Disaster-Proof Your Holiday Decor
Keep your days merry and bright with these smart safety tips for decorating the house and trimming the tree
There’s no place like a festively decked-out home for the holidays, but before you hang one wreath, string one light or put a match to a menorah candle, you’ll want to keep some safety tips in mind. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, 15,000 injuries were seen in emergency rooms nationwide during November and December of 2012.
Start by always using a sturdy ladder rather than a chair or stool when hanging something up high. Then follow this item-by-item guide to safe holiday décor.
Live wreaths and garlands. With time, that festive ring of evergreen adorning the front door will start to dry out, making it a fire hazard. The same is true of the pine boughs draped across the mantel or wrapped around the staircase railing. Monitor greenery for freshness. As soon as it starts to drop needles, take it down and dispose of it safely. Don’t burn it in the fireplace (needles are highly flammable) or leave it on your porch or deck or in the garage. Take it to the curb or a recycling center.
Lights. Whether you’ll be wrapping multi-colored lights around a Christmas tree or stringing blue ones across the porch for Hanukkah, check each strand from end to end. Dispose of any that have fraying cords, broken bulbs or other damage. In general it’s fine to connect three strings of lights together, but no more. Never use outdoor lights inside. Don’t hang lights near items made of paper, fabric or other potentially flammable material. Look for the UL logo on lights. The logo means a representative sample of the lights has been tested for safety.
Fireplace and mantle. If you drape a runner across the mantle, make sure the ends don’t dangle low enough for little hands or curious paws to reach. This is especially important if it will be the base for other holiday décor. A tug or two from a child or pet could send a lit menorah or breakable crèche crashing to the floor. If you’ll be using your fireplace, arrange flammable décor well away from it and be sure the screen fits securely. Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.
Candles. Display candles far from anything that might easily catch fire — the Christmas tree, curtains, wrapped gifts. Blow out lit tapers when you leave a room. And don't allow flames to burn all the way down, since the holder could ignite. Never light candles in bedrooms. It’s too easy to fall asleep without remembering to blow them out.
Plants. You may have heard that poinsettias are poisonous for dogs. In fact, these festive flowers aren’t very toxic at all. (If chewed, their sap can irritate a mutt’s mouth.) However, mistletoe can down a dog or cat within hours of being ingested. Hang it high and securely, use an artificial version or agree to smooch without it. Other popular holiday plants, such as amaryllis, holly berries and Jerusalem cherry, can spell digestive trouble for animals (stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea). Again, put these out of a pet’s reach.
Seasonal treats. Sweets are an inevitable part of the holiday landscape, but hard or sticky candy can pose a choking hazard for little ones. Display edible décor — candy dishes, gingerbread houses — well out of reach of tots. If there’s a hound in the house, be vigilant about chocolate, which is highly toxic for canines. Make sure there are no wrapped boxes of chocolate under the tree. Remind kids not to leave Hanukkah coins or chocolate Santas where the family pooch can poach them.
Holiday tchotchkes. Display breakables — ceramic nativity scenes or Christmas villages, for example — where they’re unlikely to be knocked over and shatter. Some vintage ornaments and other décor may contain lead paint; keep them out of reach of small children. The same goes for dreidels, tiny toys from Advent Calendars and other choking hazards.