Put Ice in Your Washing Machine (and Other Hurricane Preparedness Tips)

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Hurricane hacks promise miracles, but which ones really work? We sifted through the most popular so you can focus on keeping your family safe.

Hurricane season brings endless internet hacks and tips to get us ready for potential disasters. September is Disaster Preparedness Month, so what better time to mine the suggestions for gems?

Some preparedness advice is common sense: Stay alert to the news, stay away from windows and evacuate when told to do so. If you’re not in the direct path of the storm or you’re unable to evacuate, protect yourself and your family with these good ideas. Stay safe out there.

Fill the Bathtub with Water

This old standby makes every hurricane preparedness list for a reason. Sanitation is vitally important during a hurricane, when you could be without access to clean water for days or longer.

Use the bathtub water for cleaning and flushing toilets. You don’t even have to fill the toilet tank. Pouring a bucket of water directly into the toilet bowl after using it creates a suction effect that whisks waste down the stack.

Never drink bathtub water without boiling or disinfecting it. Even if you’ve sanitized the tub, standing water doesn’t stay clean for long.

Put Water in Coolers with Spigots

Don’t skimp on storing fresh, clean water in case a storm surge contaminates the city water supply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends aiming for one gallon per person (and pet) per day. Bottled water sells out quickly when a storm approaches, so take advantage of the cheap, plentiful supply coming right out of your tap.

Food-grade coolers with spigots work great for drinking and brushing teeth because you don’t have to open the lid. This keeps the water fresh and contaminant-free. Put one on the bathroom or kitchen counter and aim the spigot over the sink — it’s almost like a real faucet.

Use LED Light Strips and Pucks

Light-emitting diodes (LED) are brighter and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Having several good LED flashlights (and plenty of batteries!) in your hurricane preparedness kit is a no-brainer.

Consider LED light strips and pucks — the ones you stick under cabinets, in closets and down cellar stairwells — in addition to flashlights. You don’t have to carry them around or prop them up. Battery-powered LED pucks and light strips come in motion-detecting versions which conserve battery life, too.

Buy a Manual Can Opener

Canned food lasts for years, so it’s perfect sustenance during power outages. It’s safe, easy to store and watertight.

Don’t be caught without a way to open the cans if the power is out, though. Manufacturers have made it easier to open packages due to consumer “wrap rage,” but not every can has a pull top. If you use an electric can opener to open soup, tuna and beans, invest five dollars in a manual one.

Make a Bathroom for Your Dog

If you’re stuck inside with the storm is raging, chances are you and your dog aren’t keen on running outside for a bathroom break. Put some sod in the bottom of a kiddie pool, though, and your pup will know what to do.

Luckily, hurricane season generally lines up with sod-selling time. A really late November hurricane might pose a challenge, but sod and grass companies should be able to get sod for you any time of year.

Puppy pads work in a pinch, too. And don’t forget to buy kitty litter for your other four-legged friends.

Freeze Zipper Bags of Water

Fill freezer zipper bags with fresh, clean tap water and stack them in the freezer before the storm. They’ll help keep food frozen. And if the storm or aftermath lasts longer than anticipated, they provide a clean source of drinking water.

Move them to the refrigerator to keep food cold for a while there, too.

Make a Lantern From a Water Jug

Sure, you can wear a headlamp or carry flashlights. But a jug lantern creates ambient light a single-beam flashlight just can’t provide. And a lantern lets you play cards, games or watch the storm hands-free. If you bought LED light strips or pucks, this hack probably isn’t necessary, but it works.

Use any clear plastic container. Just wrap a headlamp around the jug with the lamp facing the water, tighten the strap and voilà! Don’t expect this hack to be fluorescent-level bright, but it’s a nice glow. Bonus: You can drink the water if needed.

Place Thermometers in Fridge and Freezer

Don’t rely on internet hacks like the “coin trick” for food safety. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told Good Morning America it’s a bad idea.

A better solution? Put thermometers in your fridge and freezer before the power goes out. And once it does, keep fridge and freezer doors closed as long as possible.

A closed refrigerator keeps food safe for four hours, and a fully-stocked freezer for 48 hours. If your power is out longer than four hours, check the temperature in the fridge. If it’s above 40 F in there, discard anything perishable.

Frozen foods can be safely consumed or refrozen if they still have ice crystals on them, or the freezer is sitting at 40 F or below.

Store Documents in Waterproof Containers (Not the Dishwasher)

Putting important documents in the dishwasher comes up frequently in searches for hurricane hacks. Is it a good idea? It seems to make sense because dishwashers keep water in when washing dishes.

Bad idea, GE spokesperson Kim Freeman told NBC affiliate 11Alive in Atlanta. If your home suffers major damage, don’t count on that dishwasher door to stay secure.

A better option is to use waterproof, portable containers — fire safes, latching plastic bins, etc. If you have to climb to your roof or need to be evacuated, you can grab the waterproof container and keep your documents safe, dry and with you.

Use Your Washing Machine as a Cooler

This popular hack sounds brilliant — but is it? Washing machines hold water during a cycle. Why not ice and beer?

Well, when it’s off, melting ice just drains out, so those beverages only stay cold about as long as they would sitting out on a counter.

So temper your expectations, especially if it’s hot in your house — highly likely when and if the power goes out. Don’t try this with a front-loading machine, and don’t use it for food storage.

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Ally Childress
Ally Childress is a licensed electrician and freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas.