Children’s curiosity and impulsiveness induces them to explore, and seeing anything they are not familiar with piques their curiosity. Parents need to stay one step ahead of their little ones and realize the laundry room holds more hazards than it did when they were little.

August brought yet another heartbreaking report of a 3-year-old in Florida dying in a front-loading washing machine. This sends a message to everyone, not just parents, that precautions need to be taken.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported three deaths among children ages 5 and younger, since 2014, related to laundry room incidents. The agency also estimates that since 2014 there have been about 3,000 laundry room related emergency room visits.

Top-loading washers do not have airtight seals, and that is where the disguise comes in. Front-loaders are airtight once the door is closed making them more dangerous if a child were to get trapped inside.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers reported that U.S. safety standards require a latched door to open from the inside with 15 pounds of force, but for a small child who doesn’t know how to use bodyweight to push the door open it can be disastrous.

Many homeowners, no doubt, follow the manufacturers suggestion to leave the door on front-loading washers open to prevent mold. To keep the mold problem down, simply dry the inside of the door and the washer’s rim after each use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using child-proof safety locks on front-loading washers and dryers to prevent small children from opening doors and crawling inside. If at all possible, lock laundry room doors. Another preventative measure is to train little ones to stay away from the appliances the same way they are trained to stay away from the stove.

Many washers these days have a lockout or child lock feature typically activated by holding a combination of buttons or holding a button down for a certain number of seconds. How they function and what they do varies. On some models, it locks the washer door and prevents a child from opening it, on others it prevents the machine from starting. The manual for each appliance should explain the process.

Using a childproof safety lock that is put on the outside of a front-load washer and dryer door will also prevent a child from opening it. The concept is the same as a lock for a cabinet or oven door.

In addition to safety precautions with washers, keep in mind that laundry detergent packets can be especially tempting and dangerous to young ones.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise

appears in the Times-Journal weekday editions.

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