16 Brilliant Hacks That Make Your Microwave Worth the Counter Space

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Any tool that multitasks in the kitchen means less wasted space and more bang for your buck. A gadget with a specific use has to be downright amazing for me to give up kitchen real estate to it. (A strawberry huller falls under that category in our family, and gets used several times a week in the summer.) But multitasking isn’t a trait reserved just for kitchen tools that fit in cupboards and drawers — the nearly ubiquitous microwave, for instance, can be used for far more than heating up yesterday’s leftovers.

Set that microwave to work with these smart microwave hacks.

Boost the cleaning power of your rag.

For extra cleaning oomph, especially if you’re trying to cut through grease, microwave a damp rag — in 30-second increments until it’s hot — before using it to tackle messes. Your warm, damp rag has faster-moving molecules, which will do a better job of transporting dirt and grime away from whatever you’re cleaning.

Make garlic easy to peel.

Microwave a head of garlic for about 20 seconds and the cloves will slide right out of their skin — with no mess and no sticky juices.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Get more juice from your favorite citrus.

If you microwave your oranges, lemons, or limes for just about 10 to 20 seconds before you squeeze them, they’ll reward you with more juice than ever. Warming the fruit works to soften the firm membranes inside, allowing your juice to flow more freely. (A light roll on the counter before cutting into them will help, too.)

Put a stop to onion tears.

After trimming the ends, microwave your onion for 45 seconds before you chop — it will help by breaking down the compound that causes onion-cutting tears. (Caveat: You’ll be left with a warm, soft onion — in case that doesn’t jive with what you’re prepping.)

Rescue stale bread.

Wrap a loaf that’s past its prime in a damp towel and microwave for 10 seconds to revive it with a moisture boost. Hot tip: This works for doughnuts, too.

Jump-start your slow cooker recipes.

Not everything cooks in the same amount of time, and to keep carrots from becoming mush while your onions soften in slow cooker, you can give the onions a zap in the microwave for a few minutes first.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Froth milk.

If you crave a latte at home, complete with that glorious froth, the microwave comes to the rescue again. Fill a mason jar with your serving of milk (no more than halfway full), close the jar and give it a hardcore minute-long shake to create the foam, then microwave it for 30 seconds to stabilize the thick foam for your coffee. We have detailed directions and photos for how to make it happen in minutes.

Dry your herbs.

Rather than letting that leftover parsley or basil go to waste, dry it in the microwave: Place herbs on a paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what you’re using). Your dried herbs will keep for about a year.

Cook bacon.

If you just want a strip or two or bacon without taking over your kitchen, the microwave is at your service. We recommend sandwiching the bacon between pieces of paper towel, and microwaving for about one minute per slice.

Make a heating pad.

To soothe sore muscles with heat, fill a sock with rice and warm it up in the microwave. Try capping in 30-second intervals until your DIY heat pack is perfectly warm, and add a mug of water to the microwave to make sure the rice doesn’t scorch. You can add a few drops of essential oil to add a gentle scent, too.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Preserve flowers.

You can use the power of your microwave (along with a desiccant like silica gel) to dry and preserve your favorite buds in just a few minutes. Pro Flowers has detailed instructions for how to get it done.

Remove stamps from letters.

If you’re a budding philatelist or just want to preserve a pretty stamp, try this: Drip a couple drops of water on the stamp and microwave the envelope for 10 to 20 seconds. The stamp should come off easily with no damage.

Soften brown sugar.

Rather than hacking at a hard lump of sugar, place your clump in a bowl with a damp paper towel, cover it with a plate, and microwave it for 20 seconds.

Make it “self-cleaning.”

Okay, you’ll need to put in a little work, but try microwaving a cut-up lemon with some water in a bowl to create lemon steam in the microwave — and see how easy it is to wipe down after you do (it’ll smell nice, too!). You can also microwave a damp towel (or a few damp paper towels) to create a similar steam effect.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Wash your beauty blenders.

Instead of hunching over the sink for an hour trying to fully rinse your makeup sponge of foundation, use the microwave to boost your efforts. Mix a mild soap with water in a cup (use Castile soap, hand soap, or brush cleaner, if you have it), fully submerge and drench your sponge, then microwave it for one minute. After it cools down, give it a quick squeeze and rinse, and your blender will be good as new!

Revive dry mascara.

If your mascara is dry and clumpy, try this: Place the open tube into the microwave with a glass of water next to it, and heat it for about 10 seconds. If the mascara is still tough to use, you can heat your glass of water by itself for about 30 seconds, then put your tube in the warm water for a while until it’s softened. (Remember not to use mascara that’s over three months old to reduce the risk of infection.)

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 16 Genius Hacks that Make Your Microwave Worth the Counter Space