Can You Microwave Paper Cup? Things to Pay Attention To

Have you ever thought of microwaving a paper cup? Coffee lovers will know and understand how heating up coffee may seem to take too much time.

We always have busy days ahead. Time seems to always be running out. We need to hustle hard. Sometimes, all we need is a cup of hot coffee to just calm us down (who said I’m addicted to caffeine?).

What’s a much more efficient and easy way to heat your coffee than microwaving it! Just pop your cup of coffee in the microwave and let it do its magic.

But I don’t think it’s that simple. Can you microwave paper cups?

Well, you don’t need to think much about that because this article is here to help you out!

Can you microwave paper cups?

Yes, you can microwave your paper cups as long as they are labeled as microwave-safe.

However, it is generally not advisable to microwave most paper cups since they can easily cause a fire(well, it’s made of paper).

You should also remember that NOT ALL paper cups are microwave-safe.

Most paper cups that you use or can find in stores near you are coated or lined with wax or plastic.

The wax or plastic on paper cups makes them sturdy enough to hold food items, especially liquids. It allows the paper cups to withstand moisture.

Now, some of the wax coatings on paper cups are known to be microwave-safe. On the other hand, the plastic linings are mostly NOT fit for microwaving (we’ll be discussing this later).

Additionally, you need to note that the term “microwave-safe” means that the paper cup will still retain its shape even when microwaved.

With that, the microwave-safe label on paper cups doesn’t necessarily mean that you can microwave your paper cups at high temperatures for a long period.

Is it safe to microwave paper cups?

Technically, yes. It is safe to microwave paper cups that are labeled as “microwave-safe”. Of course, you still need to be extra careful when microwaving them so that it doesn’t heat up too much and melt into your drink or food.

As mentioned earlier, the cups have either a wax or plastic coating. If it unfortunately is not microwave-safe, then heating your paper cup may lead to leaching.

When plastic leaches from the cup, some of its harmful chemicals may mix into your drink (and you officially have a toxic beverage on hand).

Additionally, you should also avoid microwaving paper cups that are too colorful if you’re not sure what kind of dye was used on them.

Dyes may be toxic and they can also leach into your drink if it melts because of too much heat.

Hence, you must make sure the paper cups you’re using are microwavable. Try looking for the microwave-safe label on it or its packaging.

What kind of paper cups is microwave-safe?

Paper cups made of polylactic acid (PLA) are considered microwave-safe.

PLA is a kind of plastic that is biodegradable. It uses plant-based materials and does not contain any chemicals that are harmful to the human body.

With that, it is completely safe to use PLA kinds of paper cups when microwaving and even holding your hot foods and beverages.

What kind of paper cups should you NOT microwave?

You should NOT use paper cups made of Polyethylene (PE). Unlike PLA as we mentioned earlier, PE is non-biodegradable and is found in plastic bottles and bags.

PE is another kind of plastic used to coat paper cups. It is very useful in making sure that your paper cups won’t have any leaks. However, it is dangerous when it melts and leaches into your drink.

Harmful chemicals may enter your body once you drink something mixed with leached PE. A lot of health problems like cancer and infertility are caused by ingesting PE.

When using paper cups coated with PE, make sure that you use them on cold food and beverages only. The plastic can still easily melt even if you just pour hot contents into it.

How long can you microwave paper cups?

Paper cups can be microwaved for a maximum time of 2 minutes only (yes, only until that time). You have to make sure that you don’t go beyond that time limit.

Of course, various factors affect how long your paper cups can withstand the heat of your microwave.

The materials used in your paper cups can tell you how durable they are. Some cheap ones may easily disintegrate in the microwave. Other more high-quality ones may be able to withstand the heat much longer.

Another thing is the power of your microwave. The wattage of the microwave plays a role in how much heat it can give off.

A microwave with a high wattage may heat your cup and beverage much faster. On the other hand, a microwave with low wattage may take some time to do its job.

Nevertheless, you still need to make sure you do NOT heat your paper cups for more than 2 minutes on low to medium heat ONLY.

How do you safely microwave paper cups?

Microwaving paper cups safely is not that complicated to do. I have listed down some simple and easy steps that you can follow.

  1. Make sure that your paper cup is not too full when you’re microwaving it. There should be space left so that your paper cup doesn’t heat up too much and your drink doesn’t spill.
  2. Remove the lid from your paper cup. It may suddenly pop out while you’re microwaving and your drink might spill inside the microwave (we’re not a fan of cleaning up messes, are we?)
  3. Put your paper cup in the microwave.
  4. Set your microwave’s heat setting to medium.
  5. Microwave your drink for 30 to 60 seconds.
  6. After the given time, stir your drink so that the heat is evenly distributed.
  7. Heat again for another 30 to 60 seconds if necessary.
  8. Take out your paper cup from the microwave and enjoy your drink.

Always remember that you should NOT microwave your paper cup for more than 2 minutes (like what we talked about a while ago). So, make sure to do the math while microwaving.

Additionally, your drink may not be as hot as you expect it to be. If you want it hotter, then you may consider using other microwavable containers to heat them.

Moreover, there may be a slight change in the taste of your drink or food. So, you better be expecting that as well.

What are other microwavable (and non-microwavable) alternatives to paper cups?

Mugs and glasses made of ceramics and glass can be a microwavable alternative to your paper cups.

If you want your food or drinks hotter than what your paper cup can handle, then you can always switch to using ceramic and glass containers instead.

You can surely heat your drinks way longer using these alternatives unlike with paper cups.

Another alternative item that you can use are cups made of stainless steel. However, anything made of metal is not microwavable (don’t even try to put it in the microwave).

So, if you’re thinking of using stainless steel containers, then you can just use them to hold your hot or cold beverages. It can also maintain the temperature of your drinks for a longer time than paper cups.

Safety tips when microwaving paper cups

If you don’t have any other choice but to microwave your paper cups, then that’s perfectly okay!

Here are some safety tips that may help you make sure that you microwave your paper cups properly:

  1. Check for your paper cup’s microwave-safe label. If it isn’t labeled, then just assume that you can’t microwave them (or you may check the brand’s website for more information).
  2. Be mindful of how long you are heating your paper cups.
  3. Follow the simple steps we discussed earlier whenever you’re microwaving your food or drink in a paper cup.
  4. Be careful when handling your heated paper cup to avoid scalding yourself.


So, there you have the basic things that you need to know about microwaving your paper cups. You also have a simple step-by-step procedure of how to do it safely and properly.

Now, you don’t have to worry too much about wasting too much time on a break. Let’s go and grab some coffee!