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Candles, decorative lights & decorations


Candles, decorations and decorative lights are a growing cause of fires.

Find out how to reduce the risks caused by electrical decorative lighting and what lights to use inside and outside your home.

How to use candles and incense safely 
  • Make sure you put out any candles, incense and oil burners when you leave the room and especially before bed. Never leave a candle, incense or oil burner unattended.
  • Candles, incense or oil burners should always be held firmly in heat-resistant holders and placed on a stable surface where they won’t be knocked over.
  • Keep them away from materials that might catch fire – that's things like curtains, furniture, clothes and hair. 
  • Be especially careful if you have a lot of flammable items in your home, like collections of books, magazines or papers. 
  • Be aware that tea lights get very hot and without proper holders can melt through plastic surfaces like a TV or bath.
  • To avoid accidents keep candles and other naked flames out of reach of children and pets. 

Take extra care when you're celebrating 

Diwali, Halloween, Hanukkah and Christmas can see us light candles, dress up, and display lots of decorations – increasing the risk of fire.  Make sure all your decorations are kept away from naked flamesMake sure you don't put candles in, or by, a Christmas tree, plants, flowers or other foliage.

You should also take care to keep ribbons, festive decorations made of tissue paper or cardboard, and greetings cards away from heaters, lights, fireplaces and candles.

Putting candles out

Never leave a candle unattended. Make sure you:

  • put out candles before you leave a room and before you go to bed
  • never leave a burning candle or oil burner in a child's bedroom
  • use a snuffer or a spoon to put them out - blowing them can send sparks and hot wax flying
  • double-check that they are completely out and not still smouldering

Decorative lights and electrical safety

Fairy lights and Christmas tree lights don't get used very often, so you should make sure they are in good working order before using them:

  • check that lights aren't damaged or broken and look out for loose or worn wires
  • check that the fuse in the plug is the right size - the lights' packaging should tell you the maximum size of fuse you should use
  • don't overload sockets
  • replace any bulbs that blow
  • switch the lights off when you go to bed or leave the house
  • don't let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper or fabrics and other Christmas tree decorations

If you are unsure about the safety of last year's Christmas lights, don't use them.

Indoor and outdoor decorative lights

For indoor lighting you could use LED lights. LED lights work at a lower voltage than traditional bulbs so there is less risk of electric shock.

You can also buy Christmas lights with a low voltage transformer. The transformer reduces the normal voltage so the lights are safer to use.

If you want to use decorative lights outside, you should make sure they are designed for outdoor use only and are connected through an RCD-protected socket. A residual current device (RCD) protects against electric shock by disconnecting the electricity if the current is uneven. An RCD is sometimes called a safety switch or circuit breaker and costs about £10.

You should make sure you know where your fuse box is so that you can turn it off quickly in an emergency. A fuse box is sometimes called a consumer unit.

More information and advice about electrical safety. 

Latest update : 11 August 2020
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