While a shared microwave can be a handy convenience, and even a site of bonding, it can just as often be used in misguided—or even downright disrespectful—ways. If you’ve ever suspected someone of detonating a stink bomb in the office break room, or opened the microwave door and discovered a Jackson Pollack painting splattered on the back panel, we feel your pain.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips on how to exercise proper microwave etiquette. They might not usher in a new era of peace and understanding among humanity, but they will hopefully prevent your roommates and coworkers from hating you.
Don’t: Microwave stinky foods
We get it: you like eating fish. While that isn’t a crime in and of itself, what’s unforgivable is reheating that seafood in a crowded space. In the process, you’re subjecting your microwave mates to stenches that we’re pretty sure violate the terms of the Geneva Conventions.
Seafood isn’t the only offender in this regard; any food with particularly pungent lingering odors would qualify. These can include other meats, as well as seemingly innocuous snacks like popcorn if burned or left unattended. As a rule of thumb, if you want to show some courtesy, it’s best to stick to heating up foods that produce neutral or mild odors at worst.
Do: Monitor your food
Odds are, you’re going to be using the microwave at roughly the same time everyone else in your office or apartment wants to use it. If food is left unattended, you’re needlessly preventing others from getting their chance to heat up their own (hopefully non-stinky) meals.
In the unfortunate event that someone has wandered away from their food, a respectful grace period is about 30 seconds after it’s finished heating before you can remove the offending dish from the microwave and place it on the counter. By the same token, though it might feel satisfying to remove food that's been abandoned by its owner before it finishes heating up, this would be equally disrespectful. You can avoid even tempting others to do this by simply waiting out the 2-3 minutes it takes to warm up your food.
Do: Clean up after yourself
Especially when it comes to microwaving soups or stews, there's great potential for food to splash everywhere. Ideally, the best way to nip this problem in the bud is to cover up your bowl with either a plate or a napkin.
But if it’s too late for that approach, and you see that your food has erupted or that you’ve left a mess in your wake, the responsible thing to do is to clean up after yourself. As always, the golden rule applies: do unto the shared microwave as you would wish to have done to your own.
Don't: Hog the microwave to yourself
The most important fact to remember about a shared microwave is that it's just that: shared. While some foods take longer than others to heat up, there are reasonable restrictions on the amount of time any one person can take with their dish.
Anything longer than three minutes is pushing it, and a timer set for more than five minutes is unconscionable. (What are you even trying to heat up for that long? An entire chicken?) If you absolutely must use the microwave for an extended period, at least try to do so during off-hours.