Household appliance dangers and prevention tips

Written by the Square One team

Reviewed by Jason Plante

Updated June 12, 2024 | Published November 18, 2018

When you’re at home doing your chores, appliances are your best friends. Whether cooking dinner, cleaning up afterward, or doing laundry, your refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer are by your side, making it possible to get your domestic duties done with ease.

A contractor fixing an oven

The basics of home appliance safety

Appliances aren’t simply passive assistants helping to ease the burden of your household chores. They are machines that run on electricity. Generally, they run smoothly, but they also pose hazards if not maintained properly or used correctly.

The major danger with appliances is fire, and it’s not a danger to which people want to subject themselves. Fires spread quickly and unpredictably, with great potential to cause injury, damage, and even death. It’s important to be aware of the proper safety measures when using appliances.

Man looking into the back of a fridge for repair

There are general rules everyone should follow when dealing with electric appliances and gadgets:

  • Watch the water: Don’t use or store your appliances in an area that is wet. Avoid sinks, for example, and stay away from basements and garages, since water tends to collect there.

  • Don’t force plugs: Don’t force electrical plugs into outlets not designed to accommodate them. If you have a three-pronged plug, fit it into a three-hole outlet.

  • Avoid shocks: If one of your appliances shocks you or sparks when you use it or unplug it, replace it immediately or have it repaired. Sparks and shocks indicate a dangerous electrical issue.

  • Cord common sense: Be careful when using extension cords. If they are frayed or cracked, throw them away. For major appliances, use only heavy duty extension cords that are designed to handle the high amperage. Extension cords should never feel hot to the touch.

  • Check and double check: Check your wiring regularly, looking for outlets that don’t work, lights that flicker, and switches that are hot to the touch. If you find any, have an electrician take a look.

  • Wiring watch: Don’t use extension cords as permanent wiring. Instead, explore the option of having a professional electrician add extra outlets or circuits.

  • Heavy duty: For extra safety, consider buying a laboratory–tested extension cord with built-in circuit breakers that shut down when it is overloaded.

Cook with care

Fire fighters battle a house fire with fire hose
  • Free and clear: Clean anything flammable, such as grease or oil, from the stovetop immediately. Don’t store flammable items such as oven mitts or aprons anywhere near the stovetop.

  • Dress for the occasion: Dress appropriately for cooking, ensuring that your clothing won’t catch fire by pushing up long sleeves and tucking in shirttails. Wearing shoes is also a good idea, in case you spill hot liquid accidentally.

  • Eyes wide open: Keep an eye on the stove when you’re cooking, to make sure nothing spills and catches fire. Ensure that pot handles are turned inward so that no one bumps them.

  • Stop spraying: Even though some food products come in aerosol form, never spray an aerosol near an open flame or a fire may result.

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Prevent a dryer fire

Man with tools looking inside a front loading dryer
  • Turn (to a) pro: To ensure it’s done right, have a professional install and service your dryer.

  • Trap it: Don’t use the dryer without the lint filter in place. Empty it after each use so that flammable lint isn’t left in the dryer. Also, clean lint from the drum regularly.

  • Exhausted: Check the vent pipe that leads from the dryer to the outside. Ensure that the vent flap isn’t blocked and opens all the way when the dryer is operating. Clean lint from the vent pipe annually.

  • Check connection lines: If you have a gas dryer, make sure the gas line and connection are intact and have no leaks.

  • Be selective: Don’t use the dryer to dry items that have been in contact with flammable substances, such as paint thinner, cooking oil, gasoline or alcohol.

  • Take the night off: Don’t leave the dryer running when you leave the house or go to bed at night. You don’t want a fire to break out and spread.

Microwave monitoring

Microwave ovens aren’t normally considered major appliances on par with a stove or refrigerator. Nonetheless, they are used for cooking, and there are certain hazards present. Here are a few tips to prevent microwave-related accidents:

  • Close the door: Don’t operate a microwave if the door is damaged or warped and won’t close properly.

  • Not too hot: Don’t overheat liquids. If they super-heat and erupt, you could be burned.

  • Heavy metal: Don’t use metal utensils, pans or aluminum foil in the microwave, because they will cause power arcs, with the potential to cause a fire.

This list may seem like an overabundance of rules, and some of them may seem silly. However, they are based on the unfortunate experiences of others who hope you can learn from their mistakes with their own home appliances. Stay safe!

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Jason Plante

Jason Plante is the Operations Manager for Priority Appliance Service Ltd. Jason manages a team of dedicated staff and technicians. Prior to joining Priority, Jason Plante spent many years in logistics, process improvement, and data analytics, and helped build a successful financial technology company from 18 to over 200 employees, before being acquired by PayPal.


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