The best quake-safe products: earthquake restraints compared
We trial the putties, waxes, gels, brackets and restraints that secure your belongings.
Keeping your valuables and loved ones safe in this earthquake-prone land can be made easier by using products specifically designed to restrain and secure items. But even everyday products such as brackets and Blu Tack can be used to make our homes safer in a quake.
Whether your collection consists of priceless Ming vases, Fabergé eggs, a weighty 75" TV, a Chippendale sideboard and an Andy Warhol canvas, or your precious items are more modest, you’ll want to ensure they stay in place.
Securing heavy furniture and televisions that can topple over is vital, along with any valuable pictures and ornaments. But you should also consider restraining cupboard and fridge doors, and you can even buy products to secure smaller kitchen appliances.
Consumer NZ, in conjunction with Toka Tū Ake EQC, has spent some time researching and trialling these products. Now, we present to you the best options.
Waxes, gels, putties and grip mats
All products in this category are substances that stick the vase, ornament or glass onto the shelf. There are four types of product: wax, gel, putty and grip mat. We trialled these on a freestanding set of shelves. Are the earthquake-specific products any better than good old Blu Tack?
QuakeHold! museum wax, $39.98 for 369g; Haydn Seismic Wax, $14.50 for 30g
There’s an ice cream theme with both these products: The QuakeHold! museum wax is like a small tub of ice cream with its little wooden scooper, and the Haydn product comes with an ice block stick! Place small balls equidistantly around the base and press down. They are high tack and adhesion for our 2.7kg, 29cm-tall vase was good for both – the vase didn’t move in our shake test. If you have a lot of objects to secure, the QuakeHold! wax is better value.
QuakeHold! museum gel, $29.98 for 110ml
This clear gel product is less tacky than wax or putty, but has just enough adhesion to not fall off the base during application. If you use too much it will spread out onto the shelf, so be frugal. Leave overnight for full adhesion, but the initial bond was very firm, very close to the hold of the wax products and with a similar performance in our shake test.
It’s less obvious on clear glassware than other products, especially once it has had a few days to spread out.
QuakeHold! museum putty, $12.90 for 75g; Bostik Blu Tack, $3.99 for 75g; Selleys Ezy Tack, $3.19 for 75g
All three products come as a sheet that you tear pieces off, and all performed very similarly on our shelf trial. They have medium tackiness and not as firm a hold as the gel or wax products, but are still perfectly acceptable to secure your valuables. The QuakeHold! product does give a firmer grip than the other two, but it’s also triple the price.
Innova grip mat 50x100cm, $4.70
Another option we trialled was the sheets of grip mat that you can buy from hardware stores. We found that for smaller items it’s not that effective, but for heavier objects such as our test vases there is a decent amount of grip that stops them sliding off the shelves. Visually it’s probably not what you want out on display, though.
Removal and clean-up
How easy is it to remove and clean up these products?
The best way to debond is to twist and pull at the same time. But be careful – the bond can release quickly and you can easily damage your vase or glassware, as we did in our trial when the vase hit the shelf above and cracked! Wax has the strongest hold, but it’s the trickiest to clean up as it leaves residue and doesn’t easily come off in one piece. Both the gel and putty products come off far easier. The wax products also leave residue on your fingers during application, so if you touch other objects you may leave waxy marks on them. Putties can also damage the varnish on wood when being removed, especially if left for many years.
If you want maximum hold for valuable objects and aren’t concerned about the cleaning up of the residue, the QuakeHold! museum wax is the product for you. If you are displaying lots of clear glassware, go for the QuakeHold! gel. For everything else, good old Blu Tack or Ezy Tack will probably suffice as it’s the best value for money.
Securing your TV
TVs are a lot lighter now than in the good old cathode ray days but even so, large flat-screen TVs can easily topple over. And they can break or injure someone in an earthquake if they aren’t tethered. We trialled four safety straps for flat-screen TVs.
Tech.Inc Heavy Duty TV Safety Strap, $11.98
This budget option tethers into two of your TV’s rear bracket mounts, and then is attached to a wall or your TV cabinet using the single central strap. The supplied bolts were too long to screw all the way into our Sony 43'' TV, so we had to cut the bolts down first. But this probably wouldn’t be an issue for larger screens. The strap performed well in our trial.
QuakeHold! Flat Screen Safety Strap, $99.98
An expensive pair of heavy-duty straps that are attached to the TV and stand/cabinet using high-strength double-sided tape, so a good option if you have a heavy screen but aren’t keen on screwing into your furniture (they also have the option of screwing into a wall stud). Also supplied with museum putty for the stand at the front, to stop the TV toppling backwards. However, most current TVs only have very small stands so this may be ineffective.
TVsafe Restraint for Flat-Screen TV to Wall, $28.95
A single-strap restraint for fixing to a wall stud; use for TVs up to 40kg (for a heavier TV, buy an extra strap). Screws into the TV’s rear fixings. For our 10kg TV, this worked fine.
TVtight Restraint for Flat-Screen TV to Cabinet, $29.95
Similar to the TVsafe restraint, only this doesn’t fix to a wall stud; it has a double-sided tape strip to attach to a TV cabinet/stand. Performs fine for the smaller TV, again with a large model you would be wise to buy and attach another strap as this will stop the TV pivoting around during a shake.
Pictures can easily jump off their hangers or nails during a quake, so what products are out there to help prevent this calamity? We constructed a shakeable plasterboard wall to trial these products in our lab.
Shake Safe picture hangers, $14.95 for a pack of 10 single and five large - 15 in total
These resemble normal picture hooks, but have an extra sprung arm that essentially closes off the loop and stops the picture cord jumping off the hook. We trialled the single hook type first on our false plasterboard wall, and found that in a decent shake the nail will pull out sending your Rembrandt down to terra firma. Switch to the three-nail heavy-duty version and this won’t happen. For small pictures, the single nail hangers would probably be fine, but for anything else we’d recommend the larger. (You can purchase packs of three large hooks for $8.95).
3M Command Picture Hanging Strips, $26.49 for a value pack; hangs 4 large, 3 medium and 2 small pictures
A velcro-style hanger with two strips, one applied to the wall and one to the picture. You use four pairs per picture. The installation process is quite lengthy and reasonably tricky, especially for heavier pictures as you need quite a lot of pressure to get the strips to ‘click’ together. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully, making sure the wall is smooth and clean and if freshly painted you should wait seven days before applying. But once the picture is hung using these strips, it’s not going anywhere! These strips are the best options for valuable and heavier artworks.
Bookcases, wardrobes and other large items of furniture can easily move and fall over during a quake, so restraining them should be top of your list. Here are some of the options.
Shake Safe Furniture Restraint Brackets, $9.50 (pair)
A pair of L-shaped steel brackets to secure large items of furniture to the walls or floor. Screwed into the furniture and a wall stud, this is a rigid fixing. You could also consider purchasing brackets and screws separately from a hardware store, but make sure you buy strong enough brackets and screws for the weight of the item being restrained.
QuakeHold! Steel Furniture Cable, 100mm, $16.50
A flexible steel cable with two brackets – one attached to a wall stud, the other to the rear of the furniture. You need a 25mm gap behind the furniture to fit this. The design allows the furniture to move independently to the wall, and QuakeHold! research has shown that this flexibility can be beneficial in some quakes as it can reduce the shearing effect between the wall and the item.
QuakeHold! Furniture Safety Straps, $33.50 (two-pack)
A good alternative for securing if you don’t want to screw into the furniture, these straps use double-sided velcro strips for attachment. You still need to screw into a stud in the wall, though. The velcro allows quick detachment for moving. These come in a variety of colours to match your furniture.
Cupboards and doors
Keeping cupboards and fridge doors secured so your glassware, dishes or last night’s spag bol don’t get ejected onto the floor shouldn’t make it more difficult to open these doors day to day. There are a couple of products out there that solve this problem.
Hafele Earthquake Cupboard Latch, $19.50
This product uses a cleverly weighted latch arm. At rest, it sits in an unlocked position but as soon as there is any major shaking, it drops down and latches into the metal bracket and secures the cupboard door. So the door opens normally otherwise - a neat solution.
Hafele Earthquake Cupboard Pressure Latch, $37.03
A cupboard latch that uses a spring and jaws to hold the cupboard door. You push the door to release and push again to latch. A very secure way of holding a cupboard shut, but you do have to activate the latch every time, so not as convenient as the other Hafele product.
Whiteware & Cabinet Door Security Straps, $9.95 (three in a pack)
Simple clipped straps that double-side tape to a fridge, freezer or cabinet to secure the door (or to stop hungry children raiding the fridge!). Easy to apply and hold the door well, and the clip is easy to release single-handedly.
Shake Safe ShelfSafe restraint for wooden shelving, $19.95 (two shelves, total length 2 metres)
An elasticated cord that attaches via clips to eyelets that you screw into the vertical sides of the shelf unit. The cord stops books falling off the shelves during a quake.
For assembly, you have to stretch the cord and cut to length, and then push on the second plastic hook and collar. These are also available with an attachment to metal shelves.
QuakeHold! Bookcase and Storage Safety Straps, $40.50
Similar to the ShelfSafe product above but you get more cord and fixings, (enough for three shelves, up to 1.2m long each).
However, its nigh on impossible to assemble the cord onto the connectors, so we cannot recommend this product.
Shake Safe Headlock Smooth Surface Restraint, $29.95
Restrains items with smooth, flat surfaces such as whiteware, microwaves, speakers and filing cabinets. One end of the strap is screwed into a wall stud while the other end is double-side taped to the surface. Velcro allows quick removal.
Shake Safe LoopSafe Restraint for bench- and shelf-mounted appliances, $11.95
A flexible, plastic-coated metal cord that will hold bench- and shelf-mounted appliances in place, such as coffee machines, food processors and air fryers. The cord is cut to length, hooks screwed in, and then its hooked both ends onto an eyelet that is fixed into a wall stud or plasterboard using the supplied fixing.
Shake Safe strap lock, $12.95 (twin pack)
The instructions state it’s a ‘computer monitor and electronics restraint’, but the picture on the website shows a microwave so I’m guessing this it can be used for a variety of products. We trialled this on a table and it easily comes apart during shaking so we cannot recommend it.
Shake Safe Appliance and Furniture Leg Restraint, $21.95
Secures free-standing appliances such as tables, desks, photocopiers and trolleys, using a steel cable that is looped around a leg. This cable is attached via a carabiner to an eyebolt, which is in turn screwed into the wall or floor. For larger items, it’s worth considering buying two restraints to stop the item pivoting around a single restraint.
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