Why smoke was wisping out of the toaster and other mishaps


There was an alarming smell one afternoon when I was toasting a bagel. The smell was coming from the toaster, accompanied by wisps of smoke.

I turned off the toaster, unplugged it, removed the bagels and waited for things to cool while I ate the bagel with a soft-boiled egg.

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A lot of bread crumbs and bread chunks were in the toaster. I couldn’t remember the last time I cleaned it out, if ever. The accumulation of crumbs and chunks had grown so much that it was touching the heating elements. Hence the smoke.

I removed the crumb tray near the sink and made a minor mess. I shook the toaster over the sink. A lot of stuff came out, enough to form several slices of bread. See the photo. I put a toaster cleaning reminder in my calendar.

The toaster experience was one of several similar incidents in the last few months that reminded me of the value of regular maintenance, and reading instructions.

For example.

The fridge wasn’t cooling as much as it used to, even when I turned cooling up to the highest level. A check of the manual suggested a solution. Clean the coils at the base of the fridge. I peered down there with a flashlight and was alarmed to see a thick blanket of dust and cat hair. After a half hour of vacuuming and struggling to get the decorative cover back on, things were almost like new, except for some dust way at the back that I could not get to. The next day, the fridge was back to its normal self. I put a fridge vacuuming reminder in my calendar.

Then, there was the light bulb adventure. A five-bulb light fixture that dims would not dim. This happened after I replaced a burned out light bulb. A member of the family pointed out that the replacement bulb did not look like the others. And, indeed, it was not the exact kind of bulb as the others. I couldn’t find an exact match for the old ones. I decided to replace all five bulbs with the same kind of bulb. Things worked again.

Something similar happened with a three-bulb bathroom fixture. The bulbs kept burning out prematurely, even an LED one that was supposed to last for eons. I had mixed LED with incandescent. Apparently, you’re not supposed to do that, say the light-bulb advice givers on the Internet. I changed the bulbs to all incandescent, and things have been fine since. I have plans to change them all to LED bulbs. I haven’t done it yet because I’ve been busy watching the new Gilmore Girls shows on Netflix.

The shop vac was heating up a bit and not sucking as much as it used to. I cleaned the filter by pulling gunk off of it. It’s better now.

I cleaned the oven after much too long an interval. (It’s not a self clean.) The last time I did this, the oven door got all cranky and wouldn’t close properly. I read the manual to figure out the fix. This time, I removed the door, following the manual instructions. It made cleaning much easier. I got the door attached again on the first try.

My lawn mower wouldn’t start. I removed the old gasoline, drained the oil, removed grass gunk buildup from underneath the mower, put in fresh gas, put in fresh oil. It started. Yes, I know. I shouldn’t have left gasoline in the mower over the winter.

There are more examples. But I’ve shared enough things that don’t reflect well on me.

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More articles in this series are here.

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Contact me at pjang@timescolonist.com

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