American Cleaning Institute - For Better Living
CleaningMatters logo sm March/April 2011

Be a Detector Detective

Tips for Keeping Smoke and CO Detectors on Active Duty

Daylight Savings Time begins on March 13. So, while you're making the rounds that day to reset your clocks, take some time to give your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors a checkup too. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 66% of home-fire deaths that occurred between 2003 and 2006 were in homes without a working smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire. If you have battery-operated detectors, the batteries should be changed a minimum of once a year; twice a year is even better. It's easy to remember to do this bit of home maintenance if you schedule it to correspond with the arrival of Daylight Savings Time in the spring and the switch back to Standard Time in the fall.

Battery replacement isn't the only issue, says Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®. Cleaning these alarms is important too. If dust particles settle inside your detectors, they can easily compromise the response, either by setting off a false alarm or by causing a delay. It is important to always follow the manufacturer's directions when cleaning your detector.

In most cases, start by removing the detector from the ceiling or wall. Set it on a table and remove the batteries. Using a clean, dry cloth, gently dust the battery compartment. Install new batteries and close the compartment. To remove dust particles and cobwebs, gently vacuum the case, using the wand or brush attachment. Do not use any type of liquid or spray cleaner. However, if your alarm has a removable cover, you can clean it with a solution of water and hand-dishwashing detergent. Rinse and thoroughly dry the cover before replacing it.

Check the age of your detectors. If the alarm is old, the sensor response could be delayed, or it might not even respond at all. Despite what many people think, detectors are not designed to last a lifetime. Replace any that are more than 10 years old. If there is a residue of grease and grime on your detector that can't be removed by vacuuming, that's also a sign that it's time to replace it.

If your detectors are hardwired as part of a security system, check with the installation company for their cleaning recommendations.

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