The kitchen is the heart of a familys house. It is in this room that a family prepares meals, shares meals, and gathers to talk about the day. This is the room where guests gather, where friends play games around the kitchen table, and where parents might relish a quiet time at the end of the day. It is also one of the leading locations for a household fire, an accident, or germs that breed food-borne illness. Every householder needs to be aware of the issue of kitchen safety.Many homemakers ignore the regular cleaning and maintenance of kitchen appliances, preferring to cover dirty burners or toasters to give a false sense of cleanliness, but allowing crumbs and greasy residue to accumulate on these surfaces. Others hate cleaning their ovens with a passion reserved for little else, and put this chore off as long as possible, even when they own self-cleaning ovens. Kitchen safety is the farthest topic from their minds. However, food that is spilled or burned-onto the cook top or oven surface and not cleaned up is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Oven, microwave, or stovetop spills can ignite quickly, and can spread just as quickly to curtains, towels, or walls. Greasy residue on floors can cause people to slip and fall; and old, spoiled food on counters and tables is a source of bacteria that can contaminate fresh food and utensils. If small children are crawling or walking underfoot and reaching for every visible item of interest, tasting as they go, it is even more important to keep things clean in this central room. Kitchen cleanliness is an issue of kitchen safety, and not just of keeping a neat house to impress the neighbors.A regular chore list is the best way to get in the habit of kitchen maintenance. Writing down each small chore and when it should be completed, helps to form habits that will keep the entire family safe and well. Counters and sinks should be wiped off at least daily, if not after each meal. Spills should be cleaned up quickly in microwave oven, regular ovens, or on stove tops. Cutting boards need to be washed with each use. To control spatters and the residue of cooking fumes, the entire kitchen should be washed with a good degreaser at least once a week. Range filters and hoods are part of this maintenance, as well as garbage cans and disposals. Any appliance that is regularly left on the counter should be given a cleaning at least once a week, if not after each use. Make sure that every surface of the kitchen is cleaned thoroughly at least once a month. The entire family should be educated about the importance of these chores and encouraged to clean up their part of the mess.A good, easy-to-use stove or oven cleaner can make these essential chores more palatable. What is the best oven cleaner? Look for one that does not need to be left overnight, but that works in a few hours. Many stove or oven cleaners produce less toxic fumes than earlier versions. Also, newer formulas will not run, but will stay in place to soak and thoroughly loosen the burned on food. With a damp rag or sponge, wipe off any loose food, and then spray on the cleaner. Let the cleaner set for thirty minutes to several hours, depending on how soiled the area is or according to the products instructions. Soil should be softened to the point that it wipes up easily with a damp rag or sponge. If there is stubborn, burned on food, follow your oven manufacturers instructions for what type of abrasive you can safely use and not mar the cooking surface. If you have left the product on too long and it is dried, try laying a damp rag over the area for a few minutes to soften the product for easier removal.There are products on the market that will help keep food from adhering to cooking surfaces, keeping these appliances from getting so dirty they are difficult to clean. One product that can save hours of cleanup time the next time you clean your oven is Oven Spray. This product is to be sprayed on the oven surface after it is clean. Again, check with your oven manufacturer to see if it is compatible with your oven surface.With good habits, or fanatical adherence to a chore list, your kitchen can be the safe, pleasant, gathering place it is meant to be. Kitchen safety will become second nature to you and your family.