Spring cleaning could be dangerous

Safety tips from the Home Safety Council

spring cleaning, chemical free cleaning

As Americans begin their spring cleaning duties this year, home safety should be at the top of their "to-do" list. According to the Home Safety Council's State of Home Safety in America report, nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits result from unintentional home injuries on average each year. Chores as simple as re-organizing cabinets can make families vulnerable to falls and poisoning the two leading causes of unintentional home injury in America.

The Home Safety Council aims to reduce this number by encouraging Americans to follow simple safety steps during spring cleaning. At the same time, this annual household ritual is a great opportunity to uncover and remedy home safety hazards.

READ MORE: Make a spring cleaning checklist

Spring Cleaning the Safe Way
The Home Safety Council urges families to keep safe practices top of mind while cleaning up and cleaning out your home, garden and yard.

1. When cleaning out closets or re-organizing, always keep stairs, steps, landings and all floors clear of clutter.

2. Carry loads you can see over, and keep one hand free to hold banisters and railings.

3.Five gallon buckets are often used while cleaning and present a serious drowning danger to young children. Never leave a bucket or any standing water unattended and store buckets empty and upside-down.

4. Follow safety recommendations when using harsh products, such as wearing gloves and masks. Do not mix products together because their contents could react with dangerous results.

5. Never use gasoline as a cleaning solvent and never use or store gasoline in your home, even in tiny quantities. Because its vapors can readily ignite, it is too dangerous to use gasoline for any purpose other than as a motor fuel.

6. When cleaning out cabinets, read all product and medications labels carefully and separate those that say "Caution," "Warning" or "Danger" on them. Lock these up, out of sight and reach of young children.

7. Remember to reduce clutter and safely tuck away telephone and electrical cords out of walkways. In homes with children, make sure toys and other items are always safely put away when not in use.

8. If you need to climb, use a stepladder or ladder. When using a ladder, stand at or below the highest safe standing level. For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it's the fourth rung from the top. Before using, make sure the rungs are dry and the ladder is securely positioned on a flat surface.

READ MORE: Declutter your home just in time for spring

Home Safety Improvements Everyone Can Make
Spring cleaning provides a perfect opportunity to evaluate the safety of your home, identify hazards and fix them before an unintentional injury occurs. The Home Safety Council provides the following list of safety improvements you can easily make while spring cleaning:

1. Install grab bars and non-slip decals in all bathtubs and showers.

2. Make sure all medications, caustic cleaning products (example: drain openers, toilet and oven cleaners, rust removers, etc.), automotive fluids (example: windshield washing solution and antifreeze), pesticides, fertilizer and other household chemicals are in their original containers and in a locked cabinet.

3. Make sure all dangerous products have child-resistant caps, including cleaning products and chemicals.

4. Check to be sure flammable and combustible liquids are stored outside in a locking shed or the garage. Gasoline must never be stored or used in your home, even in small quantities.

5. As medicines age, the chemicals inside them can change. Be sure to flush all unidentified and out-of-date medications down the toilet, rinse the container well and discard it.

6. Store matches, lighters and candles in a locked cabinet, out of children's reach.

7. Have you replaced your smoke alarms' batteries this year? If not, insert new batteries in every smoke alarm.

8. Homes with young children should install window guards to keep children from climbing up and falling out of an open upper window. Make sure window guards also have a quick release mechanism so an adult can open them in case of a fire.

9. Make sure all porches, hallways and stairwells are well lit. Use the maximum safe wattage in light fixtures.

10. Place nightlights in guestrooms, bathrooms and walkways to help light the way during night-time hours.

11. If your home has an attached garage, a fireplace or woodstove, or has appliances and equipment powered by fossil fuels (such as gas or oil), you are at risk of potential Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. Make sure your sleeping areas are protected by a UL-listed CO alarm. Regular inspection and cleaning of heating equipment and proper use and maintenance of all appliances and equipment can help reduce the risk of CO poisoning.

12. Put your poison control center number (1-800-222-1222) near every phone and make sure guests are aware of the number ? Call the poison center immediately in case of a possible poisoning. From anywhere in the country, a call to 1-800-222-1222 puts you in touch with local poison center experts.

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13. Use safety covers in electrical outlets and anti-scald devices in faucets in homes with young children.

14. Do you know the temperature of your hot water? Temperatures over 120F can burn a child's skin in seconds. Test your hot water at the faucet and have the water heater temperature adjusted to no higher than 120F. Some models can be adjusted by the homeowner. Contact your utility company with questions.

15. If you have a fire extinguisher, learn how to use it and install it properly, near an exit; children should not be permitted to handle a fire extinguisher.

16. Practice pool safety. If your house has a backyard pool, make sure that the pool is protected with four-sided isolation fencing (five-foot high fencing on all four sides of the pool area ? with no access directly from your house), and with a self-latching gate. Never prop open the gate.

17. Keep outdoor walkways and porches clean and in good repair. All steps should have a handrail. Repair broken or chipped bricks, cracks in cement and other hazards that could cause a fall.

For additional information and resources to help you learn more and stay safe in and around your home, please click HERE.