Welcome to Healthy Home: This is the moment to double down on making your home as healthy as possible, whether it's finding nontoxic cookware, trying out new natural cleaning methods, or turning your space into a fitness and wellness zone.
Checking our homes for safety measures is one of those things that we know we should do, but it sometimes gets pushed to the bottom of our list of daily responsibilities.
Well, consider this your gentle reminder to add these important items to your to-do list. This checklist could prevent serious damage to your home and harm to your family. The following tasks will take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and are important steps in maintaining a healthy home.
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1. Check for water leaks.
If it's not caught in time, a water leak can lead to greater problems like mold, damaged floors, and ruined furniture, and early detection can help avoid these issues. Throughout the year, you can monitor your water bill for spikes in usage, which could be a sign of a water leak.
If you have a few hours on a weekend, we recommend checking your home's water meter. Turn off all the water faucets and make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are off. Then, check the water meter and record the numbers. If you come back a few hours later and the numbers have changed, there's a chance that there's a leak. In that case, you may want to call a professional to find the source of the leak.
2. Install a gas leak detector.
One of the first signs of a gas leak is an unusual smell like rotten eggs, but other signs include discolored, dead plants or whistling sounds. If you detect a gas leak, you should call 911 immediately and evacuate your home. The best thing to do is to be proactive and install a gas leak detector, or use a portable detector like this one recommended by Safety.com.
3. Install or replace a carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, orderless gas and it can be toxic if inhaled, even in small amounts. The best way to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install a detector. While you can buy a combination natural gas and carbon monoxide detector like this one, it's optimal to install separate carbon monoxide detectors because they should be placed near bedrooms, garages, and basements, whereas gas detectors should be placed near appliances.
Safewise recommended this detector, which will sound an alarm if it detects a certain amount of carbon monoxide. If you already have a carbon monoxide detector, you should replace it every five to seven years.
4. Check your smoke detector.
Chances are you already have a smoke detector installed in your home. If not, now's the time to install one. Smoke detectors are one of the most important safety items, but they do need to be checked periodically. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends checking your smoke detector monthly, replacing the batteries once or twice a year, and replacing the entire detector every ten years. You can also buy smoke detectors that double as carbon monoxide detectors.
5. Buy a fire extinguisher.
Fire extinguishers are helpful for putting out small fires, and The U.S. Fire Administration lists five different extinguishers available that are classified with the letters A, B, C, D, and K. For home use, the USFA recommends an extinguisher labeled A (for materials like cloth, wood, and paper), B (for flammable liquids like grease, oil, gasoline, and oil-based paints), or C (for electrical tools and appliances that are plugged in). You can also buy a multipurpose extinguisher that contains all or some of these letters. For a large, uncontrolled fire, evacuate your home and call 911.
6. Install non-slip mats in the bathroom.
Bathrooms are a common place for falls that result in serious injuries. To prevent dangerous falls, install non-slip mats inside your bathtubs or showers. The experts at Everyday Health also advise putting non-slip mats on the bathroom floor to prevent slipping when you step out of the bathtub or shower.
7. Check your outlets.
Safety.com recommends checking your outlets at least once a month. Outlets should be room temperature, and outlets that are too warm or hot to the touch should be replaced immediately. Outlets that are too hot could result in an electrical fire.
8. Inspect your breaker panel.
Inspecting your breaker panel is a quick process that could prevent major problems down the line. It's recommended to have at least three feet of space around a breaker panel. To inspect the panel, open the door and check for any rusty, sticky, or corroded circuit breakers. Any damaged circuit breakers could prevent operation, so call in a professional if you find an issue.
9. Lock up chemical substances.
Locking away chemical substances is especially important for households with children and pets. Take some time to do a sweep of your home to make sure that all poisonous chemicals like antifreeze, bug sprays, or cleaning products are locked up and out of the reach of young family members. In addition, KidsHealth recommends keeping prescription medicines in their original packaging and locked behind a cabinet with a child safety latch.
10. Check extension cords.
Avoid overloading outlets with extension cords. If you're using extension cords, they should be checked monthly. State Farm advises unplugging extension cords immediately if they feel hot to the touch, and extension cords should not run under rugs or across a high-traffic area. Extension cords are supposed to be temporary, so if you're relying on them, consider updating your home's electrical system.
11. Get a first aid and emergency kit.
Accidents do happen, so having a first aid kit and emergency kit in your home is highly recommended. You can purchase a pre-made kit like this one or assemble your own. If you'd like to do it yourself, Frontline Health has a list of what should be included in a home first aid kit, and the list includes important items like Benadryl for allergic reactions, antiseptic cream for minor scrapes, and tweezers for removing splinters. For emergency kits, here are the items you definitely need to have.