Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 26 January 2007

Fire as cleaning cloth microwaved

Fire chiefs warn against using microwaves to sterilise cloths

Firefighters on Teesside have warned of the dangers of trying to sterilise cloths and sponges in microwave ovens after a house fire in Middlesbrough.

US scientists claimed zapping cleaning cloths with microwaves could kill harmful bacteria.

But Cleveland Fire Brigade issued an urgent warning after tackling a kitchen fire caused by one woman's attempt to sterilise a cleaning cloth.

No-one was hurt, but the brigade said the incident was "extremely dangerous".

Microwaving kitchen cloths for two minutes could kill 99% of living pathogens, a US study in the Journal of Environmental Health claimed.

Our advice is don't do it, it could result in a major fire in your home
Mark Whelan, Cleveland Fire Brigade

The researchers said people should only try to microwave damp sponges.

But after fire crews were called to a blaze at a house in Middlesbrough, fire officials called for an immediate end to the practice.

Mark Whelan, director of operations and community safety, said: "Attempting to sterilise a dishcloth in this way is extremely dangerous.

"There are too many variable factors such as the capacity and power of the microwave oven or the moisture content of the dishcloth or sponge.

"Scalding is another potential hazard.

"We are extremely concerned that people are using microwave ovens in this way.

"Our advice is don't do it, it could result in a major fire in your home."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents backed the advice from the fire service and said microwaves "should only be used for the purpose to which they're intended".

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