The term socket safe can refer to one of two different items. A plastic cover that is designed to fit over a wall socket as a safety device to prevent children interfering with — or inserting foreign objects into — the socket, is one variety. The alternative item, also marketed as a socket safe, is a replica socket, which hides behind it a small, secure box that can be used for storing valuable items.
In terms of a safety device, the socket safe is a plastic outer cover that can clip around the existing faceplate of an electrical socket. The majority of these safety devices are hinged along the uppermost edge to allow the cover to be lifted up to give access to the socket points if required. The common use of this kind of device is to prevent young children or toddlers being able to access the sockets.
As a system to prevent the socket safe being opened unintentionally, the release catch that holds the cover in place while in the closed position is designed to be too difficult for small children to unlock. Some other versions of the device provide a set of keys, which are used to lock the plastic cover in place. Certain safety engineers have dismissed the product as being potentially dangerous due to inherent design flaws and the ability of some covers to override the safety cutoff device installed in a standard United Kingdom (UK) three-pin socket.
A more common use of the term socket safe is in reference to a fake socket covering a secure storage box. This is part of a range of storage devices designed to resemble household items, which includes soda cans and food tins. The secure socket safe can resemble a standard twin electrical wall socket or, for a smaller storage area, a wall light switch. There are several different manufacturers of the product, but the basic design is similar throughout.
The storage unit can be installed in any wall but is best suited to a hollow wall construction, for example, an internal, nonload-bearing wall or any external wall in a timber-framed house. Installing a socket safe is carried out by cutting an opening in the face of the wall to the same size as the storage box behind the fake socket faceplate. By inserting the socket safe into the opening and fixing the faceplate to the wall either with adhesive or screws, the installation is complete. The false faceplate can be removed, folded down, or unlocked with a key — depending on the model being used — to access the storage area behind.