Top 10 Unexpected Fire Hazards in the Home

Most people know it's dangerous to smoke inside the house or leave candles unattended because it could start a fire. But not all fire hazards are so predictable. The lesser-known fire hazards are just as concerning, if not more so, than the most common ones because you don't see them coming until it's too late. Here are the top 10 unexpected fire hazards in the home.

  1. Laptops

    If you have a laptop, then you know that thing can get pretty hot in no time. A hot laptop that's left on a bed, couch, blanket, or another soft surface can prevent proper airflow in and out of the cooling vents, and it may produce enough heat to ignite and start a fire. Protect your laptop from overheating and starting a fire by leaving it on a desk or laptop stand.

  2. Dryer lint

    Dryer lint may not seem like a legitimate danger, but this little ball of fluff can be quite the fire hazard if it's not removed before or after drying clothes. Excessive heat and lint buildup are a recipe for disaster. It's important to clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct regularly, as well as the interior of the dryer chassis to clear any lint clogs.

  3. Stacks of newspaper

    That stack of newspapers you're collecting in the corner to recycle or eventually read is more of a fire hazard than you may think. If newspapers get too close to a heat source, they can catch on fire. If you're going to keep newspapers in your house, keep the stacks short and store them in a cool, dry place.

  4. Electric blankets and heating pads

    Electric blankets and heating pads might not seem very concerning, but these heating tools can be extremely hazardous if misused. Heating pads and electric blankets have the ability to get very hot and anytime you have excessive heat buildup, a fire can start. To prevent these tools from starting a fire, keep your heating pad and electric blanket on the lowest setting and do not use for more than the recommended time.

  5. Old appliances

    An old appliance is more than a nuisance; it's a disaster waiting to happen. Old appliances can have shoddy wiring and deteriorated insulation that could start a fire with just one spark. It's crucial that you check your appliances regularly and inspect electrical cords and connections to make sure they are in good condition.

  6. Barbecue charcoal

    After barbecuing, many people just throw their bag of charcoal into a storage closet and shut the door without any concern for what could happen. If the coal is damp, it could ignite itself and start a serious fire. To prevent such a devastating disaster, place the charcoal in a metal pail or garbage can and secure it tightly with a lid. Store the container in a cool, dry place that has enough space to let heat escape should the coals self-ignite.

  7. Oil soaked rags

    The next time you work on your car or clean and lubricate your bicycle, be sure to hang your oil soaked rags outside or in a well ventilated room so that they can dry properly and the heat fully escapes before washing. Oily rags that are piled up can ignite themselves and cause a serious fire.

  8. Matches and lighters

    How many times have you collected match books and carelessly thrown them into a drawer? Chances are you've done this once or twice before. Matches can easily ignite if they rub against a rough surface, and lighters can accidentally ignite if the wheel moves in just the right way. If your matches are stored with paper or other flammable materials, it could be disastrous. When keeping matches and lighters in your house, make sure they are out of a child's reach and they are stored in a safe, dry place away from anything that might accidentally ignite them.

  9. Clutter in the closet

    Stacking your clothes to the top of the closet might not seem like a big deal, but if your wool sweater or cotton T-shirt touches an exposed light bulb, it could lead to a major fire. Nearly 12% of all house fires start in a closet because homeowners ignore the closet light fixtures and stack combustible materials close to the glowing, hot bulb. You can prevent a disaster from happening inside your closet by installing the proper enclosed light fixtures and keeping your belongings far away from the light bulb.

  10. Dust

    Dust bunnies aren't just an annoyance — they're also a danger to your safety. Dust can be a fire hazard if it collects near floor heaters, electronics, and sockets. If sparks fly, dust piles can ignite and cause a fire. Regular dusting and vacuuming with a hose can significantly reduce the amount of dust that lingers near your electrical outlets and appliances. Pay special attention to the back of entertainment centers and any crevices that might collect dust.