meals.

Can You Safely Microwave Plastic Food Storage Containers
5 from 1 vote

Safer microwave heating

Here are some recommendations for more safely heating food in the microwave. Never microwave thin plastics as they can melt. Look for products specifically labeled as “microwave-safe”.


  • plastic container
  • glass container


  • Try not to microwave foods that have high fat in the plastic.
  • Never place plastic in a conventional oven.
  • Microwave 30 seconds at a time.
  • Never microwave non microwave-safe containers for risk of personal injury or fire.


You can find Victoria crocheting, quilting, and creating recipes. She has worked in restaurants for many years. Her many crochet patterns and quilt patterns are enjoyed by many. In her professional career, she has worked in management in a wide variety of businesses including higher education as a dean of a division. All the while attending college part-time to achieve her doctorate in higher education with an emphasis in e-learning.

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