Garage Safety: Keep Toys Away from Hazardous Chemicals

LESLIE: Home safety is always important but never more so when you’ve got young children. And one of the most hazardous rooms of your house may be your garage, a place where many people keep a dangerous combination of toys and sporting equipment, of course, right next to those fertilizers and household chemicals.

TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, is here with some great, safe-storage tips for that space.

Garage Safety: Keep Toys Away from Hazardous ChemicalsWelcome, Kevin.

KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.

TOM: It’s true that this is one of the rooms in the house where kids can definitely keep their favorite outdoor gear right alongside the gasoline and the yard tools that we keep in there. So, how do you make sure that everyone’s stuff is stored safely?

KEVIN: Well, I think some common sense goes a long way in this situation and so you need to recognize the hazards. And it starts by just taking a good look around that garage and seeing what you’re actually storing there and think about what could be dangerous.

And so, if you’ve got dangerous chemicals, certainly put them out of reach from the children. Or better yet, if you can, put them in a locked cabinet. And also, it helps if you’ve got chemicals, keep them in their original container with the labels in good condition so that you know what’s there and you see all the safety warnings.

And here’s a good idea: don’t purchase any more of these chemicals than you need because then you’ll go through them and they won’t be stored in your garage for long periods of time.

LESLIE: What about combustibles? I feel like so many things that we use in our outdoor spaces require a fuel like propane or gasoline. And you really need to think especially carefully when it comes to storing those items.

KEVIN: Well, you do. And again, those things should be out of the reach of the kids but also, it’s important what you store them in, right? So these fuels really should be stored in containers specifically designed for their storage. Gasoline cans, for example, well, they’ve got special vents to avoid any dangerous buildup of combustible fumes. So storing gas in anything else, any sort of a lesser container, it’s just an explosion waiting to happen.

TOM: Now, when it comes to all of the other storage that we put inside of our garage – the toys, the ladders, all that kind of stuff – the garage is sort of chock-a-block full of tripping hazards, right?

KEVIN: Yeah. And it’s not just gasoline and fertilizers. Those things will jump out at you but if you think about stuff, you’ll start to see other dangers.

So, for example, a ladder. Well, if you store it up in the upright position, kids can climb up on it and it can tip over. So, store it in a horizontal position so they’re not going to climb on it and no one is going to tumble over it. Rakes, hedge trimmers, shovels left on the garage floor or leaning against a wall, they can easily fall, they can cause injuries, they can cut people. So use the wall space and get as many of your tools off the floor and into a safe area as possible.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? We, as Tom likes to make fun of me, we have an especially dated garage at our home. And I feel like the door is just a hazard waiting to happen. So, are there any sort of tips that we can use to make our garage door safer?

KEVIN: Most garage doors, at least since 1982, have been required to have an automatic reversing mechanism so that they’ll go back up if there’s anything underneath that door. But unfortunately, the mechanisms can wear out or they can even fail if they’re not properly maintained. So test yours. Make sure it’s actually working, because it’s a great safety feature.

TOM: And then another risk is pinching. As those doors come down, kids get their hands in. I’ve seen door designs, though, today that are pinch-free designs, which have the ability to sort of push fingers out of that sort of crushed joint so that you really can’t get it stuck in there.

KEVIN: That’s a cool feature. I just scream at my kids and tell them to get away from the garage doors when they’re moving. But yeah, keep them away. And if you’ve got those safety features on those doors, you can use those.

Also, you’ve got to understand that a lot of these garage doors, when they’re powered, these are heavy doors. And so they use springs that are actually going to provide the strength to lift the door. Well, the problem is that the springs can break.

TOM: Right.

KEVIN: And if they do, well, they’re going to fly across that garage and they can actually hurt somebody. So, here’s a little tip. When the door is closed in the closed position, just thread a wire, like a picture-hanging wire; that’ll work well. Thread it inside the extended spring and then secure it to an eyelet at each end. So if the spring ever does break, it’s not going anywhere; it’s going to stay in place.

TOM: So that wire will contain the spring and stop it from flying off and hitting somebody. Yeah.

KEVIN: But it doesn’t become a projectile.

TOM: Yeah, good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great tips on how to stay safe in the garage.

KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.

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