You probably have some kind of cleaning routine in your home where you dust off the shelves, run the vacuum, and scrub the toilets. But did you know there are some areas of your home that aren’t as obviously dirty and are often left untouched for too long, but they could easily become a dangerous fire hazard?
Avoid having to file a homeowners insurance claim and protect your home (and everything and everyone in it) by adding these 10 items to your regular cleaning list:
1. HEATER/AIR CONDITIONER
Over time, dust will naturally accumulate around heaters in your home, and without regular dusting, they can cause a fire hazard—quickly igniting and spreading throughout your home after a spark. Make sure to regularly dust your home, including in and around heaters and vents.
Air conditioners are made to cool your home, but if there are broken wires (even due to simple wear and tear), and power continues to flow with increased resistance, it can cause overheating and potentially start an electrical fire. Trying to fix frayed wires by tying them together and covering them in tape can also be dangerous. Get your unit cleaned and inspected at least twice a year by a professional.
2. TOASTER/TOASTER OVEN/AIR FRYER
Toasters, toaster ovens, and air fryers are super common items in nearly every home, but if not cleaned enough, they can easily start a fire. In toasters and toaster ovens, crumbs fall off and accumulate at the bottom of the toaster. When used again, those crumbs can reheat and start smoking. In toaster ovens and air fryers, cheese, grease, and other food particles can also build up, melt, or touch the heat source, becoming very dangerous.
3. EXHAUST FAN
If you have an old, dirty, dusty exhaust fan in your bathroom, the motor can overheat and start a fire. Many newer bathroom fans have an automatic shut off if they overheat, but older ones don’t have this safety feature. Make sure the fan cover or grille is free of dust and clean the motor itself at least every few years.
Keeping your range hood, stove, and oven free of grease, remnants of smoke, crumbs, and other food debris can prevent a fire. Simply use a little hot water, baking soda, and degreasing soap at least once per month to prevent clogged filters and overheated food remnants from smoking and burning.
5. OUTDOOR GRILL
Grill mishaps are common, so it’s important to properly clean and store your grill after every single use. Scrub or wipe down any grease to prevent buildup that can easily ignite. Also make sure you’re turning off and unhooking the propane tank after every use. And, if you use charcoal, ensure the coals are completely extinguished before storing the grill.
6. DRYER VENT/LINT SCREEN
You should clean your lint screen each time you use your dryer, and you should also clean the lint from your dryer vent that leads outdoors on a regular basis. If the lint isn’t able to fully exhaust, it can be a huge fire hazard. Purchase a drill or vacuum attachment to do this yourself or hire a professional at least twice a year.
7. UNWASHED RAGS
Oily rags used for staining or cleaning with chemicals are often left in the garage or basement, but a chemical reaction between cotton and certain stains and chemicals can cause spontaneous combustion. Place the rags in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid, soaked in a solution of water and detergents like Tide or Dawn, for at least three days before getting rid of them.
Especially if you have a wood burning fireplace, buildup can get stuck inside your chimney and easily light up. Inspect your chimney not only for soot and ash, but also tar deposits, which can build up and need to be knocked down. Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned at least twice a year if you use it regularly.
If you typically push your mower back into the shed or garage after you use it and forget about it until next time, you’re not alone. However, there are risks to not properly maintaining and cleaning your mower. Debris or dry grass that gets stuck in the mower deck can cause a fire, in addition to fuel vapors that can get packed in the muffler. Clean your lawn mower after every use.
10. PESTS AND CRITTERS
When thinking about the top things in your home that could cause a fire, pests, and critters like mice, raccoons, and squirrels likely don’t come to mind. However, if they build nests in your walls or attic with combustible items or chew through electrical wiring, you may quickly have a dangerous situation on your hands. Make sure you’re setting traps, cleaning up things that attract them, and taking measures to make sure they get (and stay out) of your house.