No kitchen is complete with the humble microwave, giving us all an incredibly convenient way to heat food, defrost ingredients, and even cook certain meals from start to finish.
Given the demands we all place on the appliance, it’s natural to ask: How long does a microwave last?
Good question! On average, you can expect to get around 7-10 years use out of a new microwave, although this depends on quite a few factors:
- How often you use your microwave.
- How well you maintain the appliance.
- The quality of the microwave brand you invest in.
There are also three common reasons why a microwave stops working:
- Wear and tear. When it’s had enough, it’s had enough!
- Electronic component failure.
- A faulty door seal.
The good news is that there are certain things you can do that will significantly extend the lifespan of your microwave.
First of all though, I’m going to go into greater detail about these three common failure points. Skip down past these for the preservation tips!
#1 Wear & Tear
Microwaves tend to get a lot of regular use in most home kitchens, and so simple wear and tear is a common cause of failure.
Over time, the components inside the microwave deteriorate, and you’ll probably notice this first as a decline in performance. It won’t get hot enough, or it’ll stop working altogether during intensive tasks.
The part of the microwave that really gets worked hard is the magnetron. This generates the microwaves that actually heat your food, and is particularly prone to wearing down. These can be replaced – technically – but you’ll most often settle for upgrading your microwave instead.
There are other components too, such as the turntable. When the motor fails here, you’ll have to replace it quickly, or you’ll get unevenly heated food from the microwave.
#2 Electronic Component Failure
There are all kinds of electronic components inside your microwave, including the control panel. These can suffer from voltage fluctuations and overheating over time, and once you can’t use the controls you’re going to be really stuck!
Once you lose a really important part of the electronics like the control board or the power supply, it’s game over I’m afraid.
You might be able to get a cost-effective repair organized, but if you’re past the 7 year mark it’s probably better to just buy a new microwave.
#3 Faulty Door Seal
The door seal is a vital part of any microwave, preventing the microwave energy from leaking out while the appliance is operating.
It’s very easy for these seals to become damaged or just plain dirty from gunked up food. Again, you’ll probably notice the microwave’s performance declining first.
Many modern microwaves are also designed to shut down altogether when the door won’t seal properly.
Tips for Prolonging Your Microwave’s Lifespan
That’s the bad news, then, but what can you do to avoid some of these problems, and get really good value out of your kitchen investment?
Here are some really useful tips which will make sure you don’t head back to the store before you’re ready!
Keep it clean
Make it a part of your cleaning schedule to really give the microwave a good clean. If you clean the inside of your microwave in particular, you’ll stop bits of food and grease from clogging up the vents and other internal components.
Give it a good scrub, and then wipe the insides down with a damp cloth and standard kitchen detergent. Make sure you – gently – clean those door seals too.
Use the right cookware
Only ever use microwave-safe cookware inside your appliance. Do so and you’ll avoid causing damage to both the microwave and your dishes!
We all know this already, but you should avoid placing any metal items in your microwave too. These can cause sparks and damage the microwave. Worse, they can be a fire hazard too.
Don’t slam that door!
We’re all guilty of using an elbow to bang the microwave door shut, but it’s a really bad habit to get into.
If you slam the door shut frequently, you’ll do damage to both the door seals and the latch. When that latch goes, the microwave won’t work at all as it’s an important safety feature.
Try to force yourself to close the door gently whenever you’re done with the microwave!
Give it space to breathe
Microwaves require good ventilation, particularly around the vents on the outside. If the appliance overheats, it can dramatically increase the risk of a component failing.
You should make sure there are at least a couple of inches of clear space around all sides of the microwave.
If you’re in a really cramped kitchen, at least make sure that the vents have plenty of room to breathe!
Follow the guidelines
Don’t toss that owner’s manual! It’s always worth reading this properly, if only to spot any particular guidance the manufacturer has included for safe use and maintenance.
Follow any specific advice on cleaning the appliance, using the right cookware, and managing the power settings and times effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a quick selection of questions and answers that people commonly have on this topic:
Is a 10 year old microwave safe?
10 years is pushing it for a microwave, but it may well still be safe to use as long as it’s been cared for properly and is in good working order.
Check it over carefully though. Make sure the door seals are fully intact and look for any signs of damage – rust in particular is a big no-no.
If you have any doubts at all about its ability to function normally, it’s better to replace it outright.
What’s the most common cause of microwave failure?
The magnetron. This is the engine of your microwave, and is responsible for generating the microwaves that heat your food. These only have a limited lifespan, and so the harder you work your microwave, the sooner it’ll burn out.
They can be replaced, but it’s a job for a professional. Most people invest in a new appliance once this component fails.
When should I replace my microwave?
Keep an eye out for these warning signs:
– It heats food inconsistently
– It makes unusual noises
– You see any sparking taking place inside the microwave
– The door seals appear damaged
If you spot any of these, I would recommend replacing your microwave with a newer model, especially if it’s more than 6-7 years old.
Can a microwave get weaker with age?
Very much so, and again it’s all down to that magnetron. As the magnetron ages it becomes less efficient. You’ll notice that food takes longer to heat, and the results are less consistent.
As it ages, you may well get a strong sense that the microwave has become weaker with time.
Should a microwave door be left open after use?
It’s not absolutely necessary, but leaving the microwave door open will allow excess moisture and odors to escape. This in turn may protect some of its internal components.
It’s much more important though that you regularly clean the interior of your microwave. Do that and you’ll achieve much the same thing, without any smells spreading through the house!
All good appliances reach the end of the road eventually. Microwaves rarely make it past 10 years without losing significant performance I’m sorry to say.
If you follow the tips I’ve included in this guide though, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting good value for money out of your microwave.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more