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How to keep your home warm and safe this winter

Winter is here and that means products like heaters, electric blankets, hot water bottles and heat packs may need safety checks.

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Now that we are in the midst of the colder weather, people have brought their winter gear out from storage. It is important that items have been thoroughly checked before using them to reduce the risk of fires and burns.

“We want everyone to have a safe and healthy winter but many seasonal items can be unsafe if they are old, faulty or used incorrectly,” said Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Simon Cohen.

Below are some tips to keep your castle warm and safe.

Smoke alarms

Each year, more than 50 people across Australia die from house fires and many more are injured. Many homes do not have working smoke alarms. Only working smoke alarms can provide early warning and time to escape. You lose your sense of smell when you are asleep. A working smoke alarm reduces your chance of dying in a house fire.


  • Test your smoke alarm is working every month.
  • Replace your alarm battery every year.
  • Replace your smoke alarm every 10 years. If you move to a new house, check the alarm - the date of manufacture should be displayed on the smoke alarm.

Electric blankets

Store your electric blanket rolled up, not folded. Inspect it before use and look for frayed fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks before using it again. If you notice any damage to your electric blanket, throw it away. Damaged or faulty electric blankets can cause an electric shock or fire hazard.


  • Check before use each year – cords should not be frayed and the blanket covering the wires should not be worn out.
  • Don’t sleep with your electric blanket on - warm the bed and then turn it off.
  • Never place heavy items on your bed when the electric blanket is turned on.
  • Seek advice about using an electric blanket if you have diabetes or for anyone who is pregnant.

Hot water bottles

Hot water bottles are widely used for warmth or to help ease pain. They are manufactured from rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and can deteriorate with age. Each year, 200 people in Australia are treated for serious burns from using hot water bottles.


  • Don’t overfill or use boiling water in your hot water bottle - use hot tap water.
  • Once filled, avoid direct contact with your skin - use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle before use.
  • Never leave on one body part for more than 20 minutes.

Wheat/Heat Packs

If you purchase a wheat pack follow the heating instructions and never heat more than instructed. Homemade wheat bags can pose a fire and injury risk because the moisture content and volume of these bags is not known so there are no heating times to guide you. Ageing causes the organic fillings inside wheat packs to dry out and become more combustible.


  • Do not heat and place the wheat pack on or in bedding. Blankets trap the product’s heat and may cause it to ignite.
  • Allow the wheat pack to cool completely each time before reheating.
  • If you notice a burning smell, let the bag cool and then dispose of the bag.

Candles, matches and lighters

Candles make your home smell nice, but they are among the most common cause of fires in a home.


  • Blow out a candle before leaving the room or before going to sleep.
  • Ensure the wick ember is no longer glowing.


Heaters need to be checked every year, no matter how old they are. Make sure there are no exposed wires or loose connection on the cables. Only use one appliance per power point and switch each off when not in use.

Gas heaters must be vented adequately as the carbon monoxide produced when the gas is burnt is odourless, colourless and deadly. It is particularly important to have gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified tradesperson to ensure that there are no carbon monoxide leaks.


  • Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface
  • Never use a gas heater or BBQ made for outdoor use inside your home.
  • Always supervise children and pets when heaters are in use.
  • Keep heaters well clear from items that might burn. A minimum of 1 metre clearance from clothes, bedding, furniture, curtains and other combustibles is recommended.


Heavy rainfall, cold temperatures and heaters all cause condensation that can lead to mould growth. Mould and dampness in homes can cause health problems. Any mould needs to be removed and the area kept ventilated to avoid regrowth. Pregnant women, children and people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases should not be present when mould is removed.

Mould is not a major health hazard for most people, however, there are some important safety tips to follow when trying to remove mould and reduce the chance of mould regrowth.


  • Open windows and doors each day to ventilate your house and reduce the growth of mould.
  • Don't let it settle in, clean up mould as soon as you notice it.
  • Scrub mould off hard surfaces using soapy water. The physical action of scrubbing is the most important component as all the mould must be physically removed to prevent regrowth.
  • Make sure you scrub up to 50cm from the edge of the visible mould as there may be new growth that is not visible to the naked eye.
  • Clean up any mould residue caused by the scrubbing. Use a damp cloth or vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • Dry the area and then find and fix the source of the moisture.

Hopefully these tips will help keep you safe as well as warm this winter!

Reviewed 20 December 2022

Consumer Affairs Victoria

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