Are those droppings in my toaster?
January 17, 2024 7:45 AM   Subscribe

There are a few small black burned-on things in my toaster. It's hard to tell, but could it be burnt cockroach/mouse droppings? I've tried shaking the toaster but no go. It could also be just burnt-on crumbs, but it's really hard to tell.

How can you tell?

My apartment has had a few cockroaches in the bathroom, but I don't think I have mice. I did see a few small potential droppings on the floor, but they could have been cockroach droppings or other debris. I cleaned them up and haven't seen any new droppings on the floor so far. Somebody in my apartment community bulletin board said they had rodents in their unit, though—but I haven't personally seen any in my apartment so far.

However, I clean my toaster almost everyday, and those stuck-on things has been bothering me for some time now. They kind of are shaped like mouse/cockroach droppings, but they're completely black and cannot be dislodged by shaking the toaster. How can I tell if they're droppings or just burnt-on crumbs?

Not the best photo, but here you go. Side question: if those are droppings, should I be concerned about getting sick? They have been there for a while now, and I use the toaster almost everyday, but haven't noticed anything weird health-wise.
posted by dubious_dude to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Inside the toaster seems pretty unlikely for mouse droppings. You'd most likely see them in other places (on the way to the toaster?) as well. In my house, the most common thing to be mistaken for a mouse turd is a stray flax seed, especially if it's black from multiple rounds of toasting. Do you ever toast bread with flax seeds on top that could have fallen off?
posted by juliapangolin at 7:48 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]

Or sesame seeds. Bagels and burger buns are a very likely culprit.
posted by MiraK at 7:50 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]

Or fennel seeds from rye bread.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:55 AM on January 17

Echoing sesame seeds or flax seeds. I have a toaster oven and there's always stuff like that on the bottom when I clean it out, including when I've lived in places where I am pretty sure that zero mice or roaches have been in the toaster.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:38 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

YES flax or sesame seeds. I DID have a mouse. And more recently, realized my minor panic was over black or blackened sesame seeds from my sesame Ezekiel bread.
posted by Glinn at 9:01 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Very unlikely. I actually suspect those bits - because they stick on so firmly - are polymerized fats. Technically the same thing you create on purpose when "seasoning" cast iron, but you'll see them anywhere there's a cooking-hot element, like the same stuff you have to use elbow grease and chemicals to get out of an oven if you don't clean fairly often. Most toaster products don't have a ton of fat, but there's often a little oil involved in the process, plus nuts and seeds make their own oils, and I assume the most common preservatives used in commercial breads has some kind of fat component.

I mostly know it's not from critters because roaches would keep coming around, you'd startle one out of or out from underneath the toaster at some point. And mice don't hold it; they will generally leave more poops on the counter on the way to the toaster. But even if anything ever did come from vermin, you generally have sterilized it by burning so there's very little risk. Just inspect your bread bags for chew holes - sharing an uncooked slice with a mouse is probably slightly more unhygenic though still likely sub-clinical until you're actually fighting off mice to get to the bread, at which point you have a number of fairly urgent health and safety risks to deal with.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:06 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]

Does your toaster have a tray that slides out or is there a little notch you can use to open it? Most toasters have a crumb tray you can wash off. If not, use an old toothbrush or new paintbrush to brush down the sides and bottoms. Plug in, turn on empty, let heat. It will sterilize itself.

Most probably, that's just crumbs or seeds. Looks like it. If you have a cockroach problem and it worries you, shake the toaster out periodically after using.

Yes, I once had a mouse, never any cockroaches. Fortunately, Squeeky complained before I toasted him.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:07 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

If there was even the remotest thought in my head that these could be animal droppings I would get a new toaster!
posted by citygirl at 9:35 AM on January 17

Response by poster: I toasted everything bagels a few times, so that could be it!

Does your toaster have a tray that slides out or is there a little notch you can use to open it?

It does have a tray. I always empty it, but those bits are stuck in the upper part, on the bottom of where it grills/heats, not on the tray itself.
posted by dubious_dude at 10:27 AM on January 17

I've got a toaster oven and those things show up in it. No mouse or insect issues in my house so it must be something from the bread or other stuff being toasted.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:54 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Those are burnt seeds.
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 PM on January 17

It does have a tray. I always empty it, but those bits are stuck in the upper part, on the bottom of where it grills/heats, not on the tray itself.

Mouse and cockroach droppings are unlikely to be sticky after the toaster becomes hot. Cockroach frass especially, it tends to be pretty dry and dusty - it's one of the reasons it's such a pain for asthmatics.

Cockroach frass is short and cylindrical and often almost 'blunt' at the ends. Mouse droppings are a little larger, and have a curve at either end while still being relatively symetrical. Mice are also unable to hold their urine, so you'd also have yellowish, tacky speckles of urine around wherever the poop is.

Those flecks are very irregularly shaped, which makes me thing seeds or burned bits of whatever that has fallen off your breads. I think you're fine.
posted by Jilder at 2:39 AM on January 18

Not mouse droppings (source: multiple years cleaning up after my pet mice).
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 5:35 AM on January 19

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