Did you know?

I’ve got the sure-fire, quick-start, danger in my junk drawer blues.

By Paul Viau | Jan 29, 2014
Photo by: Paul Viau photo WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? — Never store 9-volt batteries where they can 'spark' a fire. Pictured is the Viau junk drawer -- before its cleaning and reorganization.

I was minding my own business, poking around the Internet this week, when I stumbled upon a news report about the dangers lurking in the ordinary, household “junk drawer.”

In case you are chronically OCD, and live with ‘everything in its place,’ a junk drawer is just that — a drawer filled with this and that from here and there — aka junk. It is often the top drawer in an entryway, kitchen, den, closet or garage. I think Carol and I may have one such “junk drawer” in every room of our house. Maybe we should consolidate.

Anyway, junk drawers start out as a convenience, but soon take on a life of their own. In fact, junk drawers can have such an overpowering magnetic attraction that you will find yourself lobbing, tossing or otherwise adding odd items without even thinking about it.

In our kitchen, for example, our junk drawer contains: pencils, pens, rubber bands, twist ties, paper clips, masking tape, alcohol wipes, jar grabbers, felt pads, two measuring tapes, one letter-opener, butane lighter fuel, Carol’s extra eyeglasses and a wide assortment of batteries.

That’s after I cleaned it out yesterday, for reasons you will soon learn.

Did you know?  You can store most household items in a junk drawer without any repercussions, but there is one very dangerous exception — 9-volt batteries.

9-volt batteries are the small, rectangular ones. We mostly-square senior citizens call them transistor radio batteries, because ‘back in the day’ that’s mainly what they were.

These days, 9-volt batteries are mostly used as backup power for smoke detectors, which is a perfect segue.

You see, 9-volt batteries have both the positive and negative terminals on the same side. That’s makes it possible to inadvertently “activate” the battery with something as simple as a household key, screwdriver, open pocketknife — even a paper clip.

Once activated, a 9-volt battery will generate enough to heat to spark a fire.

The worse case scenario would be having a metal object making complete contact with both terminals of the battery right next to/or under a pocket-size packet of tissues, steel wool, a wooden ruler or even those flexible/bendable twist ties.

Think about those twist ties for a moment. A 9-volt battery could heat up and ignite the protective, paper-cover, then spark the inner metal wire, which becomes yet another, longer conductor.

In the case of the main Viau junk drawer, several twist ties are “organized” in close proximity, which is precisely why I am singing “the sure-fire, quick-start, danger in my junk drawer blues.”

To cure the blues, I have removed all 9-volt batteries from our junk drawers. I keep them in their original packaging until use, and all loose 9-volt batteries are protected by a piece of electrical tape covering both terminals.

As for steel wool, never store it close to a heat or fire source. Hikers and campers often carry 9-volt batteries and steel wool (separately, of course) because they make such an effective, emergency fire starter. There’s no room for steel wool in your junk drawer. Happy junk drawer cleaning.