5 areas you should clean to prevent a house fire.


By Nicki Escudero

The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to be vigilant when it comes to fire safety. 

Our favorite holiday traditions introduce potential fire hazards. Placing candles near flammable objects, using a fireplace that has a dirty chimney and incorrectly hanging holiday lights on trees are all fire hazards. There’s one simple way you can help prevent fires during the holiday season (and really, all year long): clean your home. 

Too much grease, dirt and clutter throughout and around your home can be dangerous. When you don’t clean certain areas as often as the professionals recommend, you’re putting your home at risk for a fire. 

1. Dryer vents.

someone cleaning the dryer vent“Failure to clean the dryer (34%) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires,” according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Furthermore, “more home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.”

An accumulation of lint in dryers can increase fire risk because the heat from the dryer could cause the lint to combust. That’s why you must stay on top of cleaning and complete the following maintenance tasks:

  • Clean the lint filter after every load. Remove the lint with your hand or a brush, and throw it away before drying the next load.
  • Clean your dryer vent at least once a year. Disconnect the dryer from the power source, and disconnect the duct from the dryer. Vacuum both the duct and dryer as much as you can access. This is a good time to clean behind and underneath the dryer to remove any lint build-up. 
  • Watch for signs you’re due for a cleaning. For example, if it’s taking longer for your clothes to dry, your vent might need to be cleaned.
  • When in doubt, hire a professional. professional can clean your dryer vent. You can also ask them to help you inspect the area to ensure it’s clear of any obstructions that can cause a fire, the vent covering is working properly and more.

2. Fireplace and chimney.

fireplaceThere’s nothing cozier than sitting by a fire, drinking hot cocoa and bonding with your loved ones; but, before you light that fire, clean your chimney and fireplace.

Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires. As fireplaces (and wood stoves) burn the wood, it releases smoke that contains unburned wood particles. When these particles flow up into the chimney, creosote is created.

Creosote is a brown or black, tar-like residue. It’s highly flammable and combustible, and the Chimney Safety Institute of America states that even just ⅛ inch of creosote build-up can be dangerous. If the temperature in your flue is high enough (451°F), you could experience a chimney fire that spreads throughout your home.

That’s why cleaning a chimney and fireplace is so important. Hire a professional chimney cleaning service to inspect and clean your chimney and/or wood stove pipe at least once a year. Once a month, you can also routinely check for obstructions and damage. 

A good time to clean your fireplace is before you start using it in the fall or early winter; but, it’s better late than never. If you’ve already started using your fireplace, it’s not too late to have a professional clean it. 

3. Kitchen appliances.

cleaning greasy ovenBefore you cook your big holiday meal, make sure your kitchen is clean — especially your range hood, oven, stove top and other kitchen appliances. 

Food scraps and crumbs can be a fire risk when left inside your oven and toaster. Fires can also occur in kitchens with too much fat and grease build-up on the appliances. That’s why it’s important to deep clean your oven and degrease your range hood filters every couple of months or so. 

Range hoods help prevent fires by catching grease, but they can also be a fire risk if they're not regularly cleaned properly. To clean your range hood, you’ll need to: 

  • Make a cleaning solution in the sink. Mix ¼-½ cup of baking soda with 1-2 teaspoons of dishwashing soap in boiling hot water. 
  • Remove the filter from the hood. Soak the filter in the solution for 15-30 minutes, then use a brush to lightly scrub off the grease.
  • Wipe down the range hood. Spray a degreaser (either a store-bought cleaner or a vinegar and water solution) on the exterior. Let it sit for a few minutes before you wipe it off. 

If you’re too busy to stay on top of maintenance, you can also hire a cleaning service to deep clean your entire kitchen (and the rest of the home).

Related: Tips to keep your appliances running for the holidays (and years to come).

4. Barbecue grill.

dirty barbecue grillYou might not be using the grill during this time of year. Just in case you decide to light up the grill to cook your holiday meal, remember to clean it first. 

Just like the range hood and oven mentioned earlier, barbecue grills can become grease traps that can cause fires in your backyard. Grease can build up on both the surface of the grill and on the grill’s drip pan. That’s why cleaning the grill before and after each use is important to help prevent fires.

 If you’re breaking out the grill for use after it’s been stagnant for a while, clean it first. Here’s how:

  • Remove the grates and burner covers. Scrape off any build-up.
  • Apply a degreaser to the grill and grate. You can use dishwashing detergent or a commercial product. Use a wire brush to scrape off the remaining grease and fat build-up. 
  • Soak grill grates. If the scrubbing didn’t work, soak the grates in a solution made of water, baking soda and vinegar for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse it away with a hose. Repeat until the build-up is all removed.

5. Clutter.

clutter in house that can be a fire hazardClutter itself may not always cause a fire, but it can help a fire spread and create obstacles when you’re trying to put it out and exit your home. Clutter can block entryways and cause fires to accelerate. A neat, tidy house that has less clutter can protect you and your household from extra fire hazards.

During the holidays, be mindful of where you’re piling up the presents, discarding cardboard boxes and storing your wrapping paper and decorations. Some clutter-related fire hazards to keep in mind are:

  • Don’t let clutter accumulate near heat sources. For example, keep the clutter on your floor away from space heaters and any clutter on kitchen counters away from your stovetop.
  • Paper products catch fire easily. Flammable materials like wrapping paper, gift boxes, newspapers, magazines, mail and office supplies should be discarded or recycled when they’re no longer in use.
  • Keep a clear path. Clutter like unopened gifts, toys, clothing and shoes on the ground can obstruct fire escape routes. 

With our busy schedules, it can be challenging to keep homes clutter-free all the time. Add small children, teenagers or pets, and clutter can accumulate extremely quickly. Create a cleaning routine with your family to help ensure your home stays clutter-free. Designate a “home” for your items, like a box for toys or a shoe rack for shoes. Tidy up throughout the day, or schedule 10 minutes of light cleaning time each evening. Get everyone at home to help tidy up.

If clutter overwhelms you, routine house cleaning services can help you manage it. You can also hire a home organizing service to help you create a better system for your clothes, kitchen items and much more. 

Related: 30 house cleaning tips, tricks and hacks from the pros.

Enjoy a clean (and safe) home during the holidays.

When you want a thorough clean that tackles grease and build-up from every nook, cranny and crevice in your home, book a professional house cleaner on Thumbtack. You can also use Thumbtack to hire pros who can clean your fireplacechimneydryer vent and more. Find a pro who can help ensure your home is clean and help eliminate as many fire risks as possible.

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