With its heavy-duty appliances and shelves of cleaning products, the laundry room can truly be a danger zone in your home. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that (on average in recent years) over 10,000 home fires begin in the laundry room annually. And the latest chemical threat to your family? Colorful detergent packs that kids mistake for candy.
But, of course, we all need clean clothes, so the laundry room isn’t going anywhere. Here’s the expert word on how to stay safe when tackling your next load.
9 Hidden Dangers in Your Laundry Room
1. Prevent lint buildup.
When home dryer fires occur, lint is often the culprit. Clean out lint screens after every load, and inspect vent pipes, the space behind the dryer, and ducts outside your home to ensure that lint isn’t choking the venting system.
2. Replace water hoses and dryer ducts.
Carolyn Forte,director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute Home Appliances and Cleaning Products department, recommends replacing rubber hoses with reinforced braided ones to prevent a hose from cracking, bursting, and potential flooding. If your dryer vents with a foil accordion duct, you should replace it with a rigid metal duct that won’t collect as much lint.
3. Ensure that all products are tightly sealed.
It’s incredibly important to make sure all bottles and boxes are sealed and stored out of little hands’ reach — including candy look-alike detergent packs. The American Association of Poison Control reports that more than 3,000 kids have been exposed to these packets in the first months of 2014 alone.
4. Mark all detergent containers.
If you DIY your detergent or stain removers, never store them in a bottle previously used for food or drink. “Someone might think it looks like water,” says Nancy Bock, Senior VP of Education at the American Cleaning Institute. “It’s not labeled, it has no instructions about what to do if accidentally ingested, and there’s no number to call if you misuse it.”
5. Never leave pre-treated garments unattended.
Children’s blankets and clothing often need stain removal, but kids might not understand what that looks like. “If your child walks by and sees his blanket, he may take it and put it in his mouth,” Bock explains. “Best to keep items up and out of sight.”
6. Keep machine doors locked, even when the cycle is off.
To small children, the washer and dryer might seem like ideal hiding spots. If your models don’t have built-in safety locking, you can buy a child-safe lock to prevent little ones from climbing inside and getting stuck.
7. Don’t ignore the warning signs of a faulty machine.
If your clothing comes out of the washing machine soapy or won’t get dry in the dryer, there may be something wrong with your machine. Often, coins left in pockets can get stuck and cause mechanical problems.
8. Maintain machines wisely.
Bock recommends an “annual check up” for laundry appliances to make sure that all parts are in working order. Post a note by your machines to remind you what the handyman fixed on his last visit, and when to schedule your next appointment.
9. Read all manuals, care tags, and cleaning product labels.
One of the biggest dangers in a laundry room is an uninformed consumer. Read your machine’s user manual, pay attention when mixing chemicals, and always note if a fabric shouldn’t be washed or dried.