How can my grandparents fancy covering electrical outlets over and too near their kitchen sink, without spending money on covers? There are no children or animals in their home. Can they cover with cardboard or duct tape?

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They're wearied of pushing the reset button on the GCFI triggered by water or steam.

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  • 5
    If the GFCI switch is constantly getting triggered that sound like a potential safety issue. These outlets should be relocated before they start an electrical fire. Jul 26 '19 at 4:57
  • @Benjamin It's not that frequent, but my grandparents fancy covering it anyways.
    – user1869
    Jul 26 '19 at 5:49
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    You do understand that there is no need to reset the plug if you are not going to use it. You can leave it deactivated and there is no safety issue leaving it inactive. The switch only turns off the outlet. It is a SAFETY precaution. Leave it alone. It will shut off when necessary.
    – Stan
    Jul 26 '19 at 14:15
  • 1
    @stan depending on wiring choices, this GFCI may also protect other outlets, like the one to the refrigerator or the coffee pot Jul 26 '19 at 17:40
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    Echoing Benjamin's comment, the outlet should be suspected of malfunction if no other reasonable explanation can be found. The outlet may have failed and should be replaced.
    – Stan
    Jul 26 '19 at 18:11

There's no lifehack for this. Buy outlet covers, they are cheap and importantly, they are designed to be safe in this situation.

  • Do not, under any circumstances use cardboard: it is a fire hazard. You are playing with your life.
  • Do not use tape. Electrical tape can be a short-term solution, but it is not designed to be removed and reapplied. You also quickly get a sticky residue on the outlet. Do not use any tape not designed as electrical tape.

Try to find out what causes the GFCI to trip. For example, if you place an electric kettle directly in front of the outlet and you aim the spout at the outlet, that makes the GFCI likely to trip. So don't do that.

  • Totally agree - mains electrical sockets (especially ones that are possibly malfunctioning or tripping excessively) are not a good area to be messing about with safety. Jul 26 '19 at 10:25
  • How would cardboard be a fire hazard? Do GFCI outlets produce heat?
    – piojo
    Jul 29 '19 at 9:56
  • When it gets wet, it provides a nicely conductive bridge between the contacts.
    – Hobbes
    Jul 29 '19 at 10:13

This is a learning moment. You might find some redundancy in my answer.

Have a talk with your elders. Explain that it is a Safety mechanism that works automatically to turn off/deactivate the outlet. It is an automatic switch for the outlet. It is unnecessary to have the outlet activated unless it is going to be used right then and there/right away/immediately. You already have a switch that turns off the outlet. You do not need a cover unless there is NO other safety switch to turn off the electricity.

If you do not use the outlet you can ignore it until you want it. Then, turn it on (press the reset button) if it is not already active.

Use an analogy. On a lamp there is a switch and a plug. Covering the lamp when it is off is not necessary. Unplugging the lamp is unnecessary when the switch is off, etc.

Explain that, as with the lamp, when the outlet switch is off, it is unnecessary to turn it back on at all if it isn't needed or wanted. That reset switch affects nothing else in their environment. It only affects that outlet.

Tell them they can relax.

Good luck.

  • It would probably be more comforting for your grand-parents if the red button said "ON" instead of "RESET" which might sound very technical to an ignorant (or compulsive) person.
    – Stan
    Jul 26 '19 at 14:40
  • See related What is the max number of outlets on a GFCI circuit? a gfci trip can and probably should turn off most if not all of the outlets in the kitchen. Jul 26 '19 at 17:48
  • @JamesJenkins Yes. This is true of a circuit. Good to mention so that OP can verify if this is the case. I believe that each outlet in the circuit would not have individual reset ability.
    – Stan
    Jul 26 '19 at 18:08

Why not try covering with electrical PVC tape?

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  • 1
    Welcome to Lifehacks. This answer looks more like a comment. Please tell us why your suggestion would work to solve the problem. The picture is nice and would be even better with more detail.
    – Stan
    Jul 26 '19 at 13:51

If the electrical installation complies with the local building code then there is nothing to worry about; outlets are permitted near sources of water provided the rules for locating and protecting the outlet are followed. If the outlets were installed without regard to the code and are in violation of it then they should be removed

If an appliance if positioned such that it routinely introduces water or steam onto the faceplate of an outlet the appliance should be repositioned

If your grandparents are certain they will not use these outlets the safest thing to do would be to switch off the entire circuit, remove the outlet from the wall, disconnect the wires from the back of the outlet, terminate them in a connector block (if the outlet is the last on the line) or use a connector block to continue the circuit (if the outlet is not the ultimate one) and then reenergise the circuit

If your grandparents do want to use the outlet sometimes but not others you can perhaps work on the logic of this with them; that the outlet presents the same risk all the time, so if they're prepared to use it some times but not others they should treat it like every other socket in their home. They are, after all, just millimetres away from touching a live conductor when they hold the cord of the vacuum cleaner and plugging anything into an outlet is a far greater distance separation from the live conductors.

A better spend of time and money would be to ensure the ground fault detection systems in the installation are up to scratch and working properly; they really do save lives


While a GFCI outlet can trip via water/steam, you should at least check for a legitimate trip from a faulty appliance. Get a list of everything that's protected by the GFCI, (by hitting the test button then seeing what breaks; don't forget to check the garbage disposal) then unplug things and see if the problem mysteriously goes away.

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