There’s a lot of good advice on hurricane hacks going around on the internet, but there’s one truly bad idea that people keep advocating so we’re here to let you know that, no, you should not store important documents in the dishwasher before a storm.
As Florence gets closer to the United States coast and takes aim at the Carolinas, the idea being spread on social media is that dishwashers are anchored and waterproof, so anything stored inside them will stay safe and sound when your house floods or gets blown down. That is not the case.
Let me repeat for emphasis: Do not store valuables inside your dishwasher and expect them to stay safe.
The idea started spreading in September 2017 when a Facebook user posted the “advice” as Hurricane Irma headed across the Caribbean and towards southern Florida. The post had no evidence from appliance makers or disaster experts to support the claim.
A dishwasher is watertight, but it is not waterproof. If your house floods, water will get inside the dishwasher. And while your dishwasher is anchored in that it’s connected to water pipes and maybe to your cabinets, extreme winds like those in a hurricane don’t care. Neither does thousands of pounds of water pressure from the outside pushing in. Even if the dishwasher stays upright and in place, if something hits the door hard enough, it’s game over for anything stored inside.
Insider asked the experts. Kim Freedman, a representative for General Electric Appliances, said, “Appliances are not waterproof nor would we endorse such a tip.”
Snopes also has stories from flood survivors who tried to save important items by putting valuables and documents in the dishwasher and ended up with flooded dishwashers.
Even placing the items inside Ziploc bags and then in the dishwasher don’t guarantee that the documents will stay intact. The New Orleans Times-Picayune posted advice from Katrina survivors, who to a person said storing documents in the dishwasher was a bad idea. One resident wrote: “I put dishes I wanted to save in my dishwasher. They did not break, but the mud and water in St. Bernard Parish managed to get inside. Photographs stored in a dishwasher would just be little pieces of white paper.”
Ralph Feldkamp, the owner of Ralph’s Appliance & Air Conditioning Repair in St. Petersburg, Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times that he sees a lot of flooded dishwashers in houses built in flood-prone areas. Dishwashers don’t keep water out, he said. If your home is flooded, so will your dishwasher.
The only sure way to save items from water damage is to take them with you. (And we can we add, please, if you’re in the path of the storm, follow evacuation orders and leave if the authorities tell you to do so. Your stuff can be replaced; your life can’t.)
Load important documents on a flash drive; you can also email them to yourself. You can save them on a disk and send copies to out-of-town friends. You might also copy documents you don’t have electronically and send those to friends or family as well. If you need to leave something behind, place it in a Ziploc bag and put it as high up as you can.
The one household appliance you can use for hurricane prep is a washing machine, but not for storing valuables. If you’re not in a low-lying neighborhood, but you expect to be without power (it could be two to three weeks before power is restored in locations affected by the hurricane), do this one thing now. Wash all your clothes, sheets, and towels, then fill your washing machine with water.
Having clean clothes and sheets will be a comfort (especially if you’re going to be without air conditioning), but having the extra water on hand could be a lifesaver. You can use it for washing hands, flushing toilets, sponge baths and washing dishes (you may not want to drink it since there’s residue from doing laundry).
As for that other appliance? Do a load of dishes before the storm, but don’t store valuables or important documents in the dishwasher. It doesn’t work.