11 Stupid Legal Warnings

May contain peanuts. FYI.
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This is going to blow your mind, so steady yourself: A carton of eggs could potentially have eggs in it. Yes. Now you know the shocking truth. It's OK, we'll give you a minute to let it sink in ...

The exact wording of this flabbergasting pronouncement on a carton of eggs is: "This product may contain eggs." Well, it sure as heck better! We're going to have a problem if it doesn't.


That's by far not the only wacky warning out there. Here's a selection culled from one lawyer's roundup. Did you know your instant noodles "will be hot after heating"? Or that your pencils "may be sharp after sharpened"? And we can only assume an ill-fated celebrant suffered dire consequences when attempting to string up some holiday lights on the wrong side of the drywall. Or maybe something went seriously haywire when hanging lights outside the International Space Station. Otherwise, why would Christmas lights come with the warning, "For indoor or outdoor use only"?

America's lawsuit-obsessed society has forced product manufacturers to cover their you-know-whats by writing warning labels to protect us from ourselves. Or, more relevantly, to protect them from us after we fail to protect ourselves. Some of these warnings are brazenly astonishing and some are absolutely ridiculous, but all are guaranteed to give you a laugh.


10: Thermometers

Your forehead is blazing to the touch, yet you feel shaky and chilled. Your body aches, and your head is no exception. You can't stop puking; you're dead tired. All of these not-so-subtle clues have you suspecting it's the flu.

But no matter how sick you feel, we really, really hope you do not need this warning label: "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally."


Eww. Just eww. To be very specific, this little legal tidbit is to help you remember to not stick something in your mouth that has previously been in your butt. Just in case you might have forgotten that very basic lesson in hygiene.

9: Pepper Spray

Pepper spray: Irritating to eyeballs all across the world.
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You're making your way across a dimly lit parking lot, a single flickering streetlamp showing you the way. You suddenly become aware that, despite the late hour, you aren't alone. Someone else is heading out, too, presumably to a car parked near yours.

But then everything takes a turn -- you're being mugged.


You quickly reach into your bag to try to find something you can defend yourself with and feel a can of pepper spray at your fingertips. You whip it out and squirt it at your would-be assailant. Microseconds later he drops to the ground and begins clawing at his face, for all the world looking like he doesn't want his eyeballs to remain lodged in his eye sockets.

This doesn't surprise you at all. Pepper spray causes eye irritation ... that's what it's for! But take a look at the can: "May irritate eyes." Apparently, at some point, that just wasn't clear.


8: Dishwashers

One kid could fit in the top while the other one hops in the bottom. Genius!

After a morning of racing around the yard followed by an afternoon of finger painting, your little tykes are filthy messes. All the way from their dirt-browned toes up to their polychromatic paws. Problem is, you don't have time to give them a bath before you have to leave to pick up your eldest from school.

What to do, what to do? Eureka! Toss them in the dishwasher, and they'll be sparkling clean in time for dinner!


Surely nobody on Earth would really give this a whirl, right? Not so fast. Take a look at the label: "Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher." You check the washing machine. Yup, a similar legal warning is there, too.

7: Irons

You're running late for work and the only clean clothes you have that are office-appropriate have been lying on your bedroom floor in a heap for a week. You put them on and go look in the mirror, where you realize they're a wrinkly mess. That'll never do! You plug in the iron so it can heat up while you finish making breakfast. Once bolstered by a bagel, you head back over to the iron and get ready to smooth out the wrinkles quick.

Even if your boss is the world's biggest stickler about punctuality, you'd probably never decide to save a few moments by ironing your clothes without taking them off first. But the product warning on the side of the iron suggests otherwise. "Never iron clothes while they are being worn."


6: Fireplaces

Ah, winter. It's a perfectly serene and picturesquely snowy night -- the first when the temperature has dropped low enough to justify building a fire -- so you swing by the grocery store and pick up an armful of fireplace logs. Once you've returned home ready to build a crackling fire, you position them in the hearth so they'll burn well.

But just before you go to light them, you see this: "Caution - Risk of Fire." Wait ... that's what you wanted, right? But alas! The absurdity isn't over yet. Look at the fireplace lighter, too. Emblazoned across the side is a dire warning: "Do not use near fire, flame or sparks."


Well, you think to yourself, this is going to be problematic ... You can't use your lighter near the fire it's going to start, and your log may just cause the fire you want in your fireplace. Quite the conundrum.

5: Food Processors

Don't risk it, man!

You're tired of dicing, slicing, chopping, whipping and blending all your food by hand, so you've finally splurged on a food processor. You've got plans for a whole slew of meals. Everything from tomatoes to potatoes will bow before the mighty power of your food processor! Onions won't stand a chance; garlic will be a goner.

After you drool your way through the grocery store, you head home to get started straightaway. Choosing to begin with a tantalizing creamy butternut squash, green apple and curry soup, you're dismayed when some of the apple jams up the food processor.


You probably don't need to stop and read something on the side of the box before you do. It's a legal warning that says: "Never remove food or other items from the blades while the product is operating." Yikes.

4: Sunshields

It's the peak of summer and positively roasting outside. Worse, the parking lot doesn't have a single speck of shade to spare. In an effort to avoid barbequing yourself when you get back in, you position your sunshield so it helps deflect the hot rays. After running your errands you hop back in the car, pleasantly pleased with the sunshield's performance.

Somewhere, sometime, somebody must have been so happy about climbing into a relatively cool car that taking the sunshield off was just not a priority. Otherwise, there's no need for this legal warning: "Do not drive with sunshield in place."


3: Scooters

Your kid is turning 6 this year and has been begging you for a scooter for months. You've been holding out -- mostly to build the anticipation -- but now it's time to hit the toy stores to find the perfect one. Your child gleefully races up and down the aisles debating their various features. A delicate frame or a hefty one? Colored blue or silver? Big questions in a 6-year-old's mind!

Finally, a first-rate favorite is chosen, and you bend down to take a closer look. What the what? Right there on the label: "This product moves when used." How unexpected.


2: Power Tools

I shouldn't use this to pierce my ears when I'm done here?!

You head to the garage to work on a project and are bombarded with product warnings! Your rotary tool warns you, "This product not intended for use as a dental drill." Your chainsaw cautions you, "Do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw" and "Do not attempt to stop chain with hands."

Before you leave the garage to get away from all this peril, you notice your Jet Ski bears the message: "Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level." But perhaps most ominous of all, the little tractor you drive to move large loads bears the succinct advice: "Avoid Death." Yikes! Says it all right there.


1: Baby Strollers

In baby products you will find some of the most absolutely outlandish legal warnings. Would this one be, "May demand candy canes," perhaps?
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You're a first-time parent, eager to start using all those cute baby products you're been stockpiling for months! The first thing you want to do is show off your baby, so you plunk him in the fancy stroller and head out for a walk. Once you've circled the block and chatted with a few neighbors, you're ready to pack it in.

No matter how soundly your baby is finally sleeping, and how much you dread the crying that might start once he's out of the stroller -- his new favorite place to be -- the idea of folding it up with him still inside would probably never, ever find its way into your consciousness. So it may surprise you to see it right there on the label: "Remove child before folding."

But it doesn't end there! As a parent you have to be extra vigilant, but thankfully there are warning labels left and right. Did you know you shouldn't place a baby in a box? Or put a plastic bag over its head? These are also apparently no-nos -- and apparently so less-than-obvious that boxes and bags need their very own labels.

Lots More Information

Author's Note: 11 Stupid Legal Warnings

This article was so much fun to write. I loved throwing my imagination into concocting what could only fictionally be ridiculous or flat-out bizarre scenarios of consumer incompetence, above and beyond the manufacturer paranoia that created them. These warning labels are so over-the-top, they provide more amusement than caution to those who buy them.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Dorigo Jones, Bob. "Remove Child Before Folding: The 101 Stupidest, Silliest, and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever." Hachette Digital. 2007. (July 17, 2012.) http://books.google.com/books/about/Remove_Child_Before_Folding.html?id=15X8YEeJmoYC
  • "Flu." Medline Plus. Sept. 16, 2011. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000080.htm
  • Food.com. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.food.com/recipes/food-processor-blender-soups/recommended
  • "In Pictures: 24 Stunningly Dumb Warning Labels." Forbes. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/23/dumbest-warning-labels-entrepreneurs-sales-marketing-warning-labels_slide.html
  • Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.mlaw.org/
  • Nelson, Brett and Finneran, Katy. "Dumbest Warning Labels." Forbes. Feb. 23, 2011. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/23/dumbest-warning-labels-entrepreneurs-sales-marketing-warning-labels.html
  • "Past Winners of M-Law's Wacky Warning Label Contest." M-Law. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.mlaw.org/_pages/pastwinners.htm
  • Percelay, James. "Whiplash! America's Most Frivolous Lawsuits." Andrews McMeel Publishing. March 1, 2000. (July 17, 2012) http://books.google.com/books/about/Whiplash.html?id=bbRkI-9tUZYC
  • "Temperature Measurement." Medline Plus. Jan. 29, 2010. (July 17, 2012.) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003400.htm
  • Wang, Pei-Shing Bernard. "(Actual) Dumb Legal Disclaimers and Product Warnings. (July 17, 2012.) http://pswlaw.ca/2009/12/dumb-real-legal-disclaimers-and-product-warnings/