Can An Outdoor Extension Cord Get Wet? [ Finally Explained ]

Last Updated on September 26, 2022 by the staff of TheAllElectricLawn

can an outdoor extension cord get wet

An outdoor extension cord is a great way to power devices outside without having to run electrical wires across your yard. Can an outdoor extension cord get wet?

It turns out that most outdoor extension cords will work fine even after being exposed to water. Many outdoor extension cords are designed with waterproof connectors to handle rain, snow, sleet, and ice.

Can Outdoor Extension Cords Get Wet?

Can outdoor extension cords get wet? Yes, they can.

How do I know if my outdoor extension cord is safe to use outside? There are several ways to verify whether or not your extension cord is safe to use in wet weather.

If you want to make sure that your outdoor extension cord is safe to work with, check out our guide here.

Outdoor extension cords come in many different sizes and styles. They can be used indoors or outdoors. Some types are specifically designed to work outside. A few even allow you to connect multiple devices together. I use extension cords often in the holiday season for outside lighting, and the cords get wet often.

Can Outdoor Extension Cords Be Left in the Rain?

You can leave an outdoor extension chord in the rain, but you shouldn’t do it without taking precautions. Leaving an extension cord plugged into an outdoor outlet during a storm could pose a safety risk.

If water enters the outlet, it can short the circuit and cause an electric shock or start a fire. This is especially true if the plug is exposed to the weather.

An outdoor GFCI outlet keeps tripping if the plug is left exposed to rain. A GFCI outlet is designed to automatically shut off power if something goes wrong inside the box.
However, if the cord is exposed to moisture, the ground fault circuit breaker may trip repeatedly. This can happen if the outlet is outside and the cover isn’t closed or water gets to the outlet.
When I run my holiday lights I make sure that I always use grounded outdoor-specific extension cords and that when I run the plug to the outlet that the outlet is in a protected sport with a cover over the outlet.

Protect Your Outdoor Extension Cords from Wet Weather

Many people don’t know how to protect their outdoor extension cords from the elements. They assume that just because it’s outdoors, it’ll work fine. But there are some things you can do to help prevent damage.

Outdoor extension cords are essential tools that allow you to power devices such as fans, electric fences, lights, etc., while outside.

They’re often left unprotected and vulnerable to damage from rain and snow. If you live in an area where it rains frequently, here are some tips to keep your outdoor extension cords safe and dry.

orange extension cord on reel

Use Properly Installed Outlets

Use outlets that are installed correctly and are GFCI-protected. Make sure there aren’t any loose screws or nails sticking out. Also, check the outlet itself to make sure it isn’t damaged. In addition, look for signs of corrosion, which indicates that the outlet needs to be replaced.

Next, use a good quality electrical outlet cover. These come in different sizes and shapes, but the most common ones are rectangular boxes that fit over the outlet itself. Make sure yours fits snugly around the base of the outlet.

Don’t Leave Exposed Extension Cords Near Water

You shouldn’t leave exposed wires near any type of liquid. Even rainwater can cause serious issues. When installing outdoor extension cords, you should put them away from areas that collect standing water.

Make sure your extension cord ends aren’t wet. If it is, wrap it up in a plastic bag or put it inside another waterproof container. This helps keep moisture away from the wires.

When doing my holiday lighting and even the string lights around our pool area, I use plug covers to cover where I join extension cords. They sit outside for a month rain or shine and I haven’t experienced any issues.

Are Extension Cords Safe?

Extension cords can be dangerous because they contain electricity and can overheat. When you use one, make sure it isn’t damaged and isn’t plugged into a device that draws more power than the cord is rated for. If it gets hot enough, it could start a fire.

According to the National Safety Council, there are approximately 30 deaths yearly due to injuries caused by extension cords. About 3,500 cases of electric shock and 2,100 house fires are reported annually. These numbers include both adults and children.

Extension cords can be perfectly safe if you use them correctly and make sure they are not damaged before using them. You must also be aware of the environment where you are using the cord as well to make sure you aren’t in standing water or the cord is getting constantly run over by vehicles.

What You Need to Know About Extension Cords

Extension cords are necessary to power devices such as lamps, TVs, computers, stereos, etc., while you’re not close to a power outlet. But there are several things you need to know about extension cords before you using one outdoors.

Function

Extension cords are used for many things. Some people use them to connect devices such as lamps, phones, computers, TVs, etc., while others use them to power appliances like electric stoves, hair dryers, vacuums, etc.

“You must limit each extension cord you buy to the specific purpose for which it was intended,” says Mark O’Brien, president of Electrical Safety First International (ESFI). “This way, you won’t end up with one that does double duty. For example, don’t use a lamp cord to run a vacuum cleaner; it could cause a fire.”

Gauge

The gauge of a wire refers to how thick it is. This affects the volume of electricity the cable can handle. A thicker gauge allows for more current to flow, which means more power.

But a thinner gauge makes it harder for electricity to travel down the wire. This could mean less power and/or more resistance.

Length

The second factor to keep in mind is the “length.” This refers to the distance between the plug end and the outlet end of the cord. Generally speaking, the further away the plug end of the cord is from the outlet end, the heavier the load you’ll place on the cord.

So if you’re planning on running an appliance such as a vacuum cleaner, blender, or hair dryer, you’ll want to make sure you buy a long enough cord that is rated for the load of the appliance or tool.

The longer the extension cord the more likely a drop in voltage will occur which could stress the extension cord and the appliance.

 

What Happens When An Extension Cord Gets Wet?

If the water gets into the socket, it could short out the circuit and cause smoke, sparks, or fire. In addition, if the water mixes with electricity, it could cause you to get shocked or electrocuted. Water, if it gets on the extension cord’s prongs, could also cause corrosion and rust.

The good news is that most people won’t ever see any of those effects. Getting the extension cord wet, it is outdoor rated isn’t that big of a deal.

Electrocution

Did you know that an extension cord can electrocute someone? This happens because of the electricity flowing through the wires inside the extension cord.

When you plug in an appliance, you usually connect the power supply to the wall outlet and then plug the device into the socket. At this point, the current flows through the electrical wires in the extension cord.

The problem occurs when the wires inside the extension cable come into contact with water or the sheathing on the outside of the cord is torn open. Then, the moisture or direct contact with the wires in the extension cord could act as a conductor, allowing the electricity to flow through the wires.

This creates a dangerous situation where the electricity can travel down the wires and into the body of whoever is holding the extension cord.

Fires

While I have used extension cords hundreds of times around my home to run different tools and appliances, I have rarely thought of fire as an issue with an extension cord.

The truth is that a wet cord and a wet outlet could cause a spark, which could cause a fire. The short circuit could also melt wires and overload the outlet you are plugging into.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that nearly half of all home fires start because of faulty wiring. In fact, according to Gorman Lighting, any attempt to use a wet unplugged electrical outlet by plugging a device into it can cause a fire.

If you think that wet cords don’t pose a risk, consider this: A study by the University of Texas found that “wet outlets are more likely to spark.”

Having a GFCI outlet is key to eliminating both electrocution and fires. The outlets will shut down the electrical connection at any sign of issues, such as when electricity runs through water or a person.

yellow outdoor extension cord bundled up

Identify an Outdoor Rated Extension Cord

What makes one extension cord work outdoors while another doesn’t? Several factors determine whether an extension cord will function outside.

1). Cord Labeling – A ‘W’ mark on the cord’s packaging indicates that the cable can be used outside.

 

2). Cord Color – Most outdoor-rated extension cords are orange, yellow, green, or black. They all have thicker plastic or rubberized coatings.

 

3). Prongs on the Plug – All outdoor rated cords have 3 prongs, which means the cord is grounded. I wouldn’t use a two-prong plug for outdoor use.

 

4). Cord Amperage – Outdoor-rated extension cords have higher amperage ratings.

 

Steps to Take When Your Extension Cord Gets Wet?

A wet extension cord isn’t just annoying; it could pose a safety hazard. What you need to do depends on how much water you are dealing with.

If the cord is outside and is connected to a GFCI outlet and the plugs are protected by outlet covers and plug covers, and you are just dealing with a rain shower, then there isn’t much you need to do. The cord should be perfectly safe to use.

If the cord is in standing water you need to be much more careful. If the outlet hasn’t tripped since using a GFCI, you might want to cut the power to the outlet at the breaker panel. Then unplug the extension cord from the outlet and the tool or appliance you are connected to.

Wait for the water to disperse or drain away or dry up. Then dry off the plug and extension cord. Turn the power back on to the outlet at the breaker panel. You should be good to go to plug the extension cord back up to the outlet and tool or appliance.

Can an Outdoor Extension Cord Get Wet: Summing it Up

In conclusion, yes, an outdoor extension cord can get wet. So if you want to keep using yours, don’t worry too much about it. You do need to take some precautions if you are using an outdoor extension cord in extremely wet environments or standing water. Always practice caution when using extension cords in wet environments, and if you feel uncomfortable using a wet extension cord, then don’t. Better safe than sorry.

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