Washing Machine and Dryer Safety in the Laundry Room

Prevent accidents and water damage in the laundry room

long shot of a laundry room


YinYang / Getty Images

When most of us think about laundry accidents, our minds got to accidents like spills that cause stains on our clothes. But actually, it's the electrical shocks, slip and falls, and fires that begin in the laundry room that are the accidents that send hundreds of people to the emergency room every year.

Focus on these areas and learn some basic rules for the laundry room that will help keep your family safe.

Water and Electricity Safety

Washing = water, of course, and water and electricity don't mix well. Outlets in the laundry room should have a ground fault circuit interrupter. If your home is older and doesn't have these, they are easy to install. Should you have a washer leak or burst washer hose, unplug both the washer and dryer immediately.

Slippery Floors

Wet floors are slippery floors. If you have a floor drain in the laundry area, cleaning up water becomes quite simple. If you don't be sure to clean up spills immediately.

It is also prudent to install a washer drip pan to catch the water from a small washer leak. These pans have a 2-inch or higher lip that will catch the water until you can stop the flow.

Detergents and cleaning products are also quite slippery. Even dry detergent powder can become like ball bearings underfoot. Do not store products on top of a washer or dryer because the movement can cause the products to fall and keep a mop and broom handy. 

Washing Machine Hoses

If your washer is a few years old, your water supply hoses are probably made of rubber which can easily crack and fray. If you see any signs of wear on rubber hoses or if they are more than five years old, they should be replaced with braided steel lines. Lines come in varied lengths, are not very expensive and install like a garden hose. It will only take one burst rubber hose to make you diligent about water hose quality.

The key step in changing a supply hose is turning off the water supply valves first. Valves may be hard to turn but can usually be closed with pliers. Use a bucket to collect the water remaining in the hoses. Hand-tighten the new hoses, turn the water back on and check for leaks.

As an added precaution, automatic flood stopping units should be considered. The units contain two solenoid valves that connect between the shutoff valves and the hoses. A sensor, mounted beneath the hoses, detects a leak and stops water flow at the control valve. Installation is just as simple as changing the hoses.

During vacations or when you will be away from home, the water supply to your washer should be turned off. A burst hose is going to pump hundreds of gallons of water each day into your home. We had a hose burst and caught it very quickly but still had two inches of water everywhere. We can only imagine if we had been away for any period of time.

Clothes Dryer Safety

More than 20,000 house fires every year totaling millions of dollars in damage are caused by clothes dryers. Just one little step after using the dryer each time can prevent the majority of these fires - empty the lint filter. Add in a thorough cleaning of the dryer vent system each year and you'll keep your family much safer.

Avoid placing clothes or cleaning cloths that have been soiled by volatile chemicals like gasoline, cleaning agents or even large amounts of cooking oil in a clothes dryer. If they must be dried in the machine, wash the clothing more than once to minimize the risk of fire. Use the lowest heat setting and shortest drying cycle possible. 

Laundry Rooms and Children

Colorful bottles of detergent, candy-like individual detergent packets and big loud machines filled with water are a magnet for children and look like a great place to play. Be sure to keep washer doors closed―especially on front-loading machines. There are also childproof locks that can be installed. Accidents can happen so quickly and most are preventable.

Always store all laundry and cleaning supplies out of reach of small children and vulnerable adults. 

Pet Safety in the Laundry Room

Many people use the laundry room as a spot to feed and house pets. It is important to be diligent about pet safety because many of the products, like dryer sheets, are toxic to pets. The warmth of the washer and dryer can also be an attractive napping spot. Always check machines before loading or turning on to prevent pet accidents.