10 Potential Fire Hazards Hiding in Your Home

Lydia Schapiro
Written by Lydia Schapiro
Updated December 14, 2021
Orange extension into power outlet
Photo: Africa Studio / Adobe Stock



  • Knowing the items that can pose a fire risk can help keep your family safer.

  • Be careful when handling hand sanitizer, and never use it around an open flame.

  • Replace worn extension cords.

  • Clean out dryer lint frequently.

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When it comes to keeping your home and family safe, knowledge is power. There could be more than a few unexpected fire hazards hanging around your home. Not to worry: We’ll break down some materials in your home that could pose a fire hazard so you can handle them with caution and confidence.  

1. Extension Cords

Maybe when you were younger, your parents continually warned you about the danger of messing with electrical wires. They had a reason. Extension cords wear out over time, and the insulation around the wire may wear or melt away. Issues such as overloaded cords, bad connections, or the misuse of electrical devices can also pose a fire risk. 

To prevent electrical fires, watch for your extension cords becoming hot to the touch. When this occurs, don’t use them and replace them with new ones ASAP. Make sure you keep cords out of underfoot paths, don’t squeeze them into small spaces, and try not to put them under rugs since they won’t be able to release heat. 

2. Space Heaters

You may be itching to turn your space heater up during the brisk winter months, but it’s important to be careful. Space heaters are portable, so you may think you can place them wherever you want. However, if your space heater is too close to combustible items like curtains, furniture, rugs, and blankets, it can cause a fire.

The coil within space heaters is especially dangerous since it is so hot that it can ignite something flammable when in contact. Make sure to only run the heater when you can keep an eye on it, follow any manual instructions, and ensure it doesn’t run all night. 

3. Hand Sanitizer

Man using sanitizer bottle dispenser
Photo: Jo Panuwat D / Adobe Stock

Hand sanitizer is considered hazardous because of its high alcohol content. Alcohol—usually ethyl alcohol—is typically the key ingredient in hand sanitizer, making it flammable. Ethyl alcohol can evaporate at room temperature into an ignitable vapor, which is why it’s classified as a Class I Flammable Liquid. 

Avoid keeping your hand sanitizer in your car when it’s scorching outside since sun exposure can lead to a fire. Also, make sure never to have your hand sanitizer near an open flame when grilling or smoking.

4. Christmas Trees

While a Christmas tree is a wonderful way to get excited about the holidays, your tree can actually be a fire hazard. The combination of a dry tree and hot lights can be dangerous. Even a pre-lit artificial tree can pose a potential fire risk, according to The North Carolina Consumers Council

Not to worry—you don’t have to give up your tree. Ensure that you keep your real tree hydrated by watering it daily. If you use traditional Christmas lights, consider switching to LED lights that won’t get too hot. 

When it comes to artificial trees, be sure to always follow instructions and keep an eye out for recall notices.

5. Flour

Surprisingly enough, flour can be a kitchen fire hazard, particularly in the form of flour dust in the air. Flour is very flammable because of its high surface area, so it can catch fire or cause explosions. 

To avoid any incidents, be extra cautious when you use flour and make sure to clean up after yourself. Avoid leaving your food unattended when preparing something with flour, especially near an open flame. 

6. Dryer Lint

We’ve all been guilty of letting the dryer lint pile up, but cleaning out the trap regularly should be on your home checklist. Lint is very combustible, and if the lint filter is left unchecked, it can be a hazard. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines yearly from 2010 to 2014, with 92% of these involving dryers. In dryer incidents, the things most often to be ignited first were dust, fiber, or lint.

Try to remember to check the lint filter regularly (after every use), so you can remove any dryer lint that accumulates. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a local dryer vent cleaning pro inspect your appliance annually. A professional can access the vents properly and look for any lint buildup.

7 Aerosols

Household aerosols, such as spray paint, hairspray, spray-on deodorant, and vegetable oil sprays, are combustible. Avoid keeping aerosols near open flames. In addition, never leave your aerosols on a sunny windowsill since they can explode due to sun exposure. 

8. Sawdust

Sawdust can be found in homes, particularly if you’re working on a messy project or if your house is undergoing construction. It can also be hazardous when it accumulates because sawdust ignites and burns easily, particularly when it’s in the air. 

To avoid sawdust igniting, regularly clean up using a wet-dry vacuum. After vacuuming, throw the sawdust away in a trash can, far from the risk of any open flames.

9. Candles 

You may love candles, and they can definitely have a place in your home—you just have to be careful with them. Candles, when unsupervised, can cause house fires if the flame flares up and makes contact with a flammable item. This incident can happen with a gust of wind or if a pet knocks the candle over.

To be safe, never leave your candles burning when you’re out of the house, asleep, or not paying attention. Keep candles in a place out of reach from pets and children and away from flammable items such as curtains.

10. Grills

Barbeques can be a great way to get the family together during a hot summer night. Just be sure to follow preventive measures since your grill poses a fire risk

When you barbecue, ensure your grill isn’t against any part of your house. To be safe, keep the grill at least 10 feet away from your home and make sure it doesn’t touch any overhead branches or leaves. Follow instructions for what to do after you’re done cooking, too—you’ll want to clean the grill properly and safely dispose of any hot charcoal when applicable.

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