Fire Dangers of Toasters

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Toasters cause a suprising number of kitchen fires.
Toasters cause a suprising number of kitchen fires. (Image: toaster -on- image by Robert Kelly from Fotolia.com)

Many are as lost without their morning toast as they are without coffee. The warm, crispy buttery bread is a breakfast staple that starts the day off right, especially if it has some of Grandma's jam spread on it. You can make toast in a toaster, a toaster oven or by putting it under broil in the oven. The standard two- or four-slice toaster is still a kitchen staple, but its safety has been under question. Toasters cause numerous fires annually and untold property damage. The danger comes in several forms and makes you think twice about the wisdom of using a toaster.

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Don't Neglect Your Power Cord Health

The electrical cord on a toaster performs an important function. Not only does it transfer power from the wall socket to the appliance to make it work, but it safely contains the wires that hold that power. When the cord is melted, the protection is compromised and anything can happen, including fire. Damaged, crimped or melted cords should be a signal that the appliance is not safe to use, or you may get a shock at the least. Damaged cords can even cause fire when the unit is not in use, so they should be unplugged and retired.

Crumbs Are for the Birds

Even the best housekeeper doesn't empty the toaster daily. The bottom of the toaster has an "out of sight out of mind" quality. The crumbs lurking down by the elements are a potential fire hazard. Dry bread crumbs can be considered fuel for a fire. Combine them with the close proximity of an extremely hot element, and they can smoke and even flame. A toaster needs to be kept free of bits of debris and crumbs to keep it working its best and safest.

Butter Goes on After

Believe it or not, some toaster fires are caused by people trying to melt their butter. When the buttered bread is put in the toaster, it drips onto the hot element. If you have ever seen a hotdog drip into a fire as it was cooking on a stick, you know that the greasy juice causes a flare up when it hits a coal. This is the same problem that occurs when you try to melt the butter onto the bread and toast at the same time. The best option is to toast and then smear.

It Came That Way

Consumer Watch reports that 10,000 Viking toasters were recalled due to loose wiring and 106,000 Haier America units were recalled for bad electrical connections. A 1998 statistic held that toasters were responsible for 2,200 fires. Toasters have gotten better since then, with automatic shutoff in case of overheating and easier to clean models, but they are still dangerous. A 2008 report from Consumer Reports recounts the recall of two toasters from different manufacturers that didn't turn off. Manufacturers churn out toasters, and there are bound to be defects and hazards associated with the appliances. Careful research and consideration should be conducted before purchasing a toaster. Switching to cereal might be safer.

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