Mental Floss

What Do Those Numbers On Your Toaster Mean?

Mental Floss UK
istock / istock

by Simon Brew

Have you ever wondered what the numbers printed on your toaster dial actually mean?

An Internet rumor a year or two back suggested that the numbers directly related to the time a piece of bread was in the machine. That would make sense: the number five for five minutes? Sadly, that's since been disproved, and the inevitable answer here is that the meaning of the numbers depends on the kind of toaster you have.

In the following video, you can see a bunch of toasters, all set to the number two. Had the online rumor mill been correct, then that would mean that every toaster would pop out its slices of bread after two minutes. That did not happen.

As the video notes, when you have a low-budget toaster, one of the first pieces of technology to get the chop is a timing chip. Instead, cheaper toasters time how long to keep your bread heated by using a curving metal strip. Change the number on the dial, and it'll determine how much said strip is allowed to curve.

Thus, to directly answer our own question: those numbers do relate to how long the bread will be in the toaster for when switched on. But as for what specific amount of time to which they relate? There's no definite answer.