When we think of damage that can be caused in the kitchen, the focus is usually on safety. There’s good reason for this, of course. Personal safety is obviously of paramount importance as there’s no room in the house as potentially dangerous as the kitchen. Whether it’s the heat from the oven and the hob; the steam from the kettle; the sharp edges of knives; or even the hard corners of cabinets at child-head-height; there are a lot of potential hazards lying in wait in the kitchen. It’s therefore not a surprise to see that most advice articles online tend to focus on keeping the family safe from harm in the kitchen. But let’s not forget there are a lot of things – often the same things that can harm us – that can also cause damage to your kitchen.
Avoid damage to your kitchen: Make it last a lifetime
Okay, so a lifetime is perhaps stretching it a bit, but we all want our new kitchen to last. After all, installing a new kitchen is usually one of the biggest single expenses that you come across in terms of home improvements. Of course, there are various ways that you can keep costs down. For example, you could simply buyreplacement kitchen doors to place on your existing cabinets. But, if you are going for a new kitchen refit – or a full remodelling – the price tag is likely to be high. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a big ticket expense.
What’s more, a full kitchen refit can cause a fair amount of disruption in the home too. And whatever budget you’re on, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is replacing your kitchen every couple of years. A new kitchen might not be for keeps, but you’ll want it to be for a good while. So, avoiding damage to your kitchen is very important. Let’s look at some of the things that can cause damage to your pride and joy. Some of these are obvious, others less so. But all things have something in common, they cause damage to your kitchen – and that’s what you’ll want to avoid.
Damage to your kitchen can come from the unlikeliest of places
The humble kettle – a staple of the kitchen – isn’t usually considered to be particularly dangerous. Yes, you need to be mindful of the boiling hot water and steam that a kettle emits. But, other than watching out for this; ensuring that it’s not going to be knocked over; and making sure that the electrics are in good working order; you’d be excused for thinking that there’s not a lot that could go wrong with a kettle.
Actually, a kettle can cause a lot of damage to your kitchen!
How to avoid your kettle causing damage
Generally, kettles are regarded as safe kitchen items, and you are likely to experience few issues with them. However, they can be quite damaging to the décor of the kitchen. Sometimes homeowners also consider positioning kettles under cupboards, to save space and avoid clutter on the worktop surface.
Putting a kettle under a cupboard is safe and is not a fire-risk. However, a kettle can cause damage to your kitchen. This is because the steam a kettle generates can harm the appearance of the cupboard. If you keep a kettle underneath a cupboard for a long period of time there’s a good chance that the wood will become unsightly and discoloured. Not only that, the wood can be weakened too. Steam-burn is a white film that forms on the surface of wood over time.
Indeed, the damage to your kitchen from kettle steam can be even more serious. Melamine cabinets could melt. Frequent bursts of heat can also the cabinet to dry out. It can cause warpage and shrinkage. In the worst cases, it can even cause the structure to fracture and splinter.
In conclusion it’s really not a good idea to keep a kettle underneath a cabinet, if you want to protect the woodwork in your kitchen.
Where should you keep your kettle?
So, the question remains: where in the kitchen should you keep your kettle? If possible, you should resist the natural urge to place your kettle underneath overhanging top cabinets. This will prevent steam from coming into contact with the bottom of the cabinets and avoid potential damage to your kitchen. Of course, it’s easy to forget this sort of thing, so another option would be to invest in heat shields for your cabinets. As the name suggests, heat shields protect the surface of the cabinets by deflecting heat and steam away from them. If your kitchen is large enough for an island, that is a great place to put your kettle.
How heat and team damages surfaces
Wooden cabinets are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat and steam. Essentially, it causes the wood to either expand or contrast as a result of the changes in humidity. This can have a noticeable effect on the shape of the wood. It can also affect the structural rigidity and integrity of the cabinet, as well as altering its physical dimensions. Hardwoods offer better protection than the likes of plywood, which will contort and disintegrate relatively quickly if left in prolonged contact with heat and steam.
Prolonged exposure will affect all wood types. Fibreboard will alter in thickness. In time, the joints of the cupboard will weaken. Lighter woods, such as white sapwood will darken when exposed to steam. Similar damaging results will occur with any type of raw or untreated wooden kitchen cabinet materials.
How to protect your kitchen cabinets from excess moisture
If wooden cabinets are exposed to excess moisture in the kitchen, it is important to do everything possible to boost the airflow to dry the wood out. If you have a kitchen that generates a lot of heat, a fan and a dehumidifier are certainly recommended. It’s vital that you remember that excessive steaming will always cause lasting damage, if the area is left untreated – or the problem is ignored – for long enough.
Humidity levels are best kept below 55% to avoid the deterioration of wooden cabinets. The good news is that once you have got the humidity level down to an acceptable level and that level is maintained, indicators of damage will lessen very quickly.
Protecting damage to your kitchen from a kettle’s steam
Decent ventilation throughout the kitchen is the key to protecting steam damage to your kitchen. If the space is properly ventilated, the moisture has an exit point. This ensures that the wood of the cabinets isn’t damaged.
It’s worth remembering that it can often be quite difficult and challenging to add decent ventilation to an existing and established kitchen. If you are designing a kitchen from scratch, make sure that you factor in issues such as heat, steam and moisture – and plan for adequate ventilation around the room.
When dealing with heat and steam issues in an existing space, repositioning the kettle is probably the best option. It will certainly be cheaper and less challenging than trying to add other ventilation solutions instead. One option is an open area away from the wall – anywhere where the steam is able to dissipate into the air freely is a suitable position to choose.
Laminated cupboards offer an extra layer of protection against potential moisture damage. Laminated cabinets aren’t waterproof by themselves. However, the smooth coating that the laminate creates prevents water from seeping into the hardwood and therefore causing damage. Laminated cabinets tend to be glossy by default. Having said that, they can be painted any colour to blend in with your chosen kitchen design.
How to repair steam damage to your kitchen
Naturally, prevention is always better than cure. However, advice articles such as this sometimes come too late. So, what do you do if steam damage to your kitchen has already occurred? Well, fortunately, it’s not the end of the world. Repairing steam damage usually isn’t too difficult. Typically, the damage is relatively superficial – and is to just the finish of the surface. There are a few simple ticks and tricks that can be employed to repair affected areas.
Sandpaper can be used on damaged areas. Fold the sandpaper into thirds and lightly sand the affected area in an oval motion. The oval shape is necessary as it will enable you to blend smoothly with the existing finish. If you can see that the shine has been removed and exposed wood is showing, don’t sand any further. Ideally, once the sanding is complete, add a layer of varnish that is in keeping with your woodwork. For the best possible results, this should be followed up with another sanding, and the addition of one further coat of varnish.
An alternative to sanding is to dry the affected the area of the kitchen with a hairdryer. Hold the dryer around 20cm away from the surface. Repeat the process 4 or 5 times a day at regular intervals until you see an improvement. Be patient – improvement will come! The hairdryer method is most effective on new and recent steam damage.
Common oven damage problems
After steam and heat damage from the kettle, the other appliance in the kitchen that is most likely to cause you problems is the cooker. One of the most common issues is when the units appear to be burning at either side of the oven. When this occurs, it is normally due to a problem with either the door seal or the door itself. If the cooker is a few years old, it’s typical for the door seals to become worn. When this happens, the door does not seal properly. This causes heat to escape, and this will lead to damage to your kitchen units.
Another common problem can occur with the fold down doors of the oven. Over time, the door hinges have a tendency to fail. Often, people rest pots and pans on the open door. The problem is that the hinges aren’t really designed to take the extra weight. It will eventually cause warpage to the springs of the hinge. As they warp and become bent out of shape, the door will no longer create a clean seal around the edges of the oven door.
Problems sometimes also occur with the oven door latch. Again, over time and through natural wear and tear, the door latch will begin to allow a certain amount of ‘give’ or movement. This can also mean that the heat from the oven escapes, potentially causing damage to your kitchen cabinets.
What if the appliance is new?
All the above examples are a result of wear and tear over a period of time. Occasionally, problems can occur with newer appliances too. If there are no signs of any physical damage within a year of installation, then it is very unlikely that there is a fault with the appliance. Problems with newer appliances usually stem from either poor installation or inadequate ventilation. Similarly, issues can occur if there is not enough space between the oven front and adjacent doors. To check if there is a fault with your cooker – or the installation – it is important that you use only qualified engineers. You can find a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer near you here.
The importance of keeping ovens clean
Microwaves and gas ovens, particularly, need regular cleaning if you want the appliances to maintain optimum performance. Without this regular cleaning, the efficiency of the equipment will be reduced. The heating coil of the microwave can also be impaired too. Therefore, you should always clean your oven after use. This doesn’t need to be intensive – all it requires is a wipe down with a soft sponge or cloth that has been dampened with a mild dishwashing cleaner or simply water mixed with vinegar. Keep on top of this and the appliance should work at peak performance for a longer period of time.
Other potential causes of damage to your kitchen
Sharp items in the dishwasher can cause damage. When we are in a hurry, we sometimes load the dishwasher up with sharp objects, such as knives and forks. The danger is that this damages the rack. When the rack is dinged it can cause nicks in the vinyl coating of the rack. In time, thew will rust and cause rust stains onto your utensils. You can avoid this by not placing such sharp objects in the dishwasher at all. If you must, place them in the basket with the blunt ends pointing down and do this carefully and slowly to avoid dinging the rack.
Overfilling the fridge and freezer and other common mistakes
Most people know that a full freezer, generally, is more efficient than an empty freezer. However, there is one important caveat to bear in mind. If you overfill the freezer, it can block the air vents. As cold air is restricted, the fridge’s condenser is affected. This can cause the fridge to burn out. Similar problems can occur if you overfill the fridge too. Keep things organised and you shouldn’t experience any problems.
You should be careful how the clean the burner of a gas stove. Soap can rust gas range burners. It can also clog up light holes. This will cause the burner to flame more slowly. Never use soap and a scrubber. You should use only a damp cloth to clean a burner. The best advice is to always read the manual and follow the cleaning instructions carefully.
The mixer can also be a problem. If you overfill the mixer, it can make the lid come loose. Material can fall out of the mixer, allowing water to enter the machinery. This causes damage quite quickly.
The moral of the story is definitely to keep on top of the regular maintenance and cleaning of all your kitchen appliances. Of course, we all know how easy it is to skip the day-to-day wiping down and such like. Many of us tend to leave things to the very occasional ‘deep clean’. The thing with this approach is that it makes things harder on yourself – and you also run the risk of allowing damage to occur which then becomes harder to deal with.
Fire and electrical hazards
Other than the risk of scalding; cutting yourself on a sharp utensil; or picking up a red-hot pan without an oven glove, etcetera, perhaps the biggest dangers that you can encounter in the kitchen are fire and electrical hazards.
The regular use of electrical equipment and naked flames are part of the day-to-day use of your kitchen. It’s something that simply can’t be avoided. Nobody needs reminded that fire and electricity can be significant dangers. Not only can they cause burns and shocks that can be extremely painful, they can also ignite fires. Obviously, if a fire is not contained and put out swiftly, it can cause major damage to the kitchen and, potentially, the rest of the property.
How to minimise the risks
To minimise fire and electrical hazards in the kitchen, you should always take great care when working around naked flames or electric hobs. Take care to keep flammable materials away from heat sources. Electrical equipment and appliances should only be used for their intended purpose. All instructions and guidance should be followed carefully. It’s also important to not overload electrical sockets and always ensure that electrical appliances are kept away from water.
It’s also important to regularly check the cables and plugs of all your appliances and kitchen equipment. Fraying, exposed wires, dents, and burn marks can all be a warning sign. You should never attempt to repair gas or electrical items yourself. You should always leave this to the professionals.
It’s a good idea to turn off all equipment and appliances after use and at the end of the day. This will minimise risk and save you money on your energy bills.
If you are considering having a new kitchen, get in touch with the Kitchen Warehouse team. We are always here to offer friendly advice and share our years of expertise.