Top 12 Holiday Decorating Tips to Make Your Season Bright and Safe

Close up on an evergreen tree with snowflake decorations and blue lights

The winter holidays are here! Before you begin your celebrations (if you haven’t already), here are 12 holiday decorating tips you need to know that will keep you and your loved ones safe whether you’re lighting candles or decking the halls.

Tip #1: Safe glowing!

a woman lighting a hanukkah menorah
Be safe around lit candles!

Candles are a staple in all winter holidays, and according to the National Fire Protection Association, December is the peak time for candle fires. To lower your home’s risk, place your menorahs and kinaras on a non-flammable surface or on aluminum foil that’s on a sturdy, flat surface. This prevents candles from tipping over and starting a fire. Make sure to pick a place that is out of reach of curious pets and children!

Tip #2: Get a handle on your candles

Candle care starts with a long-tipped lighter to prevent any potential burns, which may force you to drop the candle and create a dangerous situation. Also, never leave your lit candles unattended or walk with a lit candle, and since half of home fire deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., extinguish your flames fully before turning in for the night.

Tip #3: Give your decorations some space

a red candle in a glass holder with holly around it
Give your decorations breathing room.

Almost half of all holiday decoration fires start because a decoration was too close to a heat source. Three out of every five candle fires start because flammable items—furniture, bedding, or decorations—were near the flame. To safeguard your family and your home, keep candles at least a foot away from anything flammable, your trees at least three feet away from any heat source (including candles), and keep your kids, kittens, and other small beings away from all the above.

Tip #4: Peruse before you use

Colored holiday lights lay upon the a hardwood floor
Look over your lights for damage.

Before even plugging in your electrical decorations, examine them for fraying wires and loose or missing bulbs. Replace broken bulbs, and throw out the entire string if you see any exposed wires. It’s better to lose a string of lights than lose your home to a house fire. Double check to ensure that your electric decorations have been approved by an independent testing lab, such as UL (Underwriter Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), and ETL (Intertek), for safety.

Tip #5: Less is more…

“The Rule of Three” applies to incandescent lights as connecting more than three strands can blow a fuse or start a fire. Be sure not to overload your electrical outlets and never plug in more than one high-wattage appliance per outlet. Forty-four percent of Christmas tree fires started with electrical distribution or lighting equipment problems, so make sure to turn off your lights and candles before heading to bed.

Of course, all this electric use is sure to raise your utility bill. We’ve got 10 ways to help you keep it low this holiday season.

Tip #6: …and check your cords

a power strip with lots of plugs plugged in
Be kind to your power cords.

Lights aren’t the only fire hazard when it comes to decorating. Most light strands connect to extension cords, which can also be frayed or damaged. This not only increases the risk of home fires but can also give you quite a shock. Keep cords in good working order by not pinching them between furniture, squeezing them in windows or doors, placing them under rugs, or attaching them to walls or siding with nails or staples.

Tip #7: Take your decorating outside (but only for 90 days)

candy cane lights hang from a tree with white lights
The elements can damage your holiday decorations.

Outside lights require special love and care. Since exterior decorations are exposed to the elements, they can suffer from weather damage and critter attacks, so keeping them up longer than 90 days may drastically increase the wear-and-tear. (The extended time also might annoy your neighbors.)

Tip #8: Don’t buy Charlie Brown’s tree. Really.

All trees are potential kindle, but you can help to prevent a real or artificial tree from catching fire by following these simple rules:

  • When shopping for a natural tree, see if it’s losing needles excessively. If so, continue the search.
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from your heat sources, including candles.
  • Keep your tree hydrated by adding water to it once it’s in the stand and adding water daily.
  • Use appropriate lighting, and never use candles.
  • Buy flame resistant or flame-retardant decorations, including your tree (if artificial).
  • When the tree begins to lose its needles excessively, it’s time to kick it to the curb.

Also, don’t block a doorway with your tree, so you have a clear exit in case of a fire.

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Tip #9: Take your holiday displays and safety to new heights

Gray boots standing on a ladder outdoors in the winter
Be safe when using a ladder.

In November and December 2018, more than 240 per day visited the emergency room with injuries related to holiday decorating. Keep yourself out of the hospital by placing the ladder on stable ground, never standing on the top rung of the ladder, moving the ladder rather than leading too far, and wearing appropriate clothing (fit pants, tied and clean shoes, etc.)

Tip #10: Baby, don’t be a firework

a couple holds sparklers as they burn
Safety first!

Though not as popular as the Fourth of July, Dec. 30th – Jan. 3rd draws 10 percent of all firework fires. If you plan to celebrate the new year with fireworks, follow all the federal, state, and local laws regarding firework use. Light your fireworks in clear, open areas, on flat surfaces, and have a fire extinguisher ready, just in case.

Tip #11: Invite your smoke alarms to the party

a man on a ladder installs a smoke detector at the base of stairs
Check your smoke detectors monthly.

Whether you’re frying latkes, cooking chicken and sausage gumbo, or baking cookies, the winter holidays are a prime time for cooking fires (along with many other types of fires). Make sure to keep your holiday guests safe by checking to make sure your smoke alarms are ready for the party. Their importance cannot be understated. Test your alarms (even hardwired detectors) to ensure they’re functional, and if you’re using battery-operated detectors, not only test the batteries but also keep an extra set around, just in case it starts to chirp.

Tip #12: Leave poison off the menu 

a Poinsettia planet and a lit candle near a window by a wintery landscape
Beware of holiday poisons.

We’ve written about Thanksgiving cooking safety with tips you should follow when preparing your winter holiday meal. Winter holidays demand an extra level of attention with poisonous materials around the house. Wash your hands after hanging lights (which have lead in the strands) and keep the holly and mistletoe out of reach of children and animals. Head over to the National Capital Poison Center for additional holiday poison safety information.

Decorating may be difficult; keeping your home safe shouldn’t be

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Preparing for your holiday-at-home can be difficult, but with the vipHomeLink home management app, it doesn’t have to be. We help you with routine home maintenance, so you’re ready with a wonderful and relaxing holiday. The app’s push notifications help you with last-minute safety tips, and with weather notifications sent right to your phone, you’ll know what to do if a storm blows through.

Stay safe and warm with this holiday season with the help of vipHomeLink! Download the app today!


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