Easy fixes for outlets, plus electrical safety tips

June 30, 2015

Electrical issues should always be approached with caution; many jobs require professional help, but there are steps you can take to ensure your home uses electricity safely and efficiently.

Easy fixes for outlets, plus electrical safety tips

The plug feels hot

Sand the contacts

A hot plug on an appliance is unsafe, so don't ignore the problem.

  • If the appliance is plugged in via a power strip (a block that turns one wall outlet into several sockets), try plugging directly into the wall socket.
  • If the problem persists, try lightly rubbing the prongs on the plug with fine sandpaper to remove any oxidation on their metal surfaces.
  • Next, try replacing the plug or (if possible) the entire cable that connects to the appliance. A continued problem indicates a fault within the appliance or in the wall socket — don't use either until they have been checked out by an electrician.

The socket is dead

Reset the trip switch or call an electrician

Check if the other nearby sockets are working. If not, you may have tripped a miniature circuit breaker (MCB) or residual current device (RCD) in the consumer unit, so try switching this back on. Modern sockets may be fitted with their own, individual RCDs on their faceplates — try pressing the "Reset" button.If your problem persists, call in a professional.


Even though some electrical repairs may appear simple, they may not be easy to carry out safely. Attempting to do it yourself may lead to death, injury or fire, and leave you in breach of building laws and regulations.

You should always contact a qualified electrician if in doubt.

8 ways to improve electrical safety

Faulty or aging wiring is a major cause of fires and accidents in the home, but you can take some easy steps to keep your family safe.

  1. Remove plugs from sockets carefully by pulling straight back on the plug; never tug the cable.
  2. Switch off electrical appliances at night unless they are designed to be left on (like fridges).
  3. Never use power strips with appliances that have a high-power (wattage) rating, such as electric heaters, irons and toasters. Don't plug adaptors into other adaptors. If you don't have enough sockets in your home, have more installed by a qualified electrician.
  4. Dry your hands before touching electrical equipment. Never dry clothing over an electric heater.
  5. Avoid running cables under carpets; run them around the edge of the room instead, securing them to the walls or baseboards with cable clips or within plastic casing.
  6. Don't wrap electrical cable around any appliance (such as an iron) until it has completely cooled down.
  7. Examine the cables of appliances for signs of wear, cracking or darkening of their plastic sleeves. Open the plug from time to time; make sure there are no loose strands of wire or blackening visible. Make sure the flex is gripped tightly at the base of the plug and that the correct fuse has been fitted (check the manual of the appliance for guidance). If you don't feel confident rewiring a plug or cable, get professional help.
  8. Renew old wiring that may no longer be safe. Call in an electrician for advice if your home has wall-mounted switches in the bathroom; sockets mounted on baseboards; an old fuse box with a wooden back or cast-iron switches; or cables coated with fabric, lead or black rubber.
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