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What Are Some Common Household Magnets?

A magnet is a device or object that possesses a magnetic field. Every magnet has a north and a south pole; opposite poles (north and south) are attracted to each other and like poles repel each other. Magnets which always retain their magnetic properties, like refrigerator magnets, are called hard magnets. Soft magnets, also called electromagnets, can be switched on and off, changing their magnetic characteristics. Magnets and devices using magnetic properties are used in many common household products and electrical appliances.

A gasket is a seal which is placed between two surfaces to prevent the escape of gases. The doors on most household refrigerators and freezers are lined with gaskets made of strips of pliable rubber. Magnetized material within the rubber run both the length and width of the gasket. The magnets help to keep the appliance door closed and maintain a tight seal in order to retain the cold air inside.

Audio/Video Tape
Audio- and video-recording devices, such as tape recorders and VCRs, use a technique known as magnetic recording to record sound and images. The tape is a thin piece of plastic which is coated with ferric oxide powder, a substance which is ferromagnetic, meaning it becomes permanently magnetized when exposed to a magnetic field. During playback, the magnetized tape is pulled across an electromagnet in the recorder's head, which "reads" the magnetic flux imprinted on the tape.

Credit Cards
Credit cards employ magnetism to store data in much the same way that audio and video recordings are stored on magnetic tape. The thin strip of tape on the back of the card is embedded with iron-based magnetic particles which are then read by swiping the card across a reading head.

Household Appliances
Many common household appliances utilize magnets in order to operate. The motors in such devices as garbage disposals and ceiling fans and the exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms all contain magnets. They are designed to create a force called rotational motion by utilizing the attracting and repelling properties of magnets.

The Earth itself is a weak magnet, its north and south poles corresponding to the poles on any other magnet. The south pole of the magnet inside of a compass is attracted to the Earth's north pole. Thus the compass needle, attached to the north-seeking pole of the magnet, will always point north.

Other Common Uses
Then there are the more commonly known types of household magnets, like the ones which hold notes and children's artwork to the refrigerator door and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Magnets are often inserted into the bottom of shower curtains or liners to keep them weighted down and attached to the tub. Electric can openers also use a magnet to hold the lid of the can while it is being opened.

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