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When Small Appliances Are Fire Hazards

Small appliances such as toaster ovens and blow dryers don't have an expiration date, but they can wear out and become dangerous, potentially starting a fire in your home.

They're blamed for hundreds of house fires every year in the United States.

On The Early Show Friday, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offered tips on what you should look for to determine if those products are past their prime and ready for the trash heap.

Koeppen says flat-out that it's very important to use your eyes here.

The most important thing that you can remember is that the cord is the weakest link. So, if you see that the cord is cracked, broken, is fraying, or that the insulation is coming off, toss the product immediately. These items aren't that expensive, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper to replace a hair dryer or curling iron than all the things in your home that would be lost in a fire.

Hair dryers and styling irons

NEVER wrap the cords around hair dryers or styling irons when storing them. That causes kinks, which shorten their lifespan.

If your hair dryer smells funny, sounds funny, or you can hear the parts rattling when you pick it up, it's time to toss it. Also, as mentioned before, check the cord. When using your dryer, be very careful to not place it on a surface such as a bed, because that can clog the filter with fibers.

To clean a hair dryer, use a rag to wipe off the air filter, and remove any debris that's collected. You should do that about once a month.

Many experts say styling irons should last four-to-five years. But again, if you tie the cord around the device, you're going to shorten its lifespan.

Clothes irons

If they're properly maintained, clothes irons can last for a long time. You should empty the water after each use and make sure you clean the surface, but only after it's no longer hot. Also, you want to make sure you don't hit the cord with the hot part of the iron while using it.

Coffeemakers

It's very important that you examine your coffee pot: Because this is an electrical appliance that comes in contact with water, you need to be especially careful. Also, check the pot's handle. If it's loose, you could get scalding water on your hands. And, when you're not using it, unplug it.

Toaster ovens

These can have a very long shelf life and have become much safer in recent years. That's because manufacturers have installed special timers so that, if the bread gets stuck, the heat will automatically turn off. And, as with coffee makers, unplug a toaster oven when you're not using it.

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