microwave oven in kitchen

Being able to cook your lunch in three minutes is just the tip of the iceberg in today’s love affair with the microwave oven. Defrosting meat, reheating leftovers, revitalizing old pasta, and baking a potato are several of the appliance’s commonplace uses. But did you know you can also use your microwave to dye fabric, salvage dried makeup, sanitize a kitchen sponge, or reconstitute bars of soap?

Candy was the inspiration for the first microwave oven. In 1941, a chocolate bar melted in the pocket of Percy LeBaron Spencer, a self-taught engineer who was testing a radar component, according to Live Science. As a result of the ruined candy, he theorized that one could cook food using electromagnetic energy. He understood that harnessing the heat produced by vibrating molecules could be an alternative to cooking with a conventional oven. And with this, Spencer sparked a kitchen revolution.

The modern microwave market was recently valued to be over $42 billion, says GlobeNewswire.

Unusual microwave oven uses

extracting juice from lemon

Does an onion make you cry? Zap it for 45 seconds before slicing. This action will neutralize the painful sulfur derivative that prompts your tears, informs Popular Science. Steaming a garlic clove in the microwave for 20 seconds will allow you to peel and remove the husks with ease. Similarly, it will only take a few more seconds to shuck corn. You won’t even have to worry about the pesky corn silk.

Here is some more microwave uses you might not have thought of: create foam for cappuccino or lattes; turn beef into jerky (via Easy Recipes); dry and powder herbs; restore crystallized honey; and re-granulate solid blocks of brown sugar, per Bob Vila.

Priming citrus fruit in your microwave oven will soften the membranes, and you will be able to extract more juice from them. A secondary benefit, as noted by Apartment Therapy, is the resulting concentrated lemony aroma that will waft through your house.

Proofing yeast for bread-making can be time-consuming. But using your microwave oven, all you would need is 15 minutes for the perfect dough. And there’s the 90-second cake in a mug that you can cook, courtesy of your appliance (via Mental Floss), or a 10-minute, perfect artichoke. Of course, when using a microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, use oven-safe containers, and never nuke anything that could potentially explode or catch on fire.

Even more unusual uses

sunflower emerging from kitchen sponge

Since 1947, microwave ovens have gone through some incredible industrial uses. Cork, tobacco, textiles, and flowers are all dried in them. Some restaurants even use microwaves to shuck oysters, according to Live Science.

For your home needs, don’t discard your grungy kitchen sponge — nuke it. One minute in the microwave will save the sponge, as well as cash at the register. Bob Vila recommends wetting it first. A tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice will do the trick. This will sanitize and deodorize, and the liquids ensure the sponge won’t ignite. WebMD says a microwave minute will kill bacteria, but nix it if the sponge has a metal scrub pad. You can also disinfect a plastic cutting board with a microwave. Wash, rub its surface with lemon juice, and heat for a minute.

Did you know you can dye fabrics in a microwave oven? Dunk it in a water and dye mixture and zap. Mental Floss even suggests using Kool-Aid for coloring wool. Submerging it into the liquified powder and microwaving for several minutes will set the colors. Similarly, a candle’s wax-coated jar can be rendered pristine in your microwave. Scrape off the excess wax, treat it to 20 seconds in the oven, then wipe clean. Another craft idea using your microwave oven: Purchase a microwave-safe kiln kit from an art store and melt glass to create jewelry. For your indulgence, before stepping out on the town, you can refresh dried-up mascara or heat lotions.