“ Brand: BabyDan / Type: Household Safety & Child Proofing „
In common with many people, we have blinds in our house. These came with ridiculously long cords; having small children and being mindful of cord safety, I have always looped these up out of reach. This was never going to be a long-term solution - children grow, after all - and I knew it wouldn't be long before I would have to find a better way of dealing with the problem. I was finally spurred into action by reading about a mother who had put her daughter down for a nap believing that the blind cord above her cot was securely out of reach, only to find when she went to check on her only a few minutes later that she had managed to get hold of it and wrap it several times around her neck. Luckily it was still loose so she was fine, but it was a timely warning that no matter how well you think you're protecting your children from everyday household disasters-waiting-to-happen, they're always at least one step ahead.
I was vaguely aware of cord winders in that 'must get some of those at some point' kind of way, so I searched on Amazon and came up with two options, one made by BabyDan and the other by Clippasafe. The only difference seems to be that one is square and the other is round, since both had low overall product ratings - which was not encouraging - but I was swayed in favour of the BabyDan by its one five-star rating, and by the sole review of the Clippasafe which suggested that the BabyDan was much better. The main complaint about the BabyDan version seemed to be regarding the woefully inadequate instructions. Well, I thought, I have a degree. I've seen The Krypton Factor. How hard could it be?
Well, as it turned out, it was simultaneously really easy and quite hard. The instructions are a series of five pictures printed on the back of the packet with no accompanying text at all. They are quite confusing at first; I puzzled over them for a good couple of minutes with the winder in one hand, the packet in the other, and what I'm sure was a comedy 'Uh?' look on my face. Once you've deciphered them, they are actually rather simple - looking at them now, I can't believe I had any trouble at all - but on first glance, I was stymied. So, in the spirit of being useful, I thought I would supply the missing text. Aren't I good to you?
1. With the blind fully lowered, trim the cord to approximately 45cm in length. This is important because if there is too much cord inside the unit, it will not wind properly. If you're not sure of the length, remember that longer is better - you can trim it further, but you can't stick it back on. Tie a knot in the end; if there is more than one cord, tie them together in an overhand knot (i.e., with the cords side-by-side, not as if you were tying shoelaces).
2. Hold the unit with the side lever facing towards you. The plastic tab sticking out of the top should have the appearance of a lower-case d. Pass the knot through the back of the round part of the d and pull it up into the upright part. Make absolutely sure that it cannot be pulled back through; if the knot is not large enough or not pulled up far enough, when you engage the mechanism it will come out and the tab will retract into the unit without the cord, rendering it completely useless.
3. Once you are confident that the knot isn't going anywhere, you can remove the pin which prevents the tab from retracting. You'll first need to remove the sticky label which holds the pin in place. Make sure you take a moment to laugh in a hollow fashion at the printing on the label telling you to read the instructions before removing it.
4. Remove the pin.
5. Push the small lever on the side upwards to activate the mechanism. The cord should wind into the unit, although you may need to give the knot a little help.
6. Stand back and admire the hideous orange warning sticker which will always be visible despite only being on one side of the unit, and which you will never be able to remove because - well, it's a warning sticker. If you remove it, disaster will surely follow.
Okay, so you've installed your cord winder and you're ready to use it. This will take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it's a doddle. The mechanism has two settings - active and locked. To activate it, push the lever upwards and either pull on the unit to lengthen the cord or slide it upwards to shorten - as you slide, the cord should retract into the unit. If this doesn't happen, the cord might be too long. You can pull the tab back out of the unit to trim the cord further, but don't forget to pin the tab to prevent it retracting as soon as you remove the knot. I found that toothpicks are ideal for this.
To raise the blind: pull on the cord with the winder in the locked position. Once the blind is raised and secured, activate the mechanism and retract the cord to its maximum extent.
To lower the blind: activate the mechanism and pull down on the unit to release an adequate length of cord. Then lock the mechanism and lower the blind. It doesn't take long to get the hang of how much cord to release, but the first few times you will probably find that you don't have enough and need to let a little more out.
Whether the blind is raised or lowered, the unit should always be as close to the top of the blind as possible. Children could easily pull the unit down if it within reach, and since this will raise the blind, there will be a good length of cord for them to get tangled up in.
So we've installed it and got the hang of it, but is it any good? I'll do the negatives first, because there are a few. Firstly, they're never going to win any design awards. In fact, if I'm being brutally honest, they're quite ugly. They're also not particularly robust; my son managed to get hold of one of them while I was raising the blind and in the ensuing tussle the lever snapped, so now it can't be locked in position. This doesn't stop it from working, but it does mean that when I let go of it, it zooms up to the top of the blind and I have to stand on a chair to reach it. They also can't be used for bobbly-corded roller blinds and they might not work on old-fashioned multi-corded roman blinds since they don't have the capacity to hold very much cord. I use them on Venetian blinds with two cords, and they sometimes struggle to retract properly, so anything more than that and they might get stuck. Although, in fairness, the windows are 170cm tall, so they might be OK if your windows are not so high. This would, though, bring up another potential problem - with two cords tied together, the knot just about fits into the unit, but the roman blinds I have upstairs have five cords, and I can't see any way that the knot resulting from tying that many cords together would fit.
On the positive side, though, they look neater than having loops of cord hanging around all over the place, and - this is the real biggie - they work. This last point does make them worth getting in spite of all the bad things I can think of to say about them, because the point is to stop your children strangling themselves and it seems churlish to criticise them for being unattractive and flimsy when neither of these prevents them from doing that. Besides, you don't really notice the ugly after a while.
I got mine from Amazon for £4.50 per a pack of two, with free delivery, which is not bad at all. I really wanted to be able to give them a rave review and five stars, because they are doing sterling work of preventing my children from coming to a tangled end, but there is so much room for improvement - better instructions, better quality, better capacity, better applications - that I can't in all conscience give more than three stars. Yes, they are a good idea, but if they can't be used on the blinds that you have, they might as well not exist at all.
(And I was lying about the ugly.)