How to prevent indoor flooding

A bath or washbasin can quickly overflow if you leave it unattended. You can get devices that stop a bath or washbasin overflowing or sound a warning alarm if you’ve forgotten to turn the taps off. You might be able to get a flood detector, which can also alert you to burst pipes and leaks, as part of a telecare package from your local council. You can also buy telecare privately. See our factsheet Technology to help you at home for more information.

Make sure you know where your mains water stop tap (stopcock) is and how to use it. This turns off the cold water. Keep it clear so you can get to it easily in an emergency such as a burst pipe.

How to avoid scalds

A scald may be caused by steam or hot water and the effects can be painful and long lasting. The ageing process, medication and some medical conditions may cause our skin to become thinner as we age. This increases the risk of a scald as you may not be able to tell how hot water is until you’ve been injured, so it’s important to take care.

In the kitchen:

  • try not to carry hot liquids too far
  • don’t overfill the kettle – only boil enough for your immediate use
  • consider getting small aids such as a kettle tipper – the Disabled Living Foundation has more information.

Water in your hot tank is usually stored at 60°C (140°F) in order to kill bacteria, but at this temperature it can burn so it needs to be cooled before use. When you’re running a bath, always run the cold water before the hot.

A thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) accurately controls the temperature of water and can reduce the risk of scalding. You can fit TMVs to the hot and cold pipework near your washbasin or bath at a relatively low cost. You can find reliable tradespeople to help you fit one through Trustmark, a government-backed scheme, or Checkatrade.com. Or ask your friends and neighbours for recommendations. You can also get help with home maintenance.

Hot water bottles

A hot water bottle can be a good way to keep warm but old or cheap hot water bottles can split easily. Only buy one that meets British safety standards. Check the bottle and stopper regularly for signs of wear and tear.

When you’re filling your hot water bottle, allow the water to cool slightly. Don’t use boiling water or water from the hot tap as this can cause the rubber to perish. Take care when you’re filling it - it may help to cover the hot water bottle with a towel to avoid burns. Only fill it two-thirds and expel the air. Empty the hot water bottle when it’s not in use.

Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket at the same time.

What to do if you are scalded

A scald is treated in the same way as a burn. If it’s not serious, you may be able to treat it at home.

  • Get away from the heat source to stop the burning.
  • Treat the area with cool or cold running water for 20 minutes.
  • Don’t use ice or iced water or any creams or greasy substances, like butter.

If you need advice about a burn or a scald, you can call NHS 111 or contact your GP or pharmacist. You could also go to an NHS walk-in centre or minor injuries unit (MIU). You can find more information on the NHS website.

Next steps

You can find contact details for your local council on gov.uk/find-local-council

Contact the Disabled Living Foundation at dlf.org.uk for more information about small aids and telecare.

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