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Hidden risks in your closet

Updated on July 25, 2012

1. Bare lightbulbs:
The uncovered electrical parts and the heat from a bulb left on can spark a fire, especially if cardboard boxes or other flammables are stored close by. And it's all to easy to shatter the bulb when removing items from top shelves. Check that any fixture you buy is rated for storage areas.

2. Mothballs:
Yes, they keep moths and other critters from feasting on your clothes. But the chemical vapors mothballs emit are also harmful to humans when inhaled. A safe bug repelling alternative is to line the closet with aromatic eastern red cedar; just keep clothing out of the direct contact, as the wood can stain it.

3. Clothes in dry-cleaning bags:
The plastic holds in both moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew, and residual chemicals from the cleaning process, which can damage clothing fibers and cause yellowing. Let garments fully air out before storing, and cover with cloth garment bags, if desired.

4. Leftover paint:
Even if you reseal cans carefully, vapors may still escape. In an enclosed space, like a closet, they can build up - until you open the door and stick your head in to look for something. It's safest to dispose of the leftovers properly, but if you must keep partly used cans, store them on open shelves in the garage or basement.

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