11 Top Tips for Kitchen Safety

Originally posted August 29, 2014. Revised and updated January 5, 2017.

Think about cooking, with its sharp knives and intense heat. It’s no wonder accidents happen while we’re preparing food for our families.

And what about the sleek, shiny surfaces like granite countertops and quarry tile floors? Have you ever dropped a glass and watched, horrified, as it shattered into a zillion little shards?

The following is a recipe for safety that will help you to minimize kitchen mishaps and enjoy cooking in your home.

1. Wear Sturdy Shoes

As simple as it sounds, this is a key safety practice.

Recently, someone in my house – who shall remain nameless – not only dropped a glass, but proceeded to walk barefoot over the broken slivers, leaving a red trail in his wake.

This is why good First Aid kits contain tweezers, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In addition to protection from broken bits, shoes provide a barrier between your foot and a falling knife, heavy platter, or hot gravy.

How to Avoid Dangerous Kitchen Slip-Ups | Foodal.com

The footwear that’s best for cooking and kitchen use has non-skid soles, sturdy toe caps, supportive arches, and comfortable insoles.

In addition to protection from injuries like dropped items and slippery floors, shoes that are comfortable for long periods of standing will help prevent back and leg strain.

Your feet are your foundation, so treat them well!

2. Dry Your Hands

Have you noticed how chefs on TV tuck a dishtowel into their waistbands?

This is so they can constantly wipe their hands. Clean, dry hands have better traction for gripping than wet ones do.

Again, picture a drinking glass slipping through wet fingers…

Ensure Safety in Your Kitchen with These Tips | Foodal.com

Also, wet hands conduct heat quickly. If you handle a hot item without first drying your hands, you’re likely to flinch and let go.

Similarly, if you put wet hands into oven mitts and reach for a hot baking pan, you’re going to conduct the intense heat of the oven right into your damp skin. Ouch!

3. Respect Everything with a Blade

Be sure to clean knives and other sharp items immediately after use. Wash each individually, and never leave one submerged in water, where it may become an invisible peril.

Preventing Accidental Cuts and Other Harms in the Kitchen | Foodal.com

Always store knives with blades and tips pointed downward. Wood blocks and drawer dividers help to further reduce the risk of injury.  No one wants to reach into a drawer and graze a razor-sharp blade.

And please, never try to catch a falling knife! Try your best to step out of the way.

Use caution when cleaning food processor blades, blender blades, and immersion blenders, as well. Wash each individually, pat dry, and put away immediately.

Careful Kitchen Cutting and Other Kitchen Safety Tips | Foodal.com

Now that we’ve established these ground rules, careful cleaning isn’t the only item that’s important to point out when it comes to sharp kitchen tools. 

Did you know that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one?

A cutting implement should be sharp enough to work under moderate pressure. If you find yourself having to force it through food, it either needs to be sharpened, or it is not the proper tool for the job.

A heavy knife with a substantial blade is great for chopping, whereas a serrated one is perfect for sawing slices of bread from a crusty loaf. Using the wrong knife, or a dull one, may result in a cutting injury.

Sturdy tools and proper cutting techniques help to minimize the risk of injury. A good quality chef’s knife and a knife sharpening system may be good investments.

4. Store Gear Properly

Modern cabinetry is designed with safety in mind! There’s never been a better time to store cooking equipment ergonomically, with heavy items stored low, and lighter ones up high.

Countertop appliance garages keep items like standing mixers within easy reach.

Avoid Kitchen Mishaps with Your Kitchenware | Foodal.com

Also, be sure stored items have plenty of room for manipulation into and out of cabinets. Stacking dissimilar items, like cups within bowls, may result in dropping multiple items, breakage, and injury.

The same goes for the refrigerator. I like to use plastic containers with lids so I can securely stack and retrieve food.

I know glass is a better choice when it comes to the environment, but I can’t tell you how many times someone has used my little Pyrex dessert dishes and plastic wrap to store bits of leftover food, only to fumble them and send bits of glass waaaaay under the fridge!

But I digress…

5. Keep Floors and Counters Free of Debris

It’s not only a challenge to work in a cluttered space, it’s dangerous.

I have a ceramic cooktop, and it’s tempting to use it as an additional counter. However, my son the firefighter says this is a big no-no.

Steering Clear of Kitchen Burns and Other Harms | Foodal.com

Unless you’ve got food cooking in a pot, the stove top should be clear.

The same goes for the oven. Use the drawer below for cookie sheets and baking pans, but please don’t store anything in the oven itself. You might forget, turn it on, and start a fire.

In addition, you need to keep clear paths between the stove, fridge, sink, and table. Children’s toys are particularly treacherous when strewn across a kitchen floor.

Prevent Slippery and Dangerous Kitchen Slip-Ups | Foodal.com

Wipe up spills as soon as they happen. Sticky foods like honey may harden and attract ants, and dropped raw chicken may leave bacteria behind. Clean countertops and floors are essential to kitchen safety.

A wet floor is a major hazard. Slipping can cause muscle strain, falling can break bones, and falling while carrying sharp or breakable objects multiplies the risk of serious injury.

If you break a glass, come to a grinding halt!

Shards of glass become projectiles with the force of breakage, and ensuring that they have not landed in food is the number one priority. Second is cleaning up the glass with great care.

Use a broom and dust pan to sweep up as much of the glass as possible.

Avoid Kitchen Cuts and Other Sharp Dangers | Foodal.com

Throw glass away in an appropriate receptacle. Next, use a wet paper towel or disposable rag to go over the area to pick up glass fragments that were too small for the broom to catch. Wrap fragments in the towel or rag, and then throw away.

Use your vacuum attachment to carefully vacuum the broom straw and the dust pan. Then vacuum the floor. Discard the vacuum bag.

6. Maintain Equipment

As with a dull knife, a poorly maintained cooking implement is an accident waiting to happen.

Avoid Cuts in the Kitchen and Other Dangerous Blunders | Foodal.com

Make it a practice to regularly examine your cooking gear. Make sure all screwed-in parts are tight. Lids should fit snugly and handle grips shouldn’t wobble. Discard any items that may pose a hazard.

Do you have a pot or maybe a frying pan that no longer sits squarely on your stove? Did you know that it’s probably because you used it over high heat?

Avoiding Common (But Dangerous) Kitchen Accidents | Foodal.com

Many of today’s modern cooking equipment heats up very quickly and efficiently, and doesn’t require settings greater than medium-high for optimal performance. In fact, high heat causes them to warp. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions for the care and use of all of your equipment.

Also, evaluate your china. Is the glaze intact, or do chips and cracks mar the surface? In addition to harboring bacteria, these pieces are liable to break under the slightest amount of heat or pressure.

7. Use Common Sense

Remember how the teacher used to tell the kid in the back of the room to stop tipping his chair back? (Or was that you?)

When you use tools as they were intended to be used, you can avoid some common kitchen injuries.

Don’t use knives to pry lids open. Some knives don’t go the full length of their handles, and may snap under excessive pressure.

And how many times have you stretched to get something seldom used out of that silly cabinet over the fridge?

Stay safe in the kitchen with these simple tips: https://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/kitchen-safety-avoid-cuts/

I know I’ve done it more than once, and felt my lower back seize with the strain. Don’t do it! Keep frequently used items within reach.

If you need an item from a high cabinet, use a step-stool to retrieve it. Climbing on chairs is not recommended, but if you must do so, place the chair’s back firmly against the counter before stepping onto the chair. If possible, have someone hold the chair steady for you.

And after reaching into that cabinet, remember to close it. Head injury and even concussion may result from banging your head on the bottom or corner of a cabinet door.

Once you have the equipment or utensil you need, be sure to use it per the manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s a new gadget, or one you use rarely, practice first and be sure to use it properly.

8. Take Child-Proofing Measures

There are special considerations when you have small children in the house. First, never leave them unattended, especially in areas where food is being prepared.

Avoid Kitchen Blunders and Keep Your Kids Safe | Foodal.com

Sit on your kitchen floor one day when you are making dinner, and look up. Do you see oven knobs within reach? Are pot handles pointing out over the stove, just waiting to be tipped downward?

Child-proof your home with latches on the cabinets and the refrigerator, and keep breakables out of reach.

9. Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy

If you see flames that aren’t coming from your gas burners or a flambéed dessert, call 911, or your local emergency responders.

A fire needs air to burn. If you have the presence of mind to remember to NEVER put water on a grease fire, you may be able to put out the flames by covering the burning pan with a lid, dousing it with baking soda, or drenching it with a fire extinguisher.

Need a primer on kitchen safety? Learn about safe knife handling, the importance of keeping clean and organized, and more: https://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/kitchen-safety-avoid-cuts/

Many folks have tried to put out a cooking fire, only to find that they have made it worse and injured themselves in the process. Precious time may be wasted unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

My advice is to call for help immediately.

10. Make a First Aid Kit

Every home should have a first aid kit for minor emergencies.

It should contain alcohol pads, antibacterial ointment, a bandage roll, self-sticking bandages, cloth tape, disposable gloves, gauze pads, scissors, a sling, tweezers, a white washcloth, and a book on the basics.

Learn how to avoid accidental injuries in the kitchen with these simple tips: https://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/kitchen-safety-avoid-cuts/

I know we live in modern times, but I once cut my arm during an unprecedented tornado that whipped through my neighborhood. It was some time before I could get to the hospital for stitches.

Sometimes you need to help yourself or a loved one until you can get to a doctor. So, don’t just stockpile the supplies. Read the first aid book and be prepared.

In the event of an emergency, try to remain calm.

If you have cut yourself, rinse the area under a gentle stream of cool tap water. Sanitize tweezers with an alcohol pad, and gently remove any remaining debris, such as glass shards. If the cut is deep, or you are feeling unwell, seek professional help immediately.

Improving Your Safety in Your Own Kitchen | Foodal.com

If you deem the cut to be minor, elevate the area, place a clean white cloth over the wound, and apply firm pressure until the bleeding stops. Bandage per the directions in your first aid book.

If the wound continues to bleed, and repeated attempts to stop the bleeding fail, seek professional help.

Some injuries may appear small, but may require stitches to promote healing and prevent scarring. Ask your physician for a professional opinion.

For burns and eye injuries, always consult a medical professional.

11. A Word on Food Safety

There’s another key element to staying out of harm’s way, and that’s food safety.

Setting the Wrong Temperature and Other Common Kitchen Mistakes | Foodal.com

Proper storage, handling, and preparation of food is essential to good health. Read labels for important information on things like cooking temperatures and expiration dates, to ensure that the food itself is never a source of danger in your home.

An Ounce of Prevention

An organized kitchen, careful work habits, and well-maintained equipment are key ingredients in the recipe for cooking success. However, sometimes even with the best intentions, things don’t turn out well.

Stress in the kitchen is one sure-fire way to ruin your best laid plans.

Maybe you’re running late for work and you’re trying to get the kids fed before school. Distractions and rushing are two common causes of cooking catastrophes.

How To Skip These Common Harmful Kitchen Mistakes | Foodal.com

Do your best to minimize morning stress with make-ahead meals for busy days. Keep your cool, and stay out of harm’s way in the kitchen!

We love to hear from our readers! Contact us in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not in the garden, she’s in the kitchen preparing imaginative gluten- and dairy-free meals. With a background in business, writing, editing, and photography, Nan writes humorous and informative articles on gardening, food, parenting, and real estate topics. Having celiac disease has only served to inspire her to continue to explore creative ways to provide her family with nutritious locally-sourced food.

23 thoughts on “11 Top Tips for Kitchen Safety”

  1. Thanks for the safety tips in the kitchen! Knives that are either sharp or dull are dangerous. Sometimes, licking food off could cut your tongue so avoid doing that so. Also, bee sure to keep those knives out of reach of children, too!

  2. ”A dull kitchen knife is more dangerous than a sharp kitchen knife.” I have never heard a truer word spoken. I injured my index finger using a stupid, blunt knife last year. Completely my own fault, I should have sharpened or replaced it, but I was used to it. I had to force it to cut some cheese and lent over on it and cut myself. I recommend everyone keeps their knives sharp!

  3. I had no clue in regard to a blunt knife because most of my accidents in the kitchen have been via a sharp knife but will take that advice to book, very detailed tip on how to use a knife when cutting something to avoid cutting oneself…as for staying calm once cut…for me, i’ d have to talk myself into it…i just hate the sight of blood, it somehow puts me into shock mode…next time it happens {fingers crossed..hoping not} i ‘ll try keep calm and won’t panic. 🙂

    • Diane,

      Freeze, Fight, or Flight. Just try to switch yourself into a fight mode every time you sense yourself beginning to panic (with any situation).

      • Thank you for the advice there Lynne…true heroic words 🙂 …military style 🙂 …now i have a new mantra when faced with overwhelming scenarios {am all grins and thankful}

  4. My biggest problem is dull knives. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a truly good knife. and you are completely right! It has caused me many cuts, due to having to exert so much force that the food just rolls over and I get cut in the process. I really need to invest in a good knife.

    You should do a knife recommendation thread! I’ve heard Victorinox knives are an excellent value priced knife, but I’ve never seen them in stores.

    • Oatey,

      Both Victorinox and Russell-Dexter offer awesome values. Many prep-type chef’s use these as they often use “house” knives or a shared set purchased by the restaurant. They are so cheap (in price) that they are nearly disposable if one gets loss, stolen, or damaged. If you’re good with a steel, you can keep them sharp for quite sometime – many butchers use them as well.

      Where they are particularly beneficial for the average home cook is their boning and fillet lines. These have similar shapes – the boning is rigid where the fillet is flexible.

      Dexter-Russell – 6″ Boning Knife – Sani-Safe Series

      That being said, I think I’d choose a Wusthof (German made) or a Sabitier (French made) as my primary chef’s knife if I wanted something that would last many years. Both are equally as good with determent factor being if you like yours with more of a curved profile for rocking (get the Wusthof) or flatter shape for up and down chopping/slicing (get the Sabitier).

      Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife

      Sabatier Chef Knife, 8-Inch, Olivewood

      • I forgot to add — expect a series of in depth articles on kitchen knives in the very near future. I’m hoping I’ll get to them this weekend.

  5. It’s a wonder I haven’t got any serious injuries, considering how much of a klutz I am. I do admit watching an infinity of video tutorials on how to use a Chef’s knife before I actually bought one, but I also admit not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

  6. First and foremost thank you for the relevant links to the knife sharpeners and such, I’ve been meaning to get one myself and this is the perfect reminder for me. I cut myself way too often in the kitchen which forces me to always make sure that I cut slowly and carefully. I wish that I could cut like some of those top chefs. They are insanely good at that. I guess practice makes perfect.

  7. Great tips as usual. My main source for kitchen accidents are knives too. I don’t have that many good ones so I resort to using old dull ones too often. In general I am often in a hurry too. There’s no excuse for it, I know. I really like the look of that wooden knife rack. I will look into getting one.

  8. This is the kind of article that I need to print out and put on my fridge! I am accident prone with kitchen knives and I can’t even count the amount of times that I have cut myself using one, having to go for stitches for 2 of those cuts! I need to pay more attention but I just try to go so fast to get it done that no matter how hard I try not to slip, It always ends up happening!

  9. Huh. So today I learned that I never followed safe procedure to get rid of glass shards. Well, it’s good to know now, I’ll be sure to shake that broom!

    And for the knife, I think even if it did not cut this much, letting it in water is a bad idea, it can dull the edge, right? My mother-in-law (urgh I talk about her so much!) keeps soaking all the utensils together and when I attempt to wash it it’s always an unpleasant surprise to find knives there. Who does this! She even owns a restaurant! *grumpy*

  10. I’m always worried about cutting myself when washing my knives! It’s definitely a good tip to wash them as soon as you’re done and place them back in whichever storage tray you are using.

    The tip about shaking out the broom is very useful, it didn’t occur to me that there might be some extra pieces stuck in there. It totally makes sense thank you!

  11. yeah kitchen safety is VERY important. My mum’s had her fair share of injuries while cooking, including a really bad incident where she almost chopped her finger off. If you don’t want to buy anything fancy, just keep your fingers about half a centimeter away from the knife when you’re cutting, that’s the advice chefs on cooking shows give. Also, always remember that a falling knife has NO HANDLE!

  12. Good article, and timely, for me. I cut myself on the edge of a mirror the other day. I’d removed it from an old jewelry box, and apparently it had a sharp edge. It bled as much as a knife wound, but I happened to be in the kitchen, over the sink, so at least it wasn’t messy. I do have a knife set in a block, but also have random other knives that I use, so I’ll have to check out the drawer insert (knife storage tray), that could definitely prove handy. I try to keep brown paper sacks on hand for when I break glass, because I feel it gives an extra level of protection to anyone handling the trash. I sweep the glass pieces/shards into it, then seal, and place in the plastic trash bag.

  13. These are great tips! I had always heard that a dull knife will cut you faster than a sharp one, now I know why people say that. The broken glass clean up is one area that really needs to be addressed. It’s always so hard to get every last shard off the floor, so I think throwing your rags away is a good idea . I always go over the spot with a piece of bread, after I’ve cleaned up everything I can see. That usually gets the last of it.

    • Wow icecat, I never met anyone else who does this! It’s such a great way of making sure every last trace of glass is picked up.

      For anyone who is thinking “What?”, take a slice of bread and firmly press it over the area where the broken glass has fallen. You’ll find that any traces of glass will embed themselves into the bread, leaving the surface safe.

  14. I remember clumsily cutting myself in the kitchen when I was young and dumb and trying to help out in the kitchen, it hurt a lot and I, being the dumb teenager that I was, didn’t know any first aid at all and was haplessly trying to bandage the cut.

    If only I knew the safety advice listed in the article then though, the tips given are great and would definitely help anyone in the kitchen, seriously cannot emphasize the points on what to do after you get cut, its important to clean the wound or chances of infection would be high and you wouldn’t want that.

  15. This post is so important. I had no idea that sharp knives are less dangerous than dull ones. I guess I’ve been wrong about being afraid of them more! They look like trouble, but are actually safer. I would never figure it out by myself!
    I never tried to catch a falling knife, but I can imagine how much damage it can do to your hand. I shiver just thinking about how many stitches you might need! Scary.

  16. I find that full knives are the main way people cut themselves. (Other then not paying attention while they cut). I had a really bad set and I would find the knife slipping when I was cutting round fruits and veggies. I cut or came very close to cutting myself so many times. Finally I upgraded to a good quality set and found I don’t have nearly as many mishaps as I used to. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to a bad set.

  17. These were some very helpful ways to help avoid cutting yourself in the kitchen. I always seem to nick myself when either trying to wash a knife or having my other hand accidentally hit it somehow. Both issues were completely my fault and, luckily, weren’t serious.

  18. I can’t remember how many times I have cut myself in the kitchen, I have many scars on my fingers 🙂 It usually happens when slicing a hard and big vegetable like a pumpkin, I put all my weight on the knife and bang, I find the knife in my finger. I also get burned regularly, usually the oven is the problem. Thanks for the tips, and I will ask my husband today to sharpen the knives 🙂

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