Shutterstock (2)Have you ever stepped into a bathroom and realized the light switch was nowhere to be found—only to notice it on the outside of the door? It seems like it would make more sense for the switch to be in the room, where anyone inside can reach it, but there’s actually a logical reason they’re installed outside the door.
Between steamy showers, full tubs, and splashing sinks, bathrooms have quite a bit of water around. Light switches, meanwhile, have an electrical current running through the switch.
You see where this is going.
Minerals in water conduct electricity, so messing with electric items when you’re wet is a potential safety hazard. If your hands are damp when coming contact with a live wire, your skin has a harder time resisting the current, putting you at a higher risk of serious injury. If anything were to go wrong with bathroom light switches, then, you could end up getting shocked—or worse. (Don’t miss these other 11 reasons your house could be a death trap.)
Thankfully, safety standards require U.S. bathroom switches to be watertight (either rated for damp or wet locations, depending on how far it is from the shower) and connect to a circuit that only powers the bathroom. In other words, there’s very little chance you’d ever get electrocuted flipping the switch in your bathroom.
Still, designers want to take extra caution when deciding where to put those potentially dangerous switches. In the U.K., for example, regulations require switches to be at least 60 centimeters (about two feet) away from the tub. In small bathrooms, Brits will often use a ceiling pull-cord or—you guessed it—install the switch outside the bathroom, well out of harm’s way. (Check out these 10 household things you didn’t realize were a fire hazard.)
Sure, using a bathroom with an outside switch means trusting that no one outside will leave you in the dark, but at least someone out there had your best interests at heart.
For more safety information, find out why you should never bring your coffee into the bathroom with you.