4 Things To Clean Before Your House Burns Down

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Family standing outside in the cold in winter jackets while a house burns down
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Put off your chores long enough, and you just might have to answer to the fire marshal.

That’s because some things around the house become potential fire hazards when left untended. While the risk might not seem big, inaction is the cause of many fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“Failure to clean the grease from a stovetop or oven is an example of human long-term inaction” that leads to home fires, a 2023 report noted.

Following are examples of things around the house that are important to clean or keep clean to prevent a fire risk.

Toaster

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Did you know your toaster has a crumb tray? If not, don’t feel bad — many people don’t.

But your toaster’s heating element gets up to 1,000 degrees, and that’s not great news for an accumulation of bread crumbs, says USA Today. It’s a fire hazard.

KitchenAid recommends cleaning the tray at least once a month.

An NFPA report found “portable cooking or warming devices” — there is no toaster-specific category although microwaves and grills have their own — were the cause of 7,300 fires and $76 million in direct property damage from 2015 to 2019. They were also determined responsible for 30 deaths and 190 injuries.

Clothes dryer

Woman in front of clothes dryer
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“Clothes dryers are a major source of structural fires,” the U.S. National Parks Service says. “15,500 clothes dryer fires occur annually, resulting in an average of 10 deaths, 310 injuries, and over $84 million in property damage.”

How does it happen? One major cause is people not emptying the lint trap. This reduces air flow, and the unit overheats. Try to empty the lint trap after every load. You should also avoid putting clothes soiled with gasoline or grease in the dryer or anything with foam, rubber or plastic bits that can melt.

Around your water heater

Water heater
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According to the NFPA, from 2015 to 2019, water heaters were involved in the ignition of 3,400 home fires. These caused 20 deaths, 100 injuries and $90 million in property damage.

While the closets and basements that house our water heaters can be a tempting place to store things, it’s important to keep flammable clutter at least 3 feet away from your water heater, according to FEMA.

Chimney

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“Fireplace” — it’s in the name, right? But just because you have a designated place for fires doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to contain them.

“Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane,” says the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Many times, chimney fires don’t produce these dramatic signs, and if they don’t get out of hand, you might not even notice them. But from 2015 to 2019, 17,000 reported fireplace and chimney fires caused $216 million in property damage, not to mention 30 deaths and 60 injuries.

It’s important to have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned every year, according to CSIA.

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