Most homeowners know the big fire hazards to watch out for at home. You may carefully follow standard safety recommendations for Christmas tree lights, cooking appliances, and candle usage. However, many homes are subject to fire hazards the average homeowner wouldn’t think twice about identifying or preventing. Here are seven of the top hidden fire hazards you may want to add to your list of safety concerns in 2016:
- Failing to properly dispose of dirty rags. If you use a rag to wipe up leaking motor oil or mineral spirits, where does it go? Some homeowners throw them in a hamper or a rag bucket for washing later while others throw them in the garbage without a second thought. However, all it takes is the right level of oxygen for flammable rags to start burning. Always clean a rag immediately after use, or store it in an airtight container out of sunlight until you can dispose of it properly.
- Forgetting about heating pads and blankets. Homeowners trying to save a little on their heating bill often use heating supplements to stay warm. Piling on too many blankets or leaving a heating implement unattended can lead to a disaster. Only turn on a heating pad or blanket when you’re in the room, use the lowest setting possible, and turn off and unplug it when you leave.
- Poorly cleaning your dryer’s vent system. You may clean out the lint trap regularly, but that may not be enough to prevent a fire. Use a vacuum with a dryer attachment or a brush to clean down in the lint trap and the vent duct behind the unit every few months. Lint is extremely flammable, so much so that many people use old dryer lint packed into cardboard tubing as an easy and effective fire-starter.
- Attempting DIY repairs around the house. Only people with experience should conduct home maintenance and repairs on HVAC equipment, electrical wiring, or plumbing. Use common sense for these tasks. A homeowner can safely flush out a water heater, but replacing a part in the HVAC exhaust on your own could create a fire hazard. Professional service often comes with a warranty, which makes it a better option for costly and time-consuming repairs.
- Forgetting hidden sources of dust. Dust, like lint, will catch fire very quickly in the presence of a heat source. Electronics and appliances of every kind are dust magnets. Make sure you routinely dust off all electronics. Use compressed air to keep PC boards and fans dust-free. Vacuum under the fridge and around all appliances routinely.
- Leaving batteries in catch-all drawers. Almost every house has, at least, one drawer that holds a little bit of everything. Batteries that come into contact with other metals can spark enough to ignite nearby items. Instead, keep batteries in a container away from other flammable items.
- Failing to clean your chimney. Chimneys can develop cracks or fill with decaying animals and nesting materials, which can contribute to an unwanted fire. Creosote buildup from prior burnings can also cause home fires. Whether you use your chimney once a year or every day during the winter, schedule a cleaning before you light up the logs for the first time each year.
Most of these hazards can go unnoticed for years without causing problems. However, it only takes one oversight for seemingly harmless items to cause a serious home fire. With some routine cleaning and maintenance, you can significantly reduce the risk of unwanted flames and protect your loved ones.