Winter happens every year, ushering in the time of year when millions of people start making dumb mistakes as they rush to get to somewhere warmer, whether it’s the office, a heated car or a cozy home.
You have probably witnessed countless bad habits in the cold months, from dumping a bucket of hot water over a freezing windshield to frantically slamming on the brakes and fishtailing into the nearest guardrail. Maybe you’re even guilty of a few yourself. Here are 20 of the biggest cold weather fails you should avoid this season.
1. Dressing Incorrectly for the Cold
An arctic blast that swept across much of the country this past month killed over 20 people, all of whom died from hypothermia. Clothing is a huge factor in surviving the elements, which is why cotton clothing should be avoided during harsh winter weather. Cotton absorbs up to 27 times its weight in water, says Indefinitely Wild, which can lead to hypothermia. Cotton steals your body heat fairly quickly, leaving you cold and shivering. Clothing made of synthetic materials, such as polypropylene, is a great alternative.
2. Pouring a Bucket of Hot Water on the Windshield for Deicing
The temperature difference between the scalding water and your freezing car may crack your windshield. Remember that rock that put a lovely crack in the glass yesterday? The hot water will work its way in there and expand, creating a problem you don’t want to see. Instead, go for the old-fashioned way: the ice scraper.
3. Slamming on the Brakes and Overcorrecting When You Hit a Patch of Ice
This may put you on the front page of local newspapers after you cause an accident involving several cars. If you slam on your brakes, you’re almost guaranteed to spin out of control and into traffic or the guardrail. To avoid a costly accident, stay calm, gently turn the steering wheel in the direction you are sliding and lightly tap the brake.
4. Speeding in Snowy Conditions
Yes, even the most experienced drivers can falter in their winter driving skills. Overconfidence in one’s abilities can be detrimental and end up causing a serious crash. Black ice may be lurking beneath that fresh coat of snow, and if you’re speeding, it all goes downhill from there. Keep your speed steady and drive below the speed limit when roads are icy or the threat of ice is possible.
5. Trying to Heat a Cold Home Quickly by Drastically Increasing the Thermostat Temperature
According to the Telegraph, 35 percent of homeowners do this. The thermostat does not control how fast your home will heat up; it only controls the final temperature. Set your thermostat to the temperature you would you like your home to be, bundle up and be patient.
6. Leaving Curtains Closed on Sunny Days
Natural sunlight may be one of the most effective ways to heat your home and save some cash. Keeping curtains closed will keep the warmth of the sunlight out, making for a cold house and overuse of the thermostat. Gaiam Life suggests keeping the curtains open on south-facing windows and use lighter curtains on others to allow sunlight into your home, keeping you comfy.
7. Using the Incorrect Shovel, Causing Back Pain/Problems
Walking up to a driveway packed with snow means it’s time to get to work. For many, it means more throbbing back pain. Head over to your local hardware store and find a shovel that will reduce the stress on your spine by keeping your back straight. Shovels with curved handles are the most efficient.
8. Forgetting to Warm Up Before Shoveling
It may not come to mind as such, but shoveling is as strenuous as an intense sport. Shoveling with cold muscles could lead to pulled muscles or back strains. Take a few minutes to stretch and take a couple laps up and down the stairs to get the blood pumping and prepare you for the task at hand.
9. Using an Open Flame or Electric Heater to Thaw Frozen Water Pipes
Avoid using an electric heater to thaw frozen water pipes or else it may lead to electrocution if something goes wrong. Using an open flame is just as bad; you risk damaging the pipes, or worse, causing a house fire. BB&K Insurance suggests using a hair dryer instead. Apply heat slowly, beginning at the faucet and working your way to the coldest section of the pipe.
10. Jumping or Climbing Onto the Roof to Clear Snow
Bad idea. Compacted snow is extremely heavy, and when you jump out of that upper window to begin the task of clearing it, you may cause exactly what you wanted to avoid. Your weight is more than likely just enough to further weaken the structure, ultimately resulting in a roof collapse. Try using a snow roof rake, which is a much safer alternative to risking your neck.
11. Failing to Clean the Gutters Before Freezing Weather Arrives
Cleaning gutters is a necessary evil when protecting and preparing your home for the winter months. According to Zing, the official Quicken Loans blog, gutters are the ultimate guard against icicles forming along the roofline. Icicles may damage shingles, and in the end, you may end up with water in your home.
12. Using Outdoor Heaters During a Power Outage
When the power goes out during the winter, everyone is scrambling for the nearest heating device. Avoid using kerosene heaters or any heating device you may use while camping or barbecuing. These devices release odorless but toxic gases that could lead to poisoning and/or death.
13. Bringing Firewood Bugs in the House
Wood burning fireplaces are one of the best things to have during extremely chilly nights, but beware: there may be pesky little critters living in the wood. To avoid an infestation, store firewood where the temperature is less than 50 degrees. Only bring wood inside when it will be immediately burned.
14. Failing to Wear Eye Protection
Forgetting to wear sunglasses during the winter could be dangerous for your eyes. Bright sunshine reflecting off of snow can cause macular degeneration and even contribute to age-related eye disease. This reflection can also cause severe glare which could be hazardous when driving. Always remember to keep those shades handy.
15. Avoiding Sunscreen
Although you aren’t at the beach or lying poolside, it is essential to keep the sunscreen use at an all-time high. Snow glare will damage your skin just as badly as it will your eyes. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on your face and other exposed areas before going outside. Generously reapply if you will be out for longer periods.
16. Wearing Everything but Gloves
Your hands go through a lot during the winter: shoveling snow, scraping ice, throwing snowballs, etc. WebMD says the skin on our hands in thinner than other parts of our body, meaning fewer oil glands. Forgetting to protect them will lead to itchy, dry and cracked skin. Always wear gloves when working or playing outside.
17. Using a Summer Hair Routine
Winter time can cause your locks to become dry and brittle, leading to breakage and severely unhealthy hair. Use extra conditioners to keep hair moisturized. During the summer, we tend to let the breeze dry our hair. Winter leads to frequent blow drying; use heat protectants to keep your hair shielded from the heat of the styling tools.
18. Eating Unhealthy
According to WebMD, experts say our appetites tend to spin out of control during the winter months. Comfort foods become more of a staple, as carbohydrate-rich foods tend to warm our bodies quicker when we are cold. To curb your unhealthy impulses, WebMD suggests eating healthier snacks, making a winter activity plan or creating low-calorie comfort foods.
19. Avoiding a Good Work Out
Everyone needs exercise, no matter how cold it is out there. Working out will give you energy boosts during those dreary days and even combats seasonal affective disorder. Failing to work out increases your chance of gaining weight, losing energy and SAD. Weight Loss Recourses says some of the best winter workouts are swimming, seasonal sports and group workouts.
20. Letting Pets Outdoors for Extended Periods of Time
Pets are very sensitive to the wind chill that accompanies dropping temperatures. Leaving your pet outside could lead to cases of hypothermia, frostbite and even cause permanent damage. If you need to let your pet outdoors for exercise or to go to the bathroom, keep them in your sight, and if need be, grab a cute sweater for them at the local pet boutique.