18 Common Kitchen Hazards Lurking in Every Home

We use our kitchens every day to prepare and store food. But this room that you use every day is full of hazards -- including some you might not even think about. Burns, cuts, fires, and even slips and falls often happen in the kitchen. We've highlighted 18 of the most common kitchen hazards you probably have in your home right now -- and what you can do to lessen their danger to you and your family.

  1. No fire extinguisher: Every home should have a fire extinguisher handy near the kitchen, where so many home fires start. Look for a multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher and keep it in or near your kitchen. Be sure to tell all family members where it is stored and how to use it.
  2. Shattered glass casseroles: Glass casseroles can adversely react to a change in temperature, whether they're pulled from a refrigerator and placed in a hot oven or pulled out of a hot oven and placed on a cool counter, or both. This change in temperature can cause glass casseroles to shatter and sometimes explode, ruining dinner and potentially causing injury as well. Never place chilled casseroles directly from your refrigerator to oven. Instead, let them warm up on the counter for a bit while your oven preheats. Then when you pull casseroles out of the oven, place them on a trivet on your counter.
  3. Poor refrigerator storage: Raw meat can contaminate other food in your refrigerator if not stored properly. Always put raw meat in sealed containers or plastic bags to avoid contamination. They should also be placed on lower shelves, never above fruit or vegetables that won't be cooked.
  4. Dirty oven: Oven cleaning is hardly anyone's favorite chore, but it's important. A dirty oven can cause fires while cooking, allowing charred food or grease to ignite. Clean your oven regularly and always attend food while cooking in the oven.
  5. Greasy range hood: Accumulated grease under your range hood is the perfect recipe for starting a grease fire -- especially if you have a little flare up that reaches the hood. Keep your range hood clean and change your filter regularly.
  6. Hot pots and pans: If not handled properly, pots and pans with hot food can cause burns and scalding, especially with curious children. Turn handles away from the edge of the stove so they can't be easily knocked off. Use back burners whenever possible.
  7. Improper utensil and knife storage: Your utensil drawer is likely filled with lots of sharp objects and items that can cause injury if they are grabbed the wrong way. Take care to point sharp items away from where family members might reach when they go through the drawer, and keep the drawer organized in a consistent way so that family members know where the sharp items are. Sharp knives should be stored in a knife block out of reach of children.
  8. Household chemicals: Many families store household chemicals and cleaning products underneath the sink. This is dangerous, as children can easily reach these chemicals that can be harmful or fatal if ingested or put on the skin. Instead, store these items out of reach in a locked cabinet where children can't get to them.
  9. Dirty sponges: Sponges can hold on to disease causing bacteria -- that you later spread on to dishes or your counter tops. Regularly microwave a wet sponge for about a minute to sterilize it. Just be sure not to microwave a dry sponge, as it can catch fire.
  10. Unattended food: Never turn your back on a pot cooking on your stove or step out while you've got something cooking in the microwave or oven. This is especially dangerous if a fire occurs and you're not there to put it out quickly. Turn the appliance off if you have to leave the area.
  11. Wet floors: Spills happen in the kitchen, whether you're washing dishes or moving a pot of water. Even a few chunks of ice can be accidentally left on the floor, causing a slip and fall hazard. Be aware of all liquids on the floor and be careful to wipe them up immediately. Consider placing a mat on the floor in areas that are often wet and high traffic, such as in front of your sink and stove. Of course, be careful to avoid loose mats and rugs on the floor, as they are a tripping hazard. Place a backing strip on them to make sure they don't go anywhere.
  12. Loose clothing and hair: Loose clothing, long sleeves, and long hair can be fire hazards in the kitchen. Roll up sleeves, tie your apron tight, and tie up long hair before cooking.
  13. Flammables near stove tops: Avoid placing flammable materials near the stove top, even if it's not on at the time. Dish cloths, paper towels, pot holders, wooden utensils, even food boxes should be placed away from the stove top.
  14. Unsharpened knives: This may seem counterintuitive, but dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones. Why? You have to press harder with a dull knife, which can cause injuries as they are more difficult to control. It's best to use sharp blades on a non slip food cutting board. Keep them away from the edge of the counter and never try to catch a falling knife.
  15. Kitchen home heating: Never heat your home using kitchen appliances. Ovens and stoves should never be used to heat a room.
  16. Plugged in appliances: Small appliances including crock pots, blenders, food processors, and toasters can be a fire hazard if left plugged in. Always unplug them when not in use.
  17. Bacteria in thawed food: Leaving food to thaw on the counter can be dangerous, as it allows bacteria to multiply quickly. Plan ahead and give your food time to safely defrost in the refrigerator. Unless you're defrosting an entire bird, moving food from the freezer to fridge the night before should be fine.
  18. Overloaded electrical circuits: Plugging too many appliances into one outlet can lead to disaster. Overloading circuits can cause a fire.

Photo by Flickr user statefarm