Don’t charge your phone overnight: the expert guide to using electricity safely

Can you change a lightbulb if you don’t know whether it’s on or not? And what’s the best way to remove toast stuck in the toaster?

 Lightbulb moment … does it matter if it’s on or not? Photograph: Hero Images Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

The parents of an 11-year-old boy in Staffordshire were shocked to find that his tablet, after being left to charge on a bed sheet overnight, had burned a hole through to the mattress. The local fire service has warned that devices should not be charged on potentially flammable surfaces. So where is it safe to charge them? Here, experts answer that and other electrical safety questions.

Where is it safe to charge a phone?

“You shouldn’t tuck phones under pillows or charge them on bedding,” says Paul Shaw, head of fire investigation at Staffordshire fire rescue. “It’s called thermal runaway in the battery. It self-heats. It keeps going and going. A work surface or wooden side table are fine, because the battery won’t output enough heat.” Shaw adds that you should always use the charger that came with the phone. Phil Buckle, the chief executive at the charity Electrical Safety First, advises against charging devices overnight at all. “When you go to bed, switch everything off.”

“Yes, as long as you don’t stick your finger where the lightbulb should go,” Shaw says. “If the bulb flickers, stop and turn the light off.”

Should you turn off or unplug all your plugs before you go out?

Buckle turns off his toaster and kettle before he leaves the house. Shaw says his morning routine involves switching off everything that doesn’t have a timer, including the tumble dryer, dishwasher and washing machine – but he adds that it is fine to leave on the fridge freezer, and anything with a digital clock.

Is it dangerous to leave the power turned on if there’s no plug in the socket?

No. “Sockets are designed to just be there,” Buckle says.

Is it true that plastic socket-protectors are unsafe?

“If people want to use them, there is no reason why they shouldn’t – but there’s no need to use them because our socket system is perfectly safe,” says Buckle. Shaw explains that plastic protectors should have three pins and be CE-certified. If they have only one pin, don’t use them: they activate the socket.

Should you turn your TV off in a thunderstorm?

“I really don’t see that as a risk and I’ve never bothered to unplug my telly in a thunderstorm,” Buckle says.

If the toast gets stuck in the toaster, how is it safe to get it out?

Turn off the plug, remove it, then use a broad-bladed plastic utensil such as a spatula to retrieve whatever you’ve lost.

What is your absolute eletrical must-don’t?

“Don’t use electrical garden tools such as a lawnmower or hedge-trimmer without a residual current device,” Buckle warns. “If you don’t have one, cutting through the cable could be life-threatening. You can buy one to use on the socket you plug your mower into.”

Shaw advises checking whether your appliances have been recalled (in the UK, at “Don’t leave a washing machine, tumble drier or dishwasher going when you go to bed,” he says. Dishwashers can have problems with control units and door switches; tumble driers with an inadequate seal can have lint or fluff blown directly on to the element. “If you’re leaving your tumble dryer on, make sure you remain on the same floor. If you have concerns, fit an additional smoke alarm.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!