5 On Your Side

Laundry rooms can be dangerous places for young children

Posted February 5, 2020 8:06 p.m. EST

— Of all the dangers children can face, a laundry room probably is not top of mind.

But between the appliances themselves, and detergents, anyone with children in their home needs to be vigilant.

For at least three families in the last 5 years, the washing machine was deadly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports three deaths of children 5 and younger, linked to washing machines, and about 3,000 emergency room visits for washer related injuries.

Most involved falls. But multiple involve children getting trapped inside.

The plea from those who've experienced the dangers — if you have a separate laundry room, lock it. And no matter where your washer and dryer are located — always keep the doors shut.

“Many newer washing machines will have a lock-out feature on the appliance,” said Consumer Reports' Haniya Rae. “It’s often activated by holding a combination of buttons or holding down a button for several seconds. Each machine is different so you’ll want to check the manual to see if it has a lock out feature."

For extra safety, Consumer Reports said consider after-market child-proof locks for appliances — similar to the ones you would put on a kitchen or bathroom cabinet.

Front-loading washer

Beyond the machines, there's another danger in your laundry room, colorful, almost candy-looking detergent pods that young children are clearly curious about.

In the first 9 months of 2019, poison control centers reported 7,685 calls related to children under the age of 5 and laundry pods.

“The detergent in laundry packets is more highly concentrated than other forms and when you ingest or when it comes in contact with the skin or eyes, it can cause
serious effects," Rae said. “Major manufacturers have taken steps to make their packaging more child resistant, but people are still getting injured when coming into contact with these laundry packets.”

Consumer Reports' advice is if you have children in your home under the age of 6, skip liquid laundry pods. Instead, opt for Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release liquid detergent, which scored tops in its tests.

An option for extra safety is after-market child proof locks for appliances similar to the ones you would put on a kitchen or bathroom cabinet. Also, it's a good idea for parents to talk with their children about the dangers. On whatever level, you can to remind them appliances are not toys.

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