Making Your Bathroom Safer
Accidents in the bathroom can occur to anyone, but many are preventable if you’re careful about cleaners, hard surfaces, and water hazards.
Harmful poisons or chemicals
Drain cleaners, bathtub cleaners, tile and glass cleaners all contain potentially harmful ingredients. Typically, these chemicals are kept under the sink or in a cabinet for convenient use. You can protect toddlers from getting into them with child safety locks, but what else should you think about?
Before you start, read directions carefully to make sure you’re using the product correctly. Never mix two products together to save space or increase effectiveness. For example, Turi.org warns that mixing bleach and ammonia can be deadly, as well as mixing bleach with acid-based toilet bowl cleaners. Chemical’s age and have an effective life span to consider.
Cleaning should always be done with an exhaust vent on or a window open to reduce the danger from chemical fumes contained in ordinary cleaners. Wear rubber gloves to protect your skin while cleaning fixtures, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you’re finished to remove any splashes or residue. Empty cleaning pails as soon as you finish to avoid inhaling fumes.
Toxic chemicals are convenient to buy because they’re so strong and come in easily stored containers, but you can also go green by cleaning with time-tested solutions, such as mixing baking soda mixed with lemon juice, or peppermint or lavender oils.
Scalding hazards for any age person can be eliminated by setting your hot water heater temperature to no higher than 120 degrees. Test the water by running it for two minutes, then fill a cup with it. A thermometer that reads higher than 120 degrees will alert you to lower the thermostat of the hot water heater.
Anti-scalding devices can be added to any faucet or the water heater itself. Many water heaters have an integrated device, but it's still a good idea to occasionally test the temperature.
Infants and toddlers can drown in just a few inches of water. Toilets can be made safe with safety locks that prevent head first access into the bowl. Tubs should be emptied completely immediately after bathing. They can even be fitted with covers. To step safely, no pet water bowls should be in the bathroom where anyone can step into them and slip and fall.
Many older homes were fitted with gas heaters built into the wall or with small stoves attached to metal coils. Gowns or robes can sweep into the gas flames and easily catch on fire. Modern fire codes usually prevent these from being built today, and contractors in most cities are required to remove them or cap off the gas attachment in order to meet safety codes.
Be sure to check your city's safety code regarding gas heaters, as well as to check your home insurance to verify whether your home or an injury is covered if safety codes have been ignored. Fireplaces in the bathroom that are gas burning should be installed with safety in mind. Raising the fireplace and adding glass doors will add to the safety of the heater.
Ground fault circuit interrupter breakers and outlets are wonderful safety devices for your wall outlets. Commonly called GFIs or GFCIs, these units turn off the electrical current when in contact with water. Modern building codes everywhere require them for any outlet that is near water or moisture.
If you live in an older home, make certain that your electrical service has been updated to allow installation of GFIs circuits throughout your home. The outlets must be wired with a ground wire to upgrade to a GFI. The presence of a 3-hole outlet doesn't mean it is grounded. A thorough electrical inspection will alert you to where you need to upgrade and install GFIs.
If you have a jetted tub, make certain that you have a motor sensor that will protect your motor from burning out if the water drains too low or you forget to turn it off. Also make sure that the tub is connected to a GFI wall outlet on a GFCI breaker.
Grab bars really add to the safety of your shower and tub areas. They can also help in cleaning the areas safely.
Within the shower or tub, have a floor surface with a safety texture, finish, or design that will be slip-resistant. Many tile designs come glazed or unglazed, so pick unglazed for the shower bottom or the bathroom floor. Bathroom area rugs should be non-slip, as well. Fully carpeted bathrooms are not recommended as the padding and carpeting can absorb water and grow mildew underneath.
Most safety tips are common sense. If you’re planning to update your bath, be sure to use professional contractors who will respect and use city codes to protect your safety.