People Microwave Cash Amid Coronavirus Fears, Results Are What You’d Expect

  • Two South Korean citizens used unusual methods to try to clean their cash, concerned about coronavirus.

It’s official–cash is no longer king. Not now, there’s the possibility of getting sick with coronavirus from trace contact. Most coffee shops and restaurants stopped accepting cast earlier this year to protect employees. And now, there’s an actual coin shortage in the United States. The US Mint slowed production to keep employees safe, and people are depositing fewer coins into circulation. Because no one’s going out, and the economy is tanked. 

Just Trying to Keep Clean

Photo by Annette Fischer on Unsplash

South Koreans seem to have the same concerns about filthy cash money. So they’re turning to some unusual methods to keep themselves safe. One citizen, identified only by the surname Eom, washed an unspecified number of 50,000-won ($42) bills in a washing machine earlier this year. Washing machines aren’t designed for laundering bills, and some currency got damaged in the wash. According to laws in South Korea, banks may exchange the money for full or half value, depending on the damage severity. 


Eom reached out to the Bank of Korea about getting the money replaced. They didn’t specify how much money Eom lost, but they exchanged 507 bills at half value. In total, the bank exchanged 23 million-won ($19,320). They may have avoided COVID-19, but don’t you bet they were just sick over the amount of money they lost?

Microwaves Disinfect, Right?

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

They weren’t the only South Korean who went to extreme measures to protect themselves from whatever viruses and bacteria lurk on cash. An individual identified only by their surname, Kim, attempted to microwave their money to disinfect it. The bank replaced 5.2 million-won ($4,370). Kim didn’t lose as much money as Eom.


The Bank of Korea urges citizens not to disinfect money either by the microwave or washing machine. It’s an accepted fact that cash has more bacteria on it than a household toilet. Both viruses and bacteria can survive for days on paper money, and flu viruses may be transmittable for up to 17 days.  


The CDC hasn’t issued guidelines for disinfecting cash. Instead, they recommend focusing on hand-washing and not touching your face.  


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