One of the most annoying things about electrical outlets is that they never seem to be in the right place, so, a lot of us rely on extension cords to reach our appliances.
Like using almost anything electrical, there are a lot of risks associated with using extension cords.
It’s not uncommon for an extension cord to randomly set on fire, so here are some tips on treating water damaged extension cords.
Are Extension Cords Waterproof?
Accidents happen, so from time to time extension cords can get wet. You can often use an extension cord after it's gotten wet, but there are some precautions you need to take.
If the rubber or plastic sections are the only parts of the extension cord that got wet, you don’t have to worry so much. The water can be easily wiped away with a dry cloth.
However, if the plug gets wet, or water gets inside the outlets, that can be a cause for concern.
What Happens When an Extension Cord Gets Wet?
As noted, water damage is only problematic if it gets inside the sockets or plug.
But, there will be different consequences which will depend on whether or not the water will interact with the exposed wires.
In some cases, a water damaged extension cord can electrocute someone if they touch it.
If the voltage is low, it will most likely result in some mild pain, however, if the voltage is high enough, the electrical current can end up killing you.
One of the biggest concerns that people worry about when it comes to a wet extension cord is that it may cause a fire.
If you plug in an appliance to a water damaged extension cord this will cause a short circuit. The consequences of this include melted wires, an overload in the electrical outlet and an electrical fire.
The fire occurs because the moisture in the outlet can cause a rapid increase in the electrical current.
Without a fuse, the wires will begin to overheat, causing a fire to start. In addition, water damage can corrode wires that will rust unless it is removed.
If you have a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) extension, this will shut down any electrical current the moment it detects an anomaly, such as electricity running through water.
Not only will this reduce the risk of an electrical fire, but it will also protect you in the process.
Can You Use Extension Cords Outside Or In The Rain?
You can use an extension cord outside as long as it was designed for outdoor use.
This is because outdoor extension cords have superior insulation, which is designed to protect them against damage from moisture, sunlight and drastic changes in temperature.
There is a huge difference between indoor and outdoor extension cords. Extension cords which are made for indoor use are a lot lighter and flexible, but they are more vulnerable to moisture damage.
If you use an indoor extension cable outside, they can be harmed by moisture and sunlight, which will destroy their insulation.
This will then leave you vulnerable to electrical fires and electrocution if you interact with a damaged extension cord.
To make sure your outside extension cord can survive the rain, it’s important that it is in good, working condition.
You must make sure the plug is kept out of the rain, as this can damage the extension cable.
How To Tell If An Extension Cord Can Be Used Outside
Before you use an extension cord for your lawn mower or to power up your Christmas lights, you need to make sure that it was made for outdoor use.
Check out these following tips:
- Label: Most outdoor extension cables are marked with the letter ‘W’. If you see a ‘W’ you know you can use it outside.
- Color: A lot of outdoor extension cables will have bright orange rubber on them, they may also have plastic covers for protection against moisture, sunlight and changes in temperature.
- Amperage: Typically, outdoor extension cords have a higher amperage compared to indoor extension cords.
- Prongs: Take a look at the prongs as outdoor extension cords will tend to use a three-prong plug instead of two. The third prong will act as a grounding wire which will reduce the risk of fire or electrical shock.
How To Protect An Outdoor Extension Cord From The Rain
If you don’t already have GFCI protected outlets installed on the exterior of your house, make sure you use a GFCI adapter with your outdoor cord.
This is a good way to add an extra layer of protection against any electrical accidents/injuries.
You can plug the GFCI adapter straight into your outlet, and then you’ll be able to plug your extension cord into the GFCI.
As noted earlier, GFCI works as a circuit breaker that will automatically shut off if it detects power flowing through water, or a person.
What To Do If An Extension Cord Gets Wet
Accidents happen, so don’t panic if you spill water over your extension cord. Use the following tips to avoid any fires and electrocution.
- To be on the safe side, turn off the main circuit breaker. This will deprive the cord of power which will prevent any electrical accidents.
- If you have an appliance (like a computer) plugged into the cord, go ahead and unplug it. Please make sure your hands are dry before doing so.
- If the extension cord has a switch, flip to the ‘Off’ position. Make sure you do not touch any exposed wires or metal components.
- It should now be safe to unplug the cord from the wall outlet. Move it from the wet floor and do not let the plug get wet.
- Dry the extension cable. Wait a few hours - or even days - before using it again. The waiting time depends on how much water the cord was exposed to.
- Do not let the cord become coiled - keep it straight during the drying process.
If you believe your extension cord is too damaged, dispose of it safely and replace it.