Let’s start with a common misconception about cabinet and drawer latches.

A parent will say: “I need latches for under my kitchen and bathroom sinks so I can quit worrying about little Johnny getting into all those dangerous chemicals we have stored there.”

Many manufacturers of cabinet latches depict a child sitting on the kitchen floor playing with chemicals he has found under the kitchen sink or something similar, with an array of other hazardous products shown in the background in the cabinet; suggesting by the picture that their latch is the answer to keeping young children out of these chemicals. Smart marketing, why shouldn’t you think that this is your answer to keeping him out of your dangerous substances? Turn the package over and read the disclaimer on the back. All except for one that we have seen (and their mail was returned unforwardable) will tell you that their latches are not intended to keep a child out of dangerous substances and that these products should be Kept Out of Reach of children. One of the most difficult areas we have is trying to convince parents of the importance of moving dangerous chemicals up and safely stored away..

Safety latches are intended to make the opening of your drawers and cabinets complicated for young children; not impossible. Latches (and locks, for that matter) on lower cabinets are not sufficient safeguards against dangerous chemicals and other poisons.

Then why install latches at all? Because you have numerous other items in your lower cabinets and drawers that you do not want your toddler into; the garbage, the under-the-sink disaster area with garbage disposal and plumbing sticking out, silverware drawers, junk drawers filled with almost anything that will fit, canned goods that can smash little toes, glass and crystal that you do not want broken, and so on.

spider.gif (23786   bytes)Latches, properly installed, serve as a convenience for you in that they will usually keep a toddler from opening a cabinet and keep the contents of that cabinet where you want them!

Have quality safety latches installed on all lower cabinets and drawers. Even if you only have towels in the drawer. Why? A drawer left open or opened by a toddler will almost certainly be the next object his head meets, with probably some of the sharpest corners you have in your entire home.

Do you have cabinets that you want locked sometimes and open at others? Latches activated by a magnet key are available. These can be disengage when not required. Great for a grandparent who wishes to lock up only when the toddler is around and not be inconvenienced when he is not. By the way, keep up with that little magnet key. Lose it and you will have a real problem getting into those cabinets so equipped. We have found the magnetic latch safer but a little more inconvenient to use.

If you’re going to have a “play” cabinet, let’s look at some rules to play by: be sure that cabinet latches are not installed on a “play” cabinet; make sure that the cabinet does not connect up with another that you do want protected; always be on the alert for items that have been distributed on the kitchen floor that could cause you to trip and fall; try and locate the cabinet as far from your cooking area as possible (if your kitchen is small all the more reason for not getting into this game). “But I do not always want him to be able to get in there” or “I might want to use that cabinet for something else later so I think there should be a latch there.” If this is the case use the magnetic type latch. Cabinet door latches can be installed at just about any height where they will fit depending on the cabinets and convenience for your use; usually from level with a 12 months oldie’s head to a 2 year old’s face. Picture your child running into this bare latch (especially if you have selected to use some of sharper brands available) or pulling it into his face accidentally. This follows through with your regular cabinets that are latched. Never leave a latched cabinet open when your child is around. Do not get lax with closing doors properly, it is easy to just give them an extra little nudge until you hear that familiar “click” insuring that the latch has engaged properly.

If your toddler gets into climbing onto kitchen counters (hopefully not, but?), you will want to consider latches up here as well when the time comes. Our experience recommends that you put this off until it does, if ever, become a problem in your household. If climbing counters does turn out to be a favorite activity (like when you’re making an important telephone call or he thinks you aren’t looking); remember those “Keep Out of Reach” items that you may have stored in upper cabinets he can get to now.

Most devices will carry your child into their second year unless they just accidentally accomplish to overcome a barrier on their own and put two and two together. If the latch or device is still necessary for your child’s safety (or your sanity) then look at alternative measures such as magnetic locks to again childproof a cabinet or whatever.

To start out, let’s keep it simple for you to use as long as the latch is effective for its purpose. For a drawer where you have particularly sharp knives and an ingenious toddler interested in these, we recommend you install two latches right from the start. It will hardly inconvenience you.

The average new home with modern cabinetry will use at least two different styles of latches to fit all the drawers and cabinets required. It has taken us a number of years and is an ongoing process to weed out the junk. Be careful with your selection. It is not so much the cost of a latch that should concern you here, but the time invested in installing it. Many styles of cabinets in new homes will provide an almost impossible challenge for even the experienced “do-it-yourselfer. Let’s try to do it only once for sanity’s sake.

Installing quality latches that are convenient to use and appropriate for the application has become an area of expertise in which you might be better off with a professional childproofer if you are lucky to have one in your area.