It’s that time of the year when we bring the outdoors indoors with a beautiful Christmas tree. If you celebrate Christmas, then you likely have memories of a big, bushy tree sitting in the corning of your living room reaching back into your early days of childhood. For many of us, seeing a tree in the home around the months of November through January is so standard that we can forget what a tremendous amount of work these festive decorations are. But if they aren’t cared for properly, they can quickly become a hazard.
Don’t be left unprepared! Follow these 9 essential Christmas tree safety tips this holiday season and then do your part to properly dispose of your tree.
1. Get a fresh one and keep it fresh.
Dry and brittle tree branches are more flammable then moist, fresh ones. A dying tree is also more likely to shed leaves and twigs, which can float down onto a candle and catch fire. Buy a fresh tree and make sure to water it regularly. Keep in mind that a six-foot tree will require a gallon of water a day.
2. Get low water alerts.
There are Christmas tree safety systems available at many home improvement stores that will notify you when your tree needs more water. You simply place them at the base of your tree and they sound an alarm when your tree is getting too dry. This can be very useful in keeping your tree moist and fresh.
3. Keep it away from fire.
Set your tree up at least three feet away from any candles, fireplaces or furnaces. You shouldn’t keep space heaters anywhere near your tree, either. On that note, don’t set your tree up near any vents. The air from the heater or AC could blow dry, loose debris from the tree onto the fire.
4. Delay putting out the presents.
As far as anti-theft procedures go, don’t put presents around the tree until the day you’re going to actually open them. A tree surrounded by presents is a welcoming site for burglars.
5. Stabilize your tree.
Make sure your tree is perfectly stable and doesn’t tilt at all when set up. A slightly lopsided tree might look cute and quirky, but it’s more prone to tipping over and falling onto a candle or into the fireplace. When you first cut the stump, don’t cut it quite as short as you want it—give yourself some wiggle room to trim it a bit more, in case it’s uneven the first time.
6. Use the right lights, and use them smartly.
Stick to LED lights and other lights certified for indoor use. Your lights shouldn’t create any heat, as this can be a fire hazard. Make sure you unplug your lights when you go to bed at night or when you leave the home for several hours on end. Even though a lit up Christmas tree looks nice through your living room window, nobody is looking at it from the street at 3 in the morning.
7. Check for broken strands.
There is a good chance that you’ve been using the same tree lights for years, if not decades. Though they can be hard to say goodbye to, if you notice any frayed or broken strands, it’s time to throw these out. Any wire that is exposed or nearly exposed can be a serious fire hazard.
8. Consolidate cords.
Don’t leave tree cords in loose piles on the floor. It’s too easy for a child to get tangled in these or a pet to chew on them. Make sure you neatly consolidate and tuck away excess light cords.
9. Check your smoke alarm.
Now is as good of time as any to make sure your smoke alarm is in working order. You’ve just dragged a big, green fire hazard into your home – better make sure your detector is in working condition.
How to properly dispose of your tree
Most people want to keep their decorations, but if you were planning on tossing yours, don’t do that with your tree. Remove all decorations from your tree before you get rid of it. Once the tree is bare, cut it into smaller sections. The idea here is to fit it inside your green trash bin. Throwing it directly on the street isn’t the best way to get rid of it as it can attract all sorts of critters, and even be a hazard for curious kids playing outdoors. One you’ve put your tree in your green bin, roll it out to the street and your city waste removal company will pick it up. In some cities, it will be turned into reusable mulch.
Let your Christmas tree be an absolute joy, rather than a killjoy, this holiday season.