5 Hidden Dangers Lurking in Your Kitchen

5 Hidden Dangers Lurking in Your Kitchen
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The kitchen may be the center of hearth and home, but not everything that happens there is happy. The kitchen, along with the bathroom, is one of the most accident-prone spots in the house.

Here are five dangers that even safety-conscious cooks may overlook:

1. Dishtowels left on the stovetop

Most home fires take place in the kitchen. And it's not always burning food that's at fault. Many fires begin because something has been left on the top of the stove, which is then turned on, either on purpose or by accident (perhaps by a young child or someone with dementia).

Dishcloths and potholders near burners are common fire-triggers. So are dishtowel covering other objects, such as bread rising in a bowl. The Home Safety Council recommends keeping anything flammable at least three feet from the stove.

Related danger: Long-sleeved or wide-sleeved robes, especially those made of flammable synthetics, can easily catch the flames of a gas stove. Many older adults dismiss this danger ("Oh, I've always worn this old robe") without realizing that they may be less attentive than they once were. Paper bags and plastic bags or wrap are other common flammables to handle carefully.

2. The fire extinguisher that isn't

Few of us think much about fire extinguishers -- until we need one. Baking soda is a handy alternative for dousing a grease fire (never use water, which can spread the flames). But if there's a fire that's quickly getting out of control, only a fire extinguisher has the force and range to snuff it out. Be sure you have a portable fire extinguisher hung within easy reach of the stove, and that you -- and anyone else who cooks in the kitchen -- is familiar with how to use it. Check also that it has been inspected and serviced at least once a year.

Related danger: Lack of smoke detectors, or one that isn't working. Get in the habit of automatically replacing batteries, whether they need it or not, in both spring and fall on the day you reset your clocks.

More hidden dangers lurking in your kitchen

3. Grease fires waiting to happen

Grease triggers more kitchen fires than anything else. But grease fires don't only happen when you're deep-fat-frying. Oil, butter, or shortening that has dripped on the stove or been picked up on the bottom of a pan from an earlier cooking session can catch fire during a later use.

The safest approach is to always wipe up grease drips, spills, and splatters as soon as they hit the stovetop. Check the bottoms of pots and pans before setting them on a burner to make sure they're clean.

Related danger: A cooker hood filter that hasn't been cleaned in a while. The cooker's hood filter helps absorb airborne grease. But if the grease builds up for years, it can present its own fire danger. Clean regularly, or replace it if it's very dirty.

4. Extension cord jungles

Kitchens tend to house more appliances -- microwaves, toasters, blenders, coffee makers, mixers, and more -- than any other room in the house. And they're often crowded onto a relatively small stretch of countertop. Enter the extension cord, as a way to give all those appliances electric juice where there are limited outlets. Unfortunately, the cords pose several hazards. They may get wet and cause electric shock. Over time they can fray. And if they run along the floor, curious little hands can yank them, dogs can chew them, and anyone, especially older adults, might trip.

What's safer: Unplug appliances after each use so they all share the outlets. Or ask an electrician to install a junction box that allows added outlets. Another option: Use a power strip up on a counter (not along the floor) to provide extra outlets.

Related danger: Appliances with frayed connector cords or wires or with faulty plugs. If an appliance isn't in perfect working order, get it repaired or replaced. It's never worthwhile to take a chance on electric gear in the kitchen, which is often used in a rush by teens or older adults who may not pay close attention.

5. Wet hands

Busy cooks or hungry family members often fly around the kitchen doing several things at once. Skipping the step of thoroughly drying hands after washing them or otherwise getting them wet, though, can get you in trouble. For example, using an appliance or unplugging one with wet hands can cause an electric shock. Wet hands also make it harder to hold onto glassware, ingredient jars, or other breakable objects.

Related danger: Not washing hands while cooking spreads bacteria. Especially when handling raw meat or eggs, wash hands before touching appliances, cupboard knobs, or fresh produce.


over 2 years ago, said...

Just reminding!


over 2 years ago, said...

An excellent review of common dangers!


over 2 years ago, said...

Something I didn't already know.


almost 3 years ago, said...

The article was very helpful. The kitchen is a place where naked flame is always lit from burners and portends danger of source of fire outbreak in the home. The suggestions are very useful.


about 4 years ago, said...

This was just a great reminder for me! Reminders are great when you are aging!!!


about 4 years ago, said...

Good observation and suggestion,I may add that all connections to the electric appliances should be vertical,connectected to mainlilne in the ceiling.Which then should be connected to a main switch installed at the kitchen door,where it can be switched off when no appliances are in use at the end of the day's work.Fridge can have a separate connection,passing through ceiling and down


about 4 years ago, said...

A lot of applied common sense, but as is pointed out, common sense and the instant way of living don't always manage to go hand in hand. Going that bit out of the way to keep things clean, dry and in good order is best done today, rather than "Can't do it right now, I'm busy" etc., such items need be done right now.


about 4 years ago, said...

Very helpful article. Thank you.


about 4 years ago, said...

My husband has always insisted on electric stove and water heater although I would rather have had a gas cooking stove but with neither of us able to smell like we used to I am glad we have electric now.


about 4 years ago, said...

These we all know it seems and I was expecting something new and you didn't even mention a lid on a burning pot of oil.


about 4 years ago, said...

The fire extinguisher. We have always relied on baking soda. We don't even have a fire extinguisher. Thanks!


about 4 years ago, said...

Reminders to be careful and pay attention to what we are doing.


about 5 years ago, said...

yes very helpful information things we sometimes over look, I'm always after my mom to be safe.. I appreciate all this information, I print out and hand it over to my mother..... Thank you so much! sincerely Hillary Richard


about 5 years ago, said...

a warning about the gas stoves. They have knobs that can be accidently turned part way on when you brush against them. Then, you FINALLY smell gas! This happened to me last night. My husband was "helping" with the dishes by putting a pot on the stove to dry. He brushed against the knob. A short time later I smelled gas and came out to investigate. It could have been tragic if I'd not noticed the smell. He doesn't smell well anymore.


about 5 years ago, said...

I NEED TO CHECK MY FIRE EXTINGUISHER.....THANKS FOR THE REMINDER!!


over 5 years ago, said...

Hello Skl, Thank you very much for your comment. If you would like to search for in-home care in your area, you can do so in our local directory: ( http://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care ). I hope that helps. Take care -- Emily | Community Manager


over 5 years ago, said...

Very good article...all are...I am addressing increased care needs with my mother who has been totally independent, she is 85y/o and lives alone. I want to be prepared to help her. Do you know of any resources for in-home care in Wood County?


over 5 years ago, said...

Helpful because I hadn't really thought of all those things. Thanks.


over 5 years ago, said...

it is a helpful article and a bell ringin to those who are careless in their kitchen


over 5 years ago, said...

very helpful


over 5 years ago, said...

The entire article


over 5 years ago, said...

that was a very good article, that I hope some epeople will adhere to


over 5 years ago, said...

to know which articles in the kitchen can cause harm to our health


over 5 years ago, said...

I always have concerns about fall hazards such as water or oil on the floor--or even ice cubes that people drop and don't bother to pick up. Sometimes pet toys get pushed into traffic lanes in the house, and nobody notices! Safety isn't just a list of rules, but that's a start. We need to have a "culture" of more safety awareness in general. For example, flammable household solvents and glues shouldn't be used within 50 feet of an appliance (stove, furnace) with a flame in it. But nobody ever reads the caution labels! I believe (but can't prove) that my aunt died from cancer as a result of using an old-formula paint stripper without enough ventilation, for a period of years...


over 5 years ago, said...

Hi Linda, Thanks for your comment. I'm about to send you an email about your request! Thanks -- Emily | Community Manager


over 5 years ago, said...

I like to share this information with the senior newsletter I do. Is there a way to save the articles to my files as long as I show caring.com as the source?


over 5 years ago, said...

Thank You for reminding each of us to be more careful. I know I often times take things for granted and then ,Poof, something occurs to remind me to use common sense.