IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Find and fix the hidden dangers in your garage

How safe is your garage? It might be more hazardous than you think. Prevention magazine has the top 11 risks and repairs.
/ Source: TODAY

Is you garage healthy? Storing everything but the car in there is nothing new. But many garages today harbor health dangers. In fact, 94 percent of Americans keep hazardous items including chemicals and sharp objects in the garage. A whopping one out of three has a garage-related injury at some point. Prevention magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Liz Vaccariello has  has 11 easy fix ‘em solutions:

1. Unmarked stairs Slips and falls are the garage's greatest danger, accounting for more than a third of all injuries. Unmarked stairs are a major culprit.


  • A sturdy handrail should be added to both sides of any stairway.
  • Also, put white or reflective tape on edges of steps (even if there are just a few) so they're easy to see, day and night.

2. Chemical clutter Many chemicals like pesticides (liquid wasp and bug sprays), auto fluids, paints, paint thinners and pool products are stored haphazardly all over the garage. Some can even erode improper containers (like food containers or soda bottles) and leak fumes or liquids that can cause burns, accidental poisoning, respiratory problems, and fire hazards.


  • Keep liquids in original containers, sealed tightly and locked in a central cabinet, and away from a pilot light, with the exception of gasoline.
  • If you have gasoline follow the guidelines from the National Fire Protection Agency: Use approved, tightly sealed read plastic or metal containers labeled gasoline that holds no more than 5 gallons. They’re avail­able at hardware stores — look for the UL or ASTM seal. This type of container has a vapor-tight cap and prevents static friction (which could spark a fire).
  • Do not keep gasoline in a garage with an appliance that contains a pilot light. Store away from direct sunlight or any other source of combustion.

3. Troublesome toys Tossing toys or sports gear near liquid chemicals (cleaning or automotive products, e.g.) ups the odds that kids will be exposed to harmful toxins. Shelving their toys up high may encourage youngsters to stand on unsteady boxes or climb to get to them.


  • Designate a corner of the garage for bikes, sled, sports equipment and toys.
  • Stash them on a low shelf or securely against a wall with hooks so kids can reach them easily.
  • Corral loose items like tennis, golf or soccer balls put in mesh bags or shelved bins.

4. Leaning laddersThis may seem like the obvious way to store a ladder, but when it's placed vertically it can tip over in an instant, damaging a car, or a loved one. Plus, its climbable position may tempt children to scramble up or play on the rungs.


  • Lay your ladder horizontally against a wall — or get it out of the way by hanging it horizontally from secure hooks.
  • Also hang brooms, rakes, and loose garden or shop tools to get them off the floor, or store them neatly in a tall cabinet.

5. Silent detectorA smoke detector is no good if it's silent. Batteries should be checked at least twice a year. With flammable chemicals and cars filled with gas in the garage, it's important to be prepared for fire.


  • Set aside a time, say the first of the month, to routinely test the detector.
  • If you can’t remember to do regular checks, invest in a Dupont Self-Charging Smoke Alarm ($26; It’s a combination alarm and light socket; screw it in between a lightbulb and its fixture, and it automatically charges whenever the light is on.
  • What else does this garage need? A fire extinguisher — hang it somewhere with easy access, close to an exit, and make sure that everyone knows how to use it.
  • You should also install a carbon monoxide detector if you use the garage as a workspace.

6. Pet poisonsSpilled road salt or ice-melt mixtures can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and skin irritation if they get on dogs' and cats' paws. (Plus, they can do major damage to your garage floor.) Antifreeze also attracts pets and small children with its sweet smell. (Just a tablespoon can kill a cat; less than half a cup can be fatal to a dog.)


  • Store these materials out of reach of kids and animals by placing them on a high shelf or a locked cabinet.
  • Make sure to wipe up any spills or drips that animals may try to lick.

7. Ineffective lighting
With tight spaces and lots of tripping hazards, a garage should really be the brightest room in the house. But a third of American garages have inadequate lighting, according to a 2005 Home Safety Council & GarageTek survey; some have only one dim fixture in the center of the room.


  • Have additional light fixtures profes­sionally installed over stairs and work areas and use the maximum wattage bulb allowed (listed on the inside of the light socket).
  • Protect bulbs with plastic or metal cage guards, available at hardware stores, in case you accidentally hit them with tall tools, skis, or golf clubs.
  • If rewiring for extra light fixtures isn’t an option, con­sider a portable outdoor work lamp  with a retractable cord, which you can move with you to different parts of the garage. (Bayco, $60;

8: Vulnerable entryway Although you'd never leave your home wide open or unlocked, many people aren't as careful with the garage — even when it's attached to the house. But police departments across the nation report an increase in “garage hopping” during the warmer months, largely by teens in search of beer to drink or chemicals they can inhale.


  • If the garage directly connects to the home, secure it as you would any other entrance: With a professional installed dead bolt.
  • Other garage doors or windows should be kept closed and locked.

9: Problem propaneIt's fine to store BBQ grills in the garage as long as the combustible propane tank doesn't come inside with it. No grilling in the garage either: This allows carbon monoxide to build to deadly levels.


  • Store the tank outside or in a shed (with no flammable materials) at least 10 feet from the house.
  • Propane's freezing point is -310 F, so it can remain outdoors year round.

10. Wrong electrical cords A regular household extension cord isn't heavy duty-enough to be used outdoors or in the garage, where damp concrete floors increase risk of electrical shock.


  • To plug in power tools or radios, opt for outdoor extension cords and power strips. They're thicker and rounder than regular cords. They will clearly be marked Suitable for Use with outdoor appliances.
  • Check the voltage listed on each outlet to make sure you're not overloading it, and keep long cords wound up so they don't get tangled or cause someone to trip.
  • Store unused power cords in the house to protect against deterioration from temperature fluctuations — and throw away any cord that has fraying or exposed wire.

11. Flammable floor coverings
A rug, tarp, or piece of cardboard under your car may catch dripping auto fluids, but it could also hide tools or sharp objects, and it's one more thing someone could trip over. Plus, Americans spill more than 9 million gallons of gasoline a year — any material that it lands on become an automatic fire hazard.


  • Soak up spills or drips with sawdust or cat litter.
  • Once the liquid is fully absorbed, sweep up the sawdust and throw it away.
  • If you must have a tarp for car care or a shop project, use a disposable, fire-retardant type, available at hardware stores.

For further information, visit