A solution growth approach for zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires is highly appealing because of the low growth temperature and possibility for large area synthesis. Reported reaction times for ZnO nanowire synthesis, however, are long, spanning from several hours to days. In this work, we report on the rapid synthesis of ZnO nanowires on various substrates (such as poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), silicon and glass) using a commercially available microwave oven. The average growth rate of our nanowires is determined to be as high as 100 nm min(-1), depending on the microwave power. Transmission electron microscopy analysis revealed a defect-free single-crystalline lattice of the nanowires. A detailed analysis of the growth characteristics of ZnO nanowires as functions of growth time and microwave power is reported. Our work demonstrates the possibility of a fast synthesis route using microwave heating for nanomaterials synthesis.