A couple of years ago now, our aging oven nearly burned our house down, and I’m still not totally sure how it happened. I had cookies in the oven, went to grab something in another room, then walked back into the kitchen and saw there was a fire inside the oven and realized the oven door had locked itself shut.
While we managed to get the fire put out before it did any real damage (to anything other the oven itself, anyway), that harrowing experience was a wake-up call to the dangers and fire hazards in our homes. So in order to help us all be more aware of those dangers so we can stay safe, today I’ll be sharing a list of 7 dangerous household items that you might not know about.
Some of the items are dangerous because they contain toxic chemicals, while others can become a fire hazard when used incorrectly. For each dangerous item, I’ll also share alternatives that are safer to have around the house. Learning about the hazards in your home won’t necessarily prevent freak accidents like my oven fire, but if you’re looking to make your home a safer place to live, awareness is the first step!
7 Household Items That Are Actually Dangerous
1. Air Fresheners
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, many household air freshener products contain phthalates and other chemicals that can affect hormones and reproductive development. These chemicals can accumulate in the body over time and and cause adverse health effects.
Safe Alternative: Instead of using commercial air freshener products, use natural methods to freshen the air in your home. They’re safer to use, and often cheaper than the store-bought options! Here are 10 natural ways to make your home smell great.
2. Oven Cleaner
Many store-bought oven cleaners contain corrosive alkalis that can cause harm to your gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system if inhaled or ingested. Find out more about the dangers of oven cleaner products at MedlinePlus.
Safe Alternative: Instead, try my easy overnight method for cleaning your oven. (Get the full instructions here.) This method uses ammonia, which is safe when used correctly. However, ammonia fumes can aggravate asthma symptoms, so asthma sufferers may want to try scrubbing their oven with Bar Keepers Friend instead.
3. Dryer Lint
Dryer lint itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, but a buildup of dryer lint can quickly become a huge fire hazard! According to the U.S. Fire Administration, around 2,900 clothes dryer fires are reported each year. They estimate that 34% percent of those fires were caused by a failure to keep the dryer clean and free of lint.
Safe Alternative: Clean your lint trap every time you use your dryer, and vacuum out the inside of your dryer regularly. Find out everything you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your clothes dryer here.
4. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Store-bought toilet bowl cleaners are highly acidic, which helps them to dissolve tough stains and deposits in your toilet bowl. However, those corrosive ingredients that clean your toilet bowl can also cause burns on your skin and eyes, and they can produce caustic fumes if you mix them with other types of cleaners (which you should never do as a general rule).
Safe Alternative: There are plenty of safe, natural ingredients that you can use to keep your toilet sparkling clean. Learn how to make my favorite simple toilet bowl cleaner.
Most store-bought toothpastes bear the following warning: “Seek immediate medical help if you ingest toothpaste.” According to MedlinePlus, swallowing a large amount of toothpaste can cause stomach pain and intestinal issues, and if the toothpaste contains fluoride, can even cause convulsions, difficulty breathing, and other scary side effects.
Safe Alternative: The good news is that toothpaste is perfectly safe to use when used correctly. Just make sure that everyone in your family (especially young kids) knows how to dispense the correct pea-sized amount onto their toothbrush in the morning. And remind everyone to rinse their mouth thoroughly after brushing too!
6. Gas-Powered Space Heaters
Faulty gas-powered appliances (like old space heaters) can release carbon monoxide into the air. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of poisoning death in the U.S., and even when it isn’t fatal, it can lead to permanent brain damage.
Safe Alternative: Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home. (Click here to check out the many options available on Amazon.) You can also opt for an electric space heater, or you can use these 10 hacks to keep warm.
7. Extension Cords
While the extension cord itself isn’t dangerous, it can be if it’s used incorrectly. Many people aren’t aware of the voltage capacity of their extension cord and end up plugging in more items than the cord can safely handle safely. This creates a fire hazard, especially if the overloaded extension cord is near carpet or furniture, and it’s one of the reasons why extension cords are a leading cause of household fires in the U.S.
Safe Alternative: Learn how to use your extension cords safely! Check out this article of do’s and don’ts for using extension cords from Safety+Health magazine published by the National Safety Council.
What’s your best tip for keeping your home safe?