(July 15, 2015)
Hot water, electricity, slippery floors. . . Your bathroom could be the most dangerous room in the house. How safe is yours?
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How often do you test the electrical outlets in your bathroom?
Bathrooms outlets are called ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). “They have built-in circuit breakers designed to trip if they detect electrical current flowing freely into a water source,” says UL consumer safety director John Drengenberg. GFCIs have two buttons at their center. Press the “test” button and listen for a click, which means the outlet’s working properly. Press “reset” to power the outlet again.
What temperature is your hot water heater set at?
The Department of Energy recommends setting hot water at 120 degrees F. “The bathroom is the second most likely place a young child can get burned,” says Drengenberg. To quickly check water temperature without a thermometer, “Place your hand under running water and make sure it’s hot to the touch but comfortable enough to leave your hand in place for 30 seconds,” he adds.
Do you ever mask bathroom odors with a burning candle?
Tempting as it may be to leave a candle burning in a bathroom, especially in a powder room when you have guests coming, “you should never leave a lit candle unattended in any room,” Drengenberg says. To impart a fresh aroma in a bathroom, light a candle while you clean it for company, then set out an odor-neutralizing air freshener.
Does your bathroom have grab bars?
“Bathroom slips and falls are a huge source of injuries,” Drengenberg says. And while young children and elderly adults are most likely to take a tumble, anyone can wipe out on a wet surface. Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet, mounted horizonally or vertically (never diagonally), making sure they’re secured to wall studs.
How slippery is your bathroom floor when wet?
Some floor materials are much slipperier than others when wet. A label of “bathroom safe” on tile may refer only to water resistance, not skid resistance. Recent industry changes call for including a “DCOF” or Damp Coefficient of Friction rating on many floor tiles. Those with a score of at least .42 are best for bathrooms. Regardless of bathroom-tile type, you should place non-slip absorbent mats by the tub and sink.
Which of these items do you store in your medicine cabinet?
Mold, mildew and germs thrive in moist and warm bathrooms and cling to just about any surface they can find. Since most harmful bacteria enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, think twice before storing toothbrushes and contact lenses a few feet from the toilet. Instead, keep them in a linen closet or bedroom. Same goes for prescription drugs, some of which can lose potency if stored in humid conditions.
Does your bathroom have an exhaust fan that vents outside of the house?
An exhaust fan pulls moisture out of the air after a shower, helping to control the growth of allergy-inducing mold and mildew, not to mention save your wall paint. You should also run the fan while you're cleaning to ventilate potentially harmful fumes.
Is your hair dryer plugged in when you aren’t using it?
Drengenberg and UL advise unplugging hair dryers (and other electric devices, such as curling irons and hair trimmers) as soon as you finish using them. Even though safety standards for hair dryers call for a GFCI to be built into the plug, there’s still a risk of shock if the dryer falls into the tub or sink.
How often do you wash your bath towels?
Washing bath towels every day is overkill. At the same time, letting them go for a week or more invites bacteria. Washcloths and face towels are a different story, however. They should be washed after each use. In the case of face towels, you can re-introduce oil, dirt and grime that you wiped away the day before.
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