That’s a Wrap: The Right Way to Undecorate After the Holidays
Storing or tossing decorations safely will give you a head start next year
“Keep Christmas with you all through the year,” or so goes the well-known holiday song. While the sentiment may be sweet, the reality is you’ll probably get the stink eye from neighbors if you leave your holiday decor up all year.
Failing to “undecorate” isn’t just socially inappropriate. It can be dangerous, especially when it comes to outdoor lights, says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL.
“Decorations are temporary lighting — they are not light fixtures,” Drengenberg says. When UL tests holiday light strings for safety, they’re tested as decorations, which means a maximum use of 90 days. “If you leave them up during the summer, you’ve got extreme heat, birds and squirrels that could damage the wiring. Then next season when you plug them in, you could see sparks,” he says.
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Here are tips for taking down, storing and disposing of festive décor safely.
Lights. Before you stow away your lights, inspect them. If any are broken or damaged, toss them, Drengenberg advises. If they’re good to use again, he suggests this for storage: “Wrap them loosely around an empty wrapping paper tube and store them in a dry place. Don’t pile too many other decorations on top of the lights. It’ll crush them, and you’ll have damaged décor when you take them out next season.”
You can also take a square piece of cardboard, and cut a slit in one side of the square. Thread the end of a set of lights through the slit. Wrap the lights around the cardboard, threading the other end back through the slit.
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However you wrap them up, UL suggests storing lights in a suitcase. Just be sure to separate indoor light from outdoor lights, and keep them all away from children and pets who could damage cords and wires.
Plugs and extension cords. As you unplug your lights or that dancing Santa, be careful not to yank on the cord. You could damage the wires inside the cord, the plug itself or the outlet. Instead, grip the plug.
Don’t forget to put away extension cords. Drengenberg says you shouldn’t leave them outside and exposed to the elements.
Garlands, wreaths and other greenery. “Trees really only last about four weeks, even if you keep them well-watered,” Drengenberg says. Take down greenery as soon as it start to dry out and shed needles, he advises. It should all go straight to the curb to be picked up or taken to be recycled. Don’t leave it on your porch or near your house where it can fuel a home fire.
Also, don’t burn greenery in your fireplace, either. Dry needles are highly combustible and can quickly burn out of control, sending sparks out of the fireplace. “Your fireplace is intended to burn well-seasoned hard wood. It’s not intended to burn dried evergreen branches,” Drengenberg says.
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