Sunday, March 11, 2012

Effect of Microwaved Water on Basil Plants: The 20 Day Test

Ok, so I got an email from my cousin - you know, one of those viral emails that everyone forwards?

This email claimed that an elementary school student's science project tested the effect of microwaved water on a plant, with a second plant acting as control and given tap water.  The photos in the email were pretty dramatic, showing the plant receiving the microwaved water as shriveled and dying.  I checked (also known as Urban Legends) and they reported that it was False.  Here's the link to the report on their website:

Well, emails went back and forth between me, my cousin, and several other recipients on the email list, debating if it were true.  As a result of this flurry of emails, I took up the challenge to perform my own experiment.

I went to my favorite local plant nursery, well-known for the quality of its plants, and chose two basil plants that were as similar as possible (Why basil? Cause if they survive, I can always harvest them and add them to my spaghetti sauce, right?)

I brought them home and placed them both on my kitchen windowsill, side by side. They were in the same environment and received the same amount of sunshine.  Here's the two plants the day I bought them - Day 0.  Same height, same fullness, same healthy green color.

Day 0
 That first day, I filled a glass bowl with tap water and microwaved it for two minutes, until it was boiling, and let it cool to room temperature, then poured it into a pint-size canning jar and put a lid on it.

I filled the teakettle with tap water and heated it on the stove until it boiled, then also let it cool to room temperature, and poured it into a quart-size canning jar.  I used different sized jars so I could easily tell them apart and ensure they wouldn't get mixed up.

Since the plants had been watered at the nursery the day I bought them, I waited until Day 2 to water them at home.  Here's a photo of the plants on Day 2.  They both still look the same.

Day 2

I watered the plants every other day, and they continued to sit side by side on my kitchen windowsill.  There wasn't any noticeable difference for several days, but then by Day 10, I could tell the plant getting the microwaved water was looking puny, while the plant getting the boiled tap water was thriving:

Day 10

I felt so sorry for the poor thing, I decided to try to resuscitate it by giving it and the other plant both some rain water and a little direct sunshine out on the patio, since it was a nice warm day.

But when I emailed my cousin and told him I planned to rescue the plant, he encouraged me to continue the experiment and do a taste test after the plants grew bigger.  So I continued to give the one plant the microwaved water, and the other plant the tap water boiled on the stove.

At Day 20, here is what they look like:

Day 20

 The poor little basil plant getting the microwaved water is nearly dead. 

I don't know about you..... but I'm avoiding using the microwave from now on!

Do you think I should send this to Snopes and let them know that in this case, it's True that microwaved water will kill plants?


  1. Yeah.....the bigger eye opener for me is that SNOPES isn't the final word in declaring anything true or false!!

    I've never used the microwave for stored water purposes but I sure do for my teas!!!

    1. I think the microwave alters the water in some way, even if you use it right away to make tea. I'd strongly recommend boiling it on the stove in a teakettle or pan, if you can. I don't know what it does, but it sure killed that poor little plant!

  2. hey ~ I just look around some pages about microwaved water.
    and Is it true what you tested that microwated water is harm