Electrical appliances, water, heat and toxic chemicals all make your laundry room a potentially dangerous place, especially for children. Keep it safe with proper maintenance and a watchful eye.
A laundry room isn't quite the innocuous sanctuary we picture when we think of fresh, clean clothes. Both of the major appliances you may have there are capable of causing significant damage to your property, and danger to you and yours. Your laundry room is also a storehouse of chemicals that can harm children and pets. While there's no need to cordon the entrance or post warnings, you can be aware of the risks, and the ways to minimize them.
Guard Against Dryer Fires
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency reports an estimated 2,900 clothes-dryer fires each year, resulting in an average of five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property damage. Improper cleaning is the leading cause of dryer fires, the majority of which take place in residential buildings.
Preventing a dryer fire isn't difficult, according to Judy Comoletti, public education manager of the National Fire Protection Association. "When lint collects there, or in the vent pipes," she says, "the dryer can overheat, and that's when a fire can start." She advises carefully pulling out your washer and dryer once a year for maintenance. You'll probably be surprised what you find back there, so it may be helpful to bring your vacuum cleaner along for the chore. In particular, Comoletti advises making sure the duct that vents dryer exhaust to the outside of your home isn't crushed or kinked. It should be made from flexible aluminum, not foil or flammable plastic.
Additional Fire Safety
Comoletti advises periodically pulling lint from the vent opening on the outside of the house, and cleaning the vents with a brush or vacuum. She also recommends cleaning the lint filter every time you use the dryer and turning the dryer off whenever you leave home.
It's easy for children to mistake laundry detergent for sugar or candy, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. This is especially true with packets of concentrated laundry detergent. The plastic coatings dissolve easily in water or saliva, and a child who swallows the concentrated detergent may be in serious danger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,008 cases of laundry-detergent poisoning during a single month in 2012, almost half from detergent packets. Laundry rooms are also a natural place to store bleach and dyes, which are poisonous, as well as drain cleaners, which can cause serious burns. All of these products should be kept in closed cabinets with childproof cabinet locks, well out of the reach of inquisitive hands.
It may take a little extra attention, but keeping a close eye on the hazards lurking in your laundry room and practicing regular machine maintenance can go a long way toward protecting you and your family.