How to Repair Common Kitchen Mishaps and Accidents

Learn how to tackle problems that may bubble up in the kitchen like a clogged disposal, dripping faucet or burned countertop.

©Katie Evans

©Katie Evans

©Katie Evans

Grease Fire

A fire on a stovetop is a popular cinematic device to injure a villain or to create a moment of laughter. While it is certainly dramatic, it is by no means a laughing matter. Grease fires must be smothered. Under no circumstances can you put one out with water — that will only scatter the burning grease and create more havoc. First, put on a pair of oven mitts to protect your hands. If the fire is in a pan or pot, try covering the flames with the vessel's lid, a larger lid or a cookie sheet. Try to slide the lid or sheet over the pot, rather than dropping it on top (you may scatter the grease and flames). For a fire extending beyond a pan to the stovetop, douse it with a liberal amount of baking soda first, then try a fire extinguisher. If using a fire extinguisher make sure you activate it a good distance from the flames, then walk toward the fire. DO NOT try to remove the pan from the stove while it is on fire.

Clogged Disposal

We expect the sink workhorse to be able to devour anything we throw at it, and for the most part it can. But seemingly easy materials can often cause clogs, such as thin pasta or soft potatoes. If they're crammed too tightly, these mushy particles can clog the small drain holes around the inside perimeter of the disposal. When this happens, turn off the switch, check to see if the disposal's breaker has been tripped, and look to see if the reset button has tripped — it will be on the bottom of the disposal. Press it and try turning on the switch. Still clogged? Turn off the switch on the wall, and turn off the power feeding the disposal. Use a spoon or small ladle to remove as much water and debris from the sink and disposal drain. Try the disposal again. Still clogged? Use the baking soda and vinegar method or really hot, but not boiling, water. Allow these to sit for a few minutes and try the disposal again. You may need to repeat a few times. DO NOT use drain cleaner in your disposal.

Rip in Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is another builder's staple for kitchens, and with updates in designs and textures it remains popular. But it still has a weakness: tearing. Moving a large appliance, especially one that has been in place for a while, can create quite a rip if it catches the vinyl just right. One fix is to apply a vinyl flooring adhesive and re-lay the ripped section back down, assuming this section is still attached and the rip follows a natural line in the flooring design. Make sure the underlayment and vinyl flooring are clean, and follow the manufacturer's directions for open time. For ragged rips or sections that have been torn off the flooring, you'll need to do a patch job with a fresh section of vinyl. Hopefully, your flooring is in stock at a home center, or you have leftover flooring from when it was initially put down. Use a utility knife to cut a clean section (following lines in the design) in the old flooring and cut a matching piece from the new or leftover flooring. Use flooring adhesive to attach the new piece. To fill any seams, try using a caulk that matches the flooring color at the seam lines.

Dripping Faucet

A dripping faucet is not only annoying and messy, it can also be costly, resulting in your money literally going down the drain in the form of a higher water bill. The simplest fix is the first to try: making sure the handle is turned off completely. If it's still leaking, you'll probably have to replace a gasket, O-ring or cartridge. Determine what type of faucet you have — if you have two handles, one for hot and one for cold, then you've got a compression faucet. If you have one handle, you have either a ball faucet or a cartridge faucet. To stop the leak for the time being, turn off the water to the sink at the shut-off valves underneath the sink (righty-tighty). Turn off the water at both valves — one is for hot water and one is for cold water. For compression faucets, you may need to replace the gasket at the handles and/or an O-ring for the stem base. You'll need to remove these, take the gasket or O-ring to a home center and find the matching parts. Ball or cartridge faucets require a replacement kit for the inner workings. Manufacturers are good about supplying instructions for these.

Burn on Laminate Countertop

They've been the builder's go-to for decades, but even laminate countertops are susceptible to burns. One misstep and you've got a reminder that your countertop wasn't made to handle a hot pan. A heavy burn cannot be easily fixed and the laminate will have to be replaced. But minor burns can be removed. First, try the methods described for fixing a wood countertop burn: steel wool and/or fine-grit sandpaper. Follow this up with an abrasive cleanser, such as a paste made with water and baking soda, vinegar and cream of tartar, or a liquid abrasive cleanser with bleach added. It may take several passes. Another alternative to replace the countertop for a severe burn is to refinish with laminate countertop epoxy paint.

Burn on Wood Countertop

We're busy, and our minds wander and we forget that some countertops, such as wood, can't take the heat of hot pans. But the resulting burned ring isn't the ruin of this surface. If it's a light, shallow mark, try scrubbing it with a piece of steel wool. If that doesn't work, continue beginning with fine-grit sandpaper (220 grit) and progressing with coarser-grit sandpaper until you've removed the burn mark. The point is, you don't want to mar the surface or gouge it. Once removed, you'll need to reapply whatever finish is on the countertop and allow it to cure. For matching results, you may want to lightly sand and refinish a larger section of the surface. And make sure you have a few trivets handy in the future.

Cabinet Door Hinges Falling Off

The most common way a cabinet door hinge can come off is via loose screws. Constant opening and closing can put a lot of force on the screws holding a hinge in place, and over time these stresses can pull on a screw to a point that the threads essentially bore out the pilot hole. The threads then have nothing to grip and then pop right out. Use a trick perfected by furniture repairers: Insert a toothpick or matchstick into the pilot hole (larger holes may need a larger item such as a golf tee). Put the hinge back in place and drive the screw back into the hole. This filler you've added “narrows” the hole and gives the screw something to grip. Check your cabinet hinges periodically for loose screws.