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From electrical hazards and energy-saving precautions to food preservation and hygiene, the kitchen probably poses the most amount of risk to your home in your absence. What should and shouldn’t be done is often up for debate, however, there are certain tasks that when neglected, can have a much more detrimental impact than others.
Lizzie Beesley, kitchen specialist from Magnet said: “Whilst it’s important to ensure the security and state of your whole home, it’s the kitchen that calls for the most amount of pre-travel prep to ensure your mind is at rest on holiday and is ready for a blissful homecoming.”
Many households will be aware of the classic security advice, such as making sure doors and windows are locked, but there are a few extra tasks that should be on the agenda that many might not be aware of.
Remember to switch off:
While switching off kitchen appliances before heading to the airport is largely important to avoid the risk of fires and electrical hazards, it’s a good way to conserve energy and save money on utilities.
Ms Beesley said: “Kitchen appliances are the top culprits for using lots of electricity, even when left on standby. Ovens, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, kettles, coffee machines, toasters and other countertop gadgets in your home should be switched off before departure.
“Unplugging them or turning off the fuse switch are the best ways to ensure they’re not left on standby – but make sure you don’t switch off your fridge or freezer in the process.”
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Though there is some debate around whether to switch off your boiler when going on holiday, according to the expert, it largely depends on the time of year.
Ms Beesley said: “In the summer, switch off your boiler as hot water and heating aren’t needed.
“In the winter, however, it’s important to leave your boiler on and set the thermostat on a lower temperature or on a timer, to prevent your pipes from freezing.’’
Don’t switch off:
Always leave the freezer and fridge on unless you’re going away for a particularly long time and it’s empty.
Ms Beesley said: “If you switch off a fridge or freezer, it will defrost and you’ll return to a very wet floor. The stench and clean-up of rotting food is not something you want to return to.“
Cut the water supply
Water leaks are one of the “most common domestic disasters” holidaymakers return home to, according to Ms Beesley.
She said: “[Leaks] cause considerable damage and expense if left unattended, so remember to turn off your water supply at the mains.”
The stopcock is usually located in the cupboard under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe comes into your home.
Ms Beesely said: “Turning it off is simply a must-do and it will put your mind at ease whilst on holiday.”
Plan ahead with your fridge clear out
Clearing the fridge of foods that will spoil quickly is essential before heading off on holiday as forgetting to do so could mean you’ll be greeted with some pretty nasty scents on your return.
Ms Beesley said: “A little planning ahead here can go a long way and prevent you from wasting food and money.
“In the run-up to your holiday, try and use up anything that will go bad during the time you are away. Use vegetables in a soup or stew, or make a veggie curry or casserole.
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Disinfect the kitchen work surfaces to clear away any remaining germs and bacteria
“If you make a big batch, you can freeze the leftovers for an easy meal when you get back.”
Freeze whatever you can in air-tight containers or bags, and try to offer anything that can’t be frozen to a neighbour or friend.
She added: “While you’re clearing the fridge out, wipe down the shelves and draws to make sure any lingering crumbs and food that could breed mould are removed.’’
Empty the bins and give them a clean
A simple but largely forgotten task is taking out the rubbish and recycling. Leaving a bin alone for an extended period of time in the summer is prone to attracting pests and odours.
Ms Beesley said: “It’s also a good opportunity to clean out your bin and recycling containers as even the tiniest amount of rubbish or food waste can cause an odour in the warmer months.’’
Don’t forget the coffee grounds
Coffee machines are a kitchen staple for many Britons, however, while the coffee grounds are neatly tucked away within the machine, it’s easy to overlook clearing them out amongst all your holiday prep.
Leaving the dishwasher slightly ajar will allow any standing heat and moisture to escape
Ms Beesley said: “It’s a simple step to miss, but take the time to clean to do so.
“Wet coffee grounds are the perfect breeding place for mould and odours and can even attract cockroaches.’’
Leave your dishwasher open (just a crack)
While it might be tempting to run the dishwasher and leave the unloading for when you return, it’s probably one of the last chores you’ll want to return home to after a lovely holiday.
Ms Beesley said: “Do it before you depart and make sure you leave the dishwasher open just a crack.
“This will allow any standing heat and moisture to escape, which can breed mould and microbes if left alone for a long period of time.’’
Freshen your drains
Kitchen drains can get smelly after a while and you’ll definitely notice it when you come home from a holiday.
This is usually due to a build-up of food residue and particles getting stuck and festering.
Ms Beesley said: “Before you go, drop half a cup of baking soda down the drain and then pour one cup of vinegar down it.
“Let it sit for 15 minutes and then flush the drain with hot water.
“Add some lemon and you’ll be sure to return home to a sparkly sink with a citrus scent.’’
Be smart with lighting
Before heading off, it’s important to make your house look lived in to deter burglars from trying their luck.
This is particularly important for those with kitchens at the front of the house.
Ms Beesley said: “If you have an automatic timer on your lights, set it to turn on and off in the evenings at pre-programmed times. Or, make use of external security lights to warn off potential intruders and give the impression of someone being at home.
Whether or not to close the blinds and curtains is also a much-debated task amongst Britons however, there are tricks to find the happy medium.
Ms Beesley said: “Completely shut kitchen blinds during the day scream that a home is unoccupied. Leave them slightly open to give the impression that someone is in, but not enough for people to peer directly in.
“For those with kitchen curtains, you can also leave them slightly drawn and ensure any valuables are out of sight. But it’s advised you use other deterrents like smart security systems and upgraded door and window locks to enhance the security of your home.’’