What would you think is the greatest fire hazard in your home? Which appliance out of everything in your kitchen is most likely to start a fire? While cooking appliances, such as your oven or toaster, are indeed the most likely to start a fire, your dishwasher is the biggest risk of all your non-cooking appliances. The combination of electronics and heating elements in proximity to water means there’s a chance any malfunction of your dishwasher could result in fire.
While this thought might be alarming, you shouldn’t let it distress you (or let it discourage you from using your dishwasher). Instead, be diligent about avoiding these four common problems.
Let’s face it, cords can wear out over time. The protective lining degrades, exposing the electrical currents to everything around the cord. This is why you could get shocked by touching an electric cord with a worn-out lining. Those electric shocks become an even greater risk when they are around water, as they likely will be when you’re running a wash cycle. Regular checks of your electrical wiring will ensure they don’t deteriorate too badly before they become a fire hazard.
Grease and high heat are always a risk, and your dishwasher is designed with a grease trap to catch all the grease that would otherwise clog up your pipes. Over the years, this grease can build up unless it is cleaned out properly. If this flammable grease gets exposed to high heat, it can catch fire. To minimize this risk, be diligent about cleaning out your grease trap on a regular basis—at least twice a year. You can clean out the grease by running a commercial cleaner through your regular dishwashing cycle.
If you’ve ever tried to fit as many dirty dishes into one load as you possibly can, you’re not alone—after all, who actually wants to run cycle after cycle of their dishwasher if they can do it all in one load? But the reality is that an overloaded dishwasher puts a lot of strain on the appliance. An overworked dishwasher can burn out and catch fire. Therefore, it’s safest to run dishwasher cycles that are full but not overloaded.
A professional inspection can ensure that everything about your dishwasher is working properly—and can safely fix anything that isn’t in good condition. Unfortunately, dishwasher maintenance is not something you want to DIY, as this could make the problem worse. A poorly “fixed” issue could increase the risk of electrical malfunction and fire.
While the risk of fire is very real, this shouldn’t discourage you from using your dishwasher—it’s a practical appliance that saves you a lot of time and energy. However, proper care is important. Therefore, make a point of observing these three major safety rules when you’re using your dishwasher.
Have a thorough knowledge of your dishwasher and be realistic in your expectations. Read the instruction manual so you are familiar with the proper way to use it and any safety warnings you should know about. The instruction manual will likely also give you directions on registering your dishwasher on the manufacturer’s website. That way, if there’s a recall, you will know about it.
When you are installing your dishwasher, have a professional, such as a plumber, provide direction on the safest way to install it. A dishwasher should be plugged into a grounded wall socket rather than an extension cord or a surge protector. Additionally, the electric socket you plug your dishwasher into should be able to handle the electric load your dishwasher requires. Be sure the electric cord running off your dishwasher doesn’t run anywhere it might be exposed to standing water.
Don’t let your dishwasher run unattended. While it might seem easy to start the wash cycle right before you go to bed or leave the house to run errands, this will mean you will not be around to take notice if anything starts to malfunction. Electric sparks or the smell of smoke could precede the fire, giving you ample time to address the problem before it becomes a danger. Have a smoke detector in your kitchen and check it regularly to make sure it works. Another smart precaution is to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen in case of an emergency.