With many of us spending more time at home nowadays, appliances may be seeing more use, or it may be time to make an update.

We all expect the appliances we buy—things like refrigerators, coffee makers and dehumidifiers—to be safe. And because federal law requires manufacturers and importers to test these products for compliance with consumer product safety requirements, we usually don’t have much to worry about.

But there are times when defects are discovered after a product makes it to store shelves. And in severe cases, those defects can cause damage to people or property. Each year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announces about 300 recalls involving millions of products.

Here are five home appliance safety tips to help keep your items in safe working order.

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1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions

The manual that came with your appliance contains important information: There should be instructions for the proper operation of the product and warnings to reduce the risk of accident, such as a recommendation to keep flammable objects away from the appliance, or a caution against getting it wet. Pro tip: Store all your manuals together in one place, such as a box or a filing cabinet drawer.

2. Fill out the product registration card

One of the easier home appliance safety tips is completing the registration card that came with your item. That way the manufacturer can contact you in the event of a recall (due to safety issues or defects) or a product update. Some companies let consumers register their products online—a good option if you lost the registration card or bought the product secondhand. You may have chosen a particular brand of product based on the strong warranty protection it carries, but the warranty may not go into effect until you register the product.

3. Check for recalls

If a company issues a recall for a product, it will usually post information about the recall on its website. Also look for information from the CPSC. This government agency has jurisdiction over thousands of kinds of consumer products, such as appliances, clothing and furniture. On its website, you can report a problem with a product, see if others have reported problems or find out if a recall has been issued. You can also sign up to receive notices for future recalls.

If you discover a recall for a product you own, contact the manufacturer immediately. It has three options for correcting the problem: It can repair parts, replace parts or issue you a refund for the product—none of which should cost you any money.

4. Review return policies

If you are buying a new appliance, be sure to acquaint yourself with current return policies. Some major retailers have amended their policies because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The process for returning an item may have changed, or you may not be able to return it at all.

5. Consider ways to get your appliance fixed during the pandemic

The pandemic has complicated having an appliance repaired in your home. Most companies are requiring technicians to practice social distancing and follow enhanced safety procedures. If you plan to have a technician come into your home, talk to the company beforehand about what precautions you need to take to help keep everyone safe.

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