Can You Safely Cover a Smoke Detector?

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It might be a nuisance if it goes off every time you fry something, and you might not like the way it looks. But because your smoke detector's performance can mean the difference between life and death, you know you can't afford to disable it. Covering smoke alarms might make them less sensitive to false alarms and/or less noticeable on your ceiling, but it's only a good idea in very specific circumstances.

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Can You Cover Smoke Detectors?

The only time you should cover smoke detectors is when you're actively remodeling or painting in the room. Dust can trigger a smoke detector and cause nonstop false alarms while you're working. You also don't want dust particles getting into the detector and causing the sensor to malfunction so that it's less sensitive to smoke in the future. Painting over a smoke detector could also block its openings and impair it. So it's a good idea to temporarily cover smoke detectors while you're doing these kinds of projects to protect them.

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Don't cover a smoke detector because you want to make it less sensitive to false alarms, even if you intend to only cover it temporarily while you take a steamy shower or cook something smoky. It's not worth the risk if a real fire were to start while your smoke alarm wasn't working properly. Plus, a distraction could keep you from uncovering the detector once the air is clear and could leave your home vulnerable to any number of common fire hazards, like electrical fires due to appliances with faulty cords.

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Never cover fire alarms or smoke detectors in a public place or on someone else's property, like in a hotel or a friend's home. You don't want to deal with any possible liability issues if someone is hurt because you disabled a smoke detector.

Ways to Cover a Smoke Detector

Slip a Kidde smoke detector cover over a smoke detector just before beginning a painting or construction project in that area. They're like shower caps that are just the right size to fit securely over a standard smoke detector. You may be able to get similar results using an actual shower cap or plastic food wrap as long as it creates a tight enough seal around the base of the smoke detector and no dust or paint can get in. Remove the cover as soon as the air is clear.

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If your primary motivation to cover a smoke detector is that you don't like the way it looks, you might notice it less if it's somewhat camouflaged by a steel smoke detector cage. These devices are often used to discourage vandalism of public smoke detectors; for example, landlords might install them to keep tenants from turning their detectors off so they can smoke indoors. They come in a few different styles and colors, including stainless steel. Certain models of smoke detector cages can even be spray painted so they can blend in with your ceiling.

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Troubleshooting a Sensitive Smoke Detector

Instead of using a smoke detector cover for cooking, look for ways to adjust your smoke detectors so they're still completely functional but less likely to bother you. There are some simple fixes to common smoke detector issues. A smoke detector that won't stop beeping might need new batteries or a simple reset. Cleaning the inside of the smoke detector can also cut down on false alarms. Use a can of compressed air and your vacuum's duster attachment to blow loose any dust or debris that's blocking the unit's sensors.

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Changing your smoke detector placement might also be worthwhile if you have one installed too close to your stove. Smoke detectors should be installed at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances to prevent false alarms. Just make sure you have detectors installed at least every 30 feet.

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If you really can't stand the look of a standard white plastic smoke detector, consider upgrading to a smart smoke detector with a streamlined design and the capability to send you phone alerts whenever the alarm goes off.

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