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I've used a toaster in the same outlet for a few years, today when unplugging it immediately after use I noticed the metal prongs on the plug were uncomfortably hot. The outlet was hot too, but quickly cooled down. I took the face plate off and couldn't see any damage to the outlet or wires, other than a lot of dust back there.

Using the same toaster in a different outlet didn't cause it to heat up, it's just this one outlet. I'm in the US and these are the original outlets in a house that's 35 years old.

Should the outlet be replaced?

Also I assume the heating up comes from the wires making poor contact with the screw terminals on the outlet, so would it be advised to strip the wires back a bit to expose fresh copper when putting in the new outlet?

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    Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Is the scary heating repeatable? (In any case, don't leave the room with the toaster running until you've figured this out.) – Daniel Griscom Feb 19 '19 at 3:52
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Replace It and Do It Right

Since the toaster works OK elsewhere, the problem is somewhere in the receptacle. Truly diagnosing it would take as long or longer than simply replacing it, and it isn't worth the $2 that a basic replacement will cost.

GFCI

In a 35-year old house with original wiring, you most likely do NOT have GFCI circuits or receptacles installed. While you could argue about an absolute requirement for a straight replacement, the kitchen is one of those places where GFCI absolutely makes sense - simply too easy to have a serious safety problem that a GFCI will protect. So unless you have upgraded your breakers to include GFCI, replace the bad receptacle with one that includes GFCI protection. That will cost you more than the basic $2, but it is well worth it, particularly if some day you have a problem with that toaster where the toaster is the problem instead of the outlet and your hands are wet or you (foolishly, but people do it) get toast stuck and try to get it out without unplugging the toaster first, etc.

Note that there is one possible complication with installing a GFCI receptacle. If you currently have power chaining from one receptacle to the next, which is quite common (and perfectly safe), and the existing receptacle has one set of wires on each side of the receptacle, you can't simply copy the configuration to a GFCI receptacle. On a GFCI receptacle, one side is LINE (must be connected to incoming power) and the other is LOAD (for connecting to additional receptacles). If you are not 100% sure then you should connect all the blacks (hot) together and all the whites (neutral) together and use a pigtail (a short piece of matching wire) for each one to just the LINE side of the new receptacle.

Screw Terminals

Use the screw terminals on the sides rather than the "back stab" connections in the back. Much easier for a novice to make sure you have a good connection and less likely to have a problem in the future like the problem you have right now.

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    I appreciate the advice, it was a easy job to replace the receptacle with a GFCI one and it works perfectly now, nothing is heating up at all. The old one had those backstab connections (which didn't seem to be holding the wire very well) so I took your advice and used the screw terminals of the new socket instead. Very happy with the outcome, thank you very much. – jumberlack900 Nov 5 '19 at 23:29
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Should the outlet be replaced?

Yes.

I am an intensely curious person and I absolutely worship the scientific method, but even I would refrain from trying to find out exactly what the problem is here. It is a bad idea to use one's domicile infrastructure as an experimental laboratory.

The heat could be coming from a poor connection between the wires and the receptacle, or a poor contact between the receptacle slots and the plug tines. But whatever the problem, it's certainly confined to the receptacle. Just bin it.

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With screw terminals, not backstabs? Check the torque on the screws. I bet one is loosey goosey. If not, something is wrong with the receptacle - probably spring contact with the plug prongs, or something cracking.

Don't fool around with it; this is either a narrowed current path or series arcing, and either one can start a fire. A quality receptacle is $3.

If the copper is pitted (from arcing) or corroded, you might clean it up with a file, but I would not worry too much. Let the torque do its job.

On GFCI, that is a good thing but I would not impulsively slap a GFCI receptacle here without a bit of planning. Especially do not slap any wires on the LOAD terminals without a good understanding of the kitchen wiring. LOAD terminals are not thru terminals, they do something special.

GFCIs don't solve the problem you just had, they protect humans from shock. AFCIs help with the problem you might have had, but they install at the breaker.

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I find older outlets the spring tension that retains the plug below spec. Yes you should replace the outlet but don't get a 98cent special get a spec grade in this case you get what you pay for. I have a withdraw scale that measures the force on the plug blades the cheapies even new do not hold as well as spec grade and I believe this is the source of the heat.

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