PSA: Your Old Gadgets Are a Fire Hazard, Here’s What to Do – How-To Geek


Who among us doesn’t have a gadget junk drawer or box on a closet shelf with some old phones? Those old gadgets aren’t just clutter, though: They’re a potential fire hazard. Here’s what you need to know.

Warning: Before we dig in, if you came across this article because you already have a device with a swollen or bulging battery, please immediately discontinue use of the device, don’t attempt to charge it, and read our guide to dealing with laptops, phones, and other devices with swollen batteries.

Why Old Gadgets Are a Fire Hazard

An old Android phone or three here, a forgotten about tablet or two there. It’s all too easy to accumulate a pile of old gadgets and gear that you never quite get around to dealing with.

Unfortunately, however, unlike old-fashioned junk drawer gadget castoffs like a flashlight or calculator, modern gear poses a unique risk: it’s a fire hazard.

Why? Most modern portable electronics use lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are pretty great in most regards.

They’re small, lightweight, and store a good amount of energy for their size. Without them, we wouldn’t have super slim smartphones that could go all day (and then some) on a single charge.

But storing a lot of energy in a small space is always a potential risk and lithium-ion batteries aren’t exempt from this. As they age and degrade, the chance of a battery failure increases.

I don’t always throw phone batteries on the ground, but when I do they’re on fire. Jason Fitzpatrick

Unlike a battery failure with, say, some AA batteries jammed in the back of an old toy, the risk with a lithium-ion battery failing isn’t just some leaking and corrosion in the battery compartment, it’s a potential fire as the battery swells up and the gases (combined with the stored energy) turn the battery into a potential fireball.

Not only do pictures of dangerously swollen batteries crop up on /r/TechSupportGore fairly frequently, but there’s even a whole subreddit devoted to the topic with the tongue-in-cheek name /r/SpicyPillows—a nod to the pillow-like shape of a swollen lithium-ion battery and the fire that can result from damage to the “pillow.”

Now, we hardly want anyone to panic at the thought of their forgotten about iPhone 5 or old MP3 player burning their house down while they’re reading this article on their lunch break.

Exploding phones are pretty rare, and we should know that keeping a pile of old gadgets around isn’t a death warrant. But good gadget management and storage practices can help reduce your risk to nearly zero—and declutter your home in the process.

How to Decrease Your Risk

When it comes to avoiding an old phone or tablet failing and taking your house along for the ride, it’s a matter of risk management and minimizing the chance the battery will fail.

Get Rid of Old Gadgets

This might sound like heresy to the folks that keep every gadget, cable, and maybe even the box they came in, forever and ever, but it’s certainly a best practice you should consider.

Rather than hold onto …….



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.