Urban Legends

Deadly Water

The Legend

Found on the Internet in December 1999

Did you know that water can kill you? This is something that anyone who uses a microwave to heat water or anything with water in it (such as a mug) should know. Last week, my 26-year-old son was making a cup of instant coffee. He put a coffee mug of water into the microwave to heat it up. He expected no problem, since he was quite experienced with heating water and, in fact, has an advanced degree in thermodynamics.

Most of his memory was erased when his head was semi-severed so we don't know exactly how long he set the timer for, but it had to be long enough to get the water to boil. When he took the cup out, it didn't look like it was boiling, but when he looked into it it exploded into his face like the alien bursting out of the egg in Alien!

He had fifth and sixth degree burns all over his face, one of his eyes changed color (just like happened to David Bowie), and there was a two-foot hole blown in the kitchen roof.

The doctor at the hospital said that this happens all the time. To avoid it happening to you, the doctor said that you should never boil water alone or in a cup with nothing else in it in a microwave. If you put a wooden stick or a something in there, it will absorb some of the energy and you won't unleash the water's fury.

You can have the same kind of problem when boiling water in a kettle, but it is much more rare. My cousin filled a kettle completely with water and sealed all of its openings with multiple layers of duct tape so that none of the heat would be wasted and put the kettle on the stove on high. It ended up blowing up the stove and knocking over the refrigerator, and shards of kettle perforated the car out in the driveway!

So the lesson is this. Water is your enemy. Beware.

Behind the Legend

Believe it or not, water can actually explode in the microwave like this. All you need is water, a clean cup, and a microwave. If the water gets super heated by the microwave and there are no impurities in it to make it bubble, then the slightest touch will make it explode like a Fourth of July firecracker.

The Food and Drug Defense Administration recommends the following steps to avoid being blown to bits by H20:

  • Don't heat water in clean containers
  • Never head water in containers made of sodium
  • Don't let the water heat in the microwave for an excessive amount of time (e.g., an hour)
  • Put a wooden stick or something in the water (preferably a coffee stirrer or cleaned popsicle stick, not one from the lawn). Do not use a metal spoon, as the lightning created by interaction of microwave and metal may have sinister effects on the already angry water
  • When possible, avoid using a microwave by substituting other methods of heating your water (e.g., rubbing it quickly between your hands, putting it in a warm sweater).

As an aside, those who are aware of the famous story of the woman who tried to dry her wet poodle by putting the animal in the microwave will not be surprised that the fated kanine exploded once they learn that poodles are nearly 80% water!

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