Toasters are a common appliance in most people’s kitchens and help greatly in making fast meals, especially breakfast. However, toasters are not without their risks and hazards to your safety. But are toasters really that dangerous? Find out below.
Are Toasters A Fire Hazard?
Toaster timers can malfunction and not shut off. This can cause the toaster to overheat and start a fire if there are any flammable materials nearby.
Many toasters have been recalled due to the excess fire risk they create. If the toaster you own does not work the way it should, immediately turn if off and unplug it. Give it a good inspection and if there are any broken components, consider replaceing it.
New toasters are not very expensive and are worth spending the money to prevent a kitchen fire.
Fire Dangers Of Toasters
Like other electrical appliances, toasters have a risk of starting a fire. This can happen when you breifly leave the kitchen to go to the restroom or to get something.
Brands that have been reported as starting fires include:
- Black & Decker
Toasters produce heat, which is by its very nature a potential fire hazard. If the toaster does not turn off at the right time, it can burn the bread inside.
Crumbs Are A Problem
Crumbs that break off of bread and sit at the bottom of the toaster can easily catch fire if they accumulate. Toasters come with detachable trays that are easy to clean, and users should do this regularly.
Toaster Timer Malfunction
Some toasters have faulty toaster timers that will not shut off at the right time. This can lead to the toaster itself to start burning. At this point, you have to rush and unplug the toaster before it catches fire.
Have A Fire Extinguisher In Your Kitchen
If you buy a toaster, or have one already, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen that is easy to access. Do not store it in a cupboard or high up where you cannot reach it in an emergency.
You can mount it on the wall or have it sitting in a corner in plain view.
The kitchen is the most fire prone area in the house due to the cooking apparatus and quantity of electrical appliances. If a fire breaks out, it can spread quickly and become life threatening very fast.
Can Toasters Explode?
Yes, toasters can explode. Although rare, if they do it will cause flying metal shards and sparks to fly through your kitchen. This is a seriuos situation that can cause severe injury and start a fire in your kitchen.
Toasters that explode are usually severly malfunctioning. Older toasters can have faulty components or melted wiring that can cause an electrical issue. It is best to unplug your toaster when not using it and not to stay too close while it is operating.
Types Of Toasters
Toasters come in the following types:
- Simple pop-up
- Modern counter-top
- 4-slice toaster
The basic pop-up toaster has a lever and spring and pops up the bread once it is cooked. This is a simple toaster model that has a knob for changing the toasting levels between dark, medium, and light browning.
Basic pop-up toasters usually have 2 bread slots with individual levers to push down when you want to brown the bread.
Pop-up toasters have heating elements inside that allow for the bread, muffins, or bagels to cook. There are two slots to fit the bread into, while a timer is set when the lever is pushed down. Electricity flows through the heating element or coils which browns the bread.
It is easy to burn yourself with a pop-up toaster because the metal slots can get hot and burn the skin when you reach for the bread. However, pop-up toasters are less expensive than modern counter-top toasters and are fairly easy to clean.
Modern Counter-top Toaster
The modern counter-top toaster is very common, and for good reason. It has a control panel or a knob that allows for subtle browning of bread of varying degrees. They can also fit larger foods such as waffles.
A cordless toaster is similar to a counter-top type, however it does not have a cord. Instead, it relies on rechargeable batteries to operate and can be taken anywhere.
A 4-slice toaster is great for cooking multiple slices of bread at once. These are found in many homes that have large families or in restuarants that need to cook for multiple customers.
These work just like counter-top toasters, in that they use a heating coil powered by electricity. They also have a timer, light indicators, and browning options.
Sizes Of Toasters
Top 6 Large Toasters For Extra Wide Bread (2-Slice & 4-Slice)
- 1 slice
- 2 slice
- 4 slice
- 6 slice
- 8 slice – for caterers, restaurants, and banquet halls.
The dimensions of a standard 2 slice toaster are generally 11″ x 8.5″ x 7.5″.
With each additional slice available, the toaster gets longer
Toaster Vs. Toaster Oven – Whats the difference?
Toasters and toasters ovens do not look the same, for start. Toasters and toaster ovens differ in terms of:
Size and shape – Toasters are generally much smaller than toaster ovens.
Temperature – Toasters usually have very simple temperature dials, whereas toaster ovens have more detailed temperature choices that allow you to choose the exact heat to cook your food.
Power usage – Both toasters and toaster ovens average 1200 watts of power usage while operating.
Cooking speed – Toasters are faster at toasting food than toaster ovens because they heat up quicker.
Food Types – Toasters can only toast things, not cook a wide variety of foods. Toaster ovens a have much wider range of foods they can cook, such as those that require broiling and defrosting.
Cleaning A Toaster
Cleaning a toaster does not take much time or cleaning products. The burning smell in your kitchen could be your toaster, and needs some cleaning.
Find the trays at the bottom of the toaster, and shake them out in the garbage bin or sink. Make sure all the crumbs are out. You can use normal dishsoap to clean the trays and let them soak if they need it.
You can use an old toothbrush and stick it into the toaster to clean the coils of grime and crumbs. You can use water to dampen the toothbrush, but not dishsoap because it cannot be washed out.
Wipe down the outside of the toaster with a washcloth and dishsoap and remove any food build up.
Wipe down the power cord with a moist wash cloth and clean the prongs of any grime. Let the cord dry before plugging the toaster back into the outlet.
What Foods Can You Cook In A Toaster?
You can cook a variety of foods in a toaster, including:
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
- Garlic bread
- Veggie burgers
- Cold pizza
- Re-heated onion rings
- Homemade tortilla Chips
What Can You Safely Cook In A Toaster
As you can see, toasters are flexible when it comes to cooking food. However, they are not well-suited for cooking foods with creams, fillings, glazes, or loose toppings.
What You Should Not Do With A Toaster
Never Place A Toaster On Its Side
A toaster should not be placed on it side for the following reasons:
- The warranty may be voided.
- It may cause an electrical short.
- Safety mechanisms will not function properly.
The toaster’s instructions manual may explicitly say to not place the toaster on its side. This is because it can cause a fire due to the reasons listed above
Is It Dangerous To Leave A Toaster Plugged In?
Most people plug their toasters in and leave them as is, without thinking much about it. However, it is safest to unplug a toaster when it is not being used. This is especially true when leaving the house for a long vacation.
While using a toaster, it is also recommended not to leave the kitchen or room for too long, just in case they have a problem.
Does A Toaster Use Radiation?
Yes, a toaster emits Infrared Radiation (IR) from its coils when they glow red. This process converts electrical energy into thermal energy. This is what dries and crisps the bread until it is browned.
Is Toaster Radiation Bad?
Radiation is the transmission of energy in the form of subatomic particles or waves. Four radiation types exist:
- Elecromagnetic (waves) – electricity, infrared (IR) light, heat, and x-rays.
- Particle (sub-atomic) – Used in nuclear fuel, fission and fusion energy.
- Acoustic (sound) – sound waves
- Gravitational – radiation associated with the force of gravity.
Toasters Emit Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF)
Electromagnetic Radation (EMF) radiation has recievied a lot of attention in recent years due to the adverse health affects it can cause. What most people do not realize is that today’s popular electronic devices are known to emit this type of radiation, including toasters.
Specifically, toasters emit Infrared Radiation (IR) from the coils to heat bread.
Electromagnetic Radiation Health Effects
Both short term and longterm negative health effects result from exposure to EMF radiation, including:
|EMF Adverse Health Effect||Short Term / Long Term|
|Aches and pains||Short term|
|Sleeping issues||Short term|
|Cognitive and behavioral disorders||Long term|
|Fragmented DNA||Long term|
|Immune disorders||Long term|
It may not be possible for most people to remove EMF radiation from their daily lives due to necessity of these electronic devices.
You can limit your exposure to toaster EMF radiation by keeping a safe distance from the machine while it is cooking your food. However, it is not safe to leave the room while it is turned on, as it could catch fire.
Toasters Also Emit Acoustic Radiation
Toaster emit a tiny amount of acoustic radiation every time they finish cooking and you hear a “bing” sound. However, this is not going to cause any severe damage to your ears.
Can A Toaster Explode?
It is unlikely a toaster will explode if used properly. Even after catching on fire, a toaster will no likely explode. This is because toasters do not have a stored fuel source that will ignite under pressure. Toasters run on electricity and do not have tight enclosures that can trap flames, so there is very little way they could explode.
Explosions are more likely to happen due to a gas leak in the kitchen that a toaster ignites. If an explosion happens, it is not truly due to the toaster, but more due to the stove or other appliance that leaks the gas.
Even if a metal fork touches the heating element and housing element at the same time, a bright flash may occur, but not an explosion. This is due to an electric shock and the circuit breaker tripping.
Fork In A Toaster
Putting a fork in a toaster is not a good idea, although will most likely not be dangerous. However, if the fork touches both the heating element and the housing element (both conductors), the circuit breaker could trip and you could get a shock, along with a bright flash that hurts your eyes.
Modern toasters have Mica coatings on the heating element and wires that prevent such an event, but they could become damaged over time.
Knife In A Toaster
Like forks, metal knives do not belong inside a toaster. Since toasters use electricity, sticking a metal knife into a toaster is a bad idea. The person doing so could recieve a potentially fatal shock.
It is also dangerous to stick a knife in a toaster that is turned off or unplugged. This is because there could be energy current still flowing in the coils which could cause you to be electrocuted. You may also hit a lever that turns on the heating elements. The toaster could also be poorly constructed and sticking a knife inside will dislodge something that could turn it on.
Sticking a knife into a toaster could damage it and lead to a fire risk later on. Mica is a material that is used to coat the heating element and wires for insulation, and poking at it could cause it to be damaged or blow a fuse.
Although this is rare, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates 10-20 people per year die from electrocution due to misused home appliances, including toasters.
If a knife ever gets stuck in your toaster, immediately uplug it and use a wooden spoon to push the toast out from the crumb door at the bottom.
Crumbs In A Toaster – Is It Safe?
Believe it or not, but leaving crumbs in a toaster is not very safe.
Bread is fragile, and toasting it will leave crumbs. These will fall to the bottom of the toaster and will accumulate over time. They will remain close to an extremely hot element until they are either cleaned out or they catch on fire.
It is also possible a faulty toaster timer does not shut off when it is supposed to. The toaster setting could also be accidentally turned to the end and cause the toaster to burn the contents inside. If there is enough dried bread crumbs, they can turn into fuel for a fire.
If you get a burning smell from your toaster, turn it off and inspect the crumb tray. There could also be crumbs and other debris attached to the coils themselves, which will need gentle removal.
Is Burning Bread In A Toaster Dangerous?
Yes, burning bread in a toaster can be dangerous. If bread is cooked at a high setting, it can release acrylamide, as well as heat any debris, oils, or other food particles trapped inside the toaster. This will expose people to toxic particles released into the air inside the home.
If the toaster is used enough, it could release air pollution into the home greater than what is outdoors.
It is best to cook bread on a low setting and to cook toast only to a golden yellow color to minimize this. Just toasting the bread for 1 minute less may be enough.
Toasters have been recalled in the recent past by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These include those from the following manufacturers:
- Hamilton Beach
- Haier America
Most toaster are recalled due causing an increased fire risk. Some toasters have been found to stay turned on when the toaster lifter is in the up or off position. This can pose a serious fire hazard if the toaster is placed near any flammable materials.
Loose wiring and bad connections are the culprit of other toaster recalls, which again presents an increased fire hazard.
Since toasters are in such demand, manufacturers produce large quantities of them each year, and defects are bound to happen.
When purchasing a new toaster, it is best to do thorough research into the brand you are considering before buying one.
Can A Toaster Break?
Yes a toaster can break in several ways. You may notice some of the following events:
One Or More Sides Will Not Toast
It is possible that one or more sides will not toast. This can be due to some wires in the heating area being broken. Older toasters are likely to have this problem eventually. You can see this when some sections glow red hot, while others do not.
The wires inside are nichrome wire (nickel-chromium) wrapped around a brittle mica-like material. These turn red and get very hot. There may be a broken or weak spot in the wire. This could have happened during the manufacturing process, or because it was damaged by a fork or knife that was stuck inside it.
The Toaster Lever Will Not Stay Down
The toaster lever may not stay down, which is a problem. This might be when the lever is pressed and pops back up, or it needs to be pushed down multiple times before it stays down.
There is a solenoid (an electromagnet) that keeps the lever down when it is pressed. There is a current required to keep the solenoid energized, and if not enough is flowing then the lever will not stay down. This can be due to frayed or broken wiring or build up of food material.
Crumbs can also build up on the path of the lever and prevent it from functioning correctly. To fix this, open up the bottom crumb panel and empty the contents into the trash. You can also flip the toaster upside down and tap or shake it until all the crumbs come out.
The spring mechanism can also become blocked or jammed with crumbs or other material. It may require some maintenence to keep this free so that it connects with the solenoid magnet.
The Plug Wire Is Broken or Not Working
When people unplug a toaster or other appliance, they tend to yank on the wire out of the wall socket. This can cause the wires inside the cord to break over time. The weakest point is near the base of the molded plug, and this can also start to break away.
This means the toaster will not get enough power from the wall socket. Even if the LED lights on the toaster still work, it may not have enough power to toast the food enough.
It can also be due to the outlet not working, so check it by plugging in other devices into the same outlet.
Toaster Dial Is Not Working Right
Making toast of just the right amount of browning requires a functioning toaster dial. However, this can become jammed due to crumbs stuck in the socket. To clear it, first unplug the toaster and try to shake out the crumbs.
What Causes A Toaster To Stop Working?
A toaster could stop working due to several reasons:
- Broken nichrome wires
- Crumb build up
- Worn or damaged power cord
- Blocked or broken spring mechanism
- Manufacturing defects
- Broken heating element
Toasters are made of many different components, including:
- Heating element
- Nichrome wires
- Solenoid electromagnetic catch
- Bread rack
- Heat sensor
- Trip plate
- Timing mechanism
- Browning control dial
- External casing
- Power cord
- Screws, nuts, bolts, washers
- Spring loaded pop up mechanism
- Bottom plate
Any one of these parts could fail and cause the toaster to not work properly, or worse create a health or fire hazard.
Can Toasters Hurt Children?
Especially when kids are playing through the kitchen. If they can reach the appliances on the counter, they may get caught or grab the power cord, causing it to fall and land on them.
Children below a certain age should not use a toaster without supervision. They should also be taught not to stick anything inside, such as a fork or knife as this can result in electrocution or a fire hazard.
Toaster In A Bathtub
You may have seen toasters being dropped into bathtubs in television shows and Hollywood movies, and the resulting electrocution of the person inside.
This is not just a storyline, as dropping a toaster into a bathtub can be lethal. What makes it so dangerous is the amperage, where 5 to 10 amps can kill a person, regardless of whether the voltage is only 60 V. The only way to prevent this is if the toaster is unplugged or grounded.
Tap water is filled with ions, which are conductors of electricity. And this is what most people use to fill their bathtubs. If they add epsom salts to the water as well, its conductive potency increases.
However, many modern bathrooms contain electric fail safes that prevent electrocution during an accident. Whether it will trip the breaker in time to prevent an injury is up for debate.
Toaster In A Sink
Just like dropping a toaster in a bathtub, placing a toaster in a sink filled with tap water can result in electrocution and is not advised.
How Much Electricity Does A Toaster Use?
Ordinary bread toasters use between 800 and 1500 watts of energy. Toasting 6 slices of bread in a day will use up 1200 watts.
While not in operation, a toaster does not use much standby or idle power.
Battery Powered Toasters – Are They Dangerous?
Battery powered toasters are a new addition to many people’s kitchens or hotel rooms. These make toasting convenient and can be taken with you when you travel.
However, like other appliances or devices that rely on batteries for power, there is a chance the batteries can melt or catch on fire. This also depends on which type of battery is used, with Lithiu-ion batteries being more notorious for catching on fire due to their chemical structure.
Toaster Power Cord – Is It Safe?
Toaster power cords are safe, as long as they are not damaged and plugged into the outlet fully. You should never yank on a toaster power cord (or any device cord for that matter) when you unplug it from an outlet.
You should also never plug a toaster into a power strip. The power draw of the toaster can cause the power strip to overheat, increasing the chance of a fire.
If the power cord prongs become bent, it may be a good idea to replace the cord or the entire toaster. Oxidation on the plugs due to aging or arcing can cause electrical resistance resulting in them melting.
The point where the wire meets the plug is a weak point, and the internal strands of wire could become damaged or break. This will also create a point of resistance resulting in excess heat.
An old or worn power outlet can create arcing where the plug prongs meet if they do not fit tight enough. This will create heat to the point of it feeling hot to the touch. This is not good and could result in the cord melting. If this is the case, it might be a good idea to replace the outlet altogether.
If you do not unplug and move the toaster too often, the power cord should last a long time without any problems.
Are Toasters Toxic?
Yes, toasters can be toxic. Just turning on a toaster can release toxic particles into the air around them. This is mostly due to left over food materials built up inside that heat up when the toaster is running.
The result is air polution inside a person’s kitchen which can be very unhealthy.
How Common Are Toaster Fires?
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) keeps tally of the structure fire data in the U.S. 500,000 structure fires are reported each year, resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths, along with significant property damage.
Toasters have electric elements inside which can cause a fire if the toaster does not turn off. There are basic ways to prevent toaster fires, such as cleaning out the crumbs and fixing a stuck spring mechanism. You should never operate a toaster that is having problems working properly.
Can Toasters Overheat?
Yes, especially older toasters that lack overheat safety sensors that prevent the unit from overheating.
Safety mechanisms built into the toaster may be broken. The spring lever system may be jammed, resulting in the heating element not turning off.
A toaster is not designed to be turned on its side while operating, as this can render its safety components useless.
If you toaster is being used properly and is still overheating, consider getting a replacement.
Metal toasters are very common, and have a sleek shiny look to them while sitting on the counter top. However, what makes them dangerous is not their external casing, but the metal heating element inside. Regardless of the outside material, toasters can be safety hazards if they do not function as they should.
Plastic toasters are also very common, and usually have a plastic casing with metal ringed bread slots. Just like metal toasters, they can become safety hazards when malfunctioning due to defects or improper treatment. In the case of a fire, the toaster’s plastic shell may contribute to the fuel source. So, make sure to keep your toaster well cared for and cleaned of crumbs regularly.
How Long Do Toasters Last?
Good quality toasters can last a very long time. It also depends on how much they are used and whether they are for light or heavy use (i.e. restaurants or catering).
A toaster that does not have any serious malfunctions or broken components can be expected to last between 5 and 10+ years of daily use. Even inexpensive brands, such as Proctor-Silex can last 10 years or more if they are cleaned of crumbs regularly and treated well.
Do Toasters Release Carbon Monoxide?
Yes, a toaster can release Carbon Monoxide (CO2) when it burns bread. This results in “partial combustion” of the food.
If you use a CO2 detector and hold a few inches above a toaster while it browns bread, the reading will pick up around 20 ppm. This is only a tiny amount and will not require ventilation of the kitchen, so most people should not worry about it.
Toy toasters can be fun for children to learn how to use kitchen appliances. However, toy toasters have faced recalls in the past.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled plastic toy toasters which were prone to breaking to many small peices, resulting in a choking hazard.
Does A Toaster Need A Dedicated Circuit?
Kitchen appliances that use a lot of power are those that typically require their own seperate circuit breaker. These include:
- Wall ovens
- Electrical ranges
- Industrial cooking appliances – bread machines, coffee makers, etc.
Regular 2 or 4 slot kitchen toasters do not draw as much power as, say, garbage disposals or dishwashers, and therefore do not need their own dedicated circuit.
However, if they are plugged into an outlet and used at the same time as other kitchen appliances, the total energy drawn could short the circuit. This is especially true for older homes with kichens designed to handle much less power usage for fewer appliances.
So, make sure to only use a toaster when other appliances are not being used.
Why Is My Toaster Blowing The Fuse?
Even a fairly new toaster can blow the fuse, and this will cause the lights to go out. Afterwards, the main fuse box will need to be reset. This can happen even if the toaster is plugged into a different socket.
Why is this happening?
1. The toaster is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced.
2. Food is stuck between the element bars, causing the breaker to trip.
3. The toaster is wet.
4. A knife or fork got inside and did damage to the toaster.
You should not have to use an appliance that causes the circuit to trip. If you return the toaster to the store you purchased it at, you may be able to get a full refund or replacement.
Is A Toaster Oven Safer Than A Microwave?
A malfunctioning toaster oven or microwave can cause serious safety hazards for you and your home. Since each relies on electricity to operate, they can cause kitchen fires.
Toaster ovens actually use more power than some microwaves. The average microwave uses around 900 watts per hour, while a large toaster oven can use 1300 watts to heat food. So, a microwave may be more energy efficient than a toaster oven.
Safest Toaster Settings
The safest toaster settings are actually any from a properly functioning toaster. If the toaster has a faulty component, the machine could stay on, and the settings will not matter very much.
One easy accident many people have is they push the heat settings dial all the way over to the right unintentionally. This can burn the bread and other food particles, releasing toxic pollution into the kitchen air.
Ultimately, the safest toaster is the one that is unplugged and not used, because there is always a chance it could become a safety hazard.
Can You Cook Eggs In A Toaster
It is not a good idea to try and cook eggs in a toaster. For one, they will spill all the way down to the base of and make a mess all over the heat coils. This could make your toaster too dangerous to use becaues then it will become quite a fire hazard. It is best to leave cooking eggs for the frying pan or microwave.
Toaster Safety Tips
Using a toaster safely is not hard to do. The following safety tips should help:
1. Never stick anything into a toaster that does not belong there, including forks and knives.
2. Turn off and unplug a toaster that is overheating or malfunctioning
3. Only cook food in a toaster that is safe to do so, such as breads.
Are Toasters Safe?
Toasters are generally safe, but only when functioning properly and used in a safe manner. If you spot the toaster having a problem, immediately un plug it and give it a good looking over. It may need to be replaced, or just need to be cleaned of crumbs and other debris. Leaving a malfunctioning toaster to be used later can result in a fire starting in your kitchen.
The right brand and treatment of a toaster will keep them operating safety for many years. You do not have much to worry about in terms of danger if you use them in a safe manner. However, like all home electrical appliances, they are prone to failure and can cause harm to you or your family in certain cirumstances.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.