When I was a kid, one of my favorite hide-and-seek hiding places was in the clothes dryer. Sounds innocent enough, but it can have tragic results. Last year, a 4-year-old Mission Viejo, Calif., girl climbed into the family's washing machine. Her 15-month-old-brother managed to turn on the machine, and she died of related injuries.
A disturbing number of kids—more than 2,000 each year—are seriously hurt, and a few die, after reaching, climbing, or falling into washers and dryers or toppling down from them. The now-popular frontloading washers can be particularly dangerous because the controls are often located on the front panel, within easy reach of a young child, and the doors lock when the machine is started. And many people leave the doors of those machines open to minimize mold growth around the rubber gasket, a common complaint with front-loaders. Plus laundry machines are now being moved into the living quarters, where young kids can have unrestricted access. (Learn more about childproofing your kitchen, basement, garage, and other areas of your home.)
Manufacturers warn about allowing kids to play on or in those appliances, and one manufacturer has developed a child-entrapment warning system. Take precautions to keep kids away from the washer and dryer, whether you're doing laundry or just playing hide-and-seek.
—Donald Mays, safety director and consumer advocate