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How to clean an outlet without committing suicide

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Most people don’t always think about cleaning electrical outlets due to risks such as electric shock. Dust can accumulate on surfaces, making cords inaccessible and, in extreme cases, even causing fires. To keep your outlet looking and performing well, you need to clean it from time to time. Here’s how to do it without risking electric shock.

How to clean the outlet

It goes without saying that you should make sure the power is off by turning off the circuit breaker before cleaning the outlet. If you don’t know which breaker to toggle, you can use a light that is plugged in and turned on to indicate that the power is off. At this point, I like to repeatedly announce to the whole house that I’m working on an outlet and not to touch the breaker box unless I say it’s okay. Tape a note to the box with the date. This is because if someone finds a breaker tripped and decides to turn it back on while working, the consequences can be… well, shocking.

Once power is safely off, remove the outlet cover. This usually requires a flathead screwdriver. You can use magnets or tape to keep small screws from getting lost. Occasionally tape the screws to the countertop or a large piece of cardboard to secure them.

You can soak the outlet cover in warm, soapy water while you move on to the next step and come back later. After removing the cover, vacuum any exposed dust. In some cases, when you remove the outlet cover, dust may come out from where the outlet protrudes from the wall. A vacuum can also help with that. Then use a can of air or a compressor on a low pressure setting and attach a blower to blow dust out of any crevices. However, you can use a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol to scrub away stubborn stains. If you must use rubbing alcohol, apply it on a cotton swab and not directly on the outlet so as not to wet the outlet itself.

let it dry and put it back

Once everything is clean, remove the outlet cover from the soapy water, scrub well, then rinse with clean water. Make sure the outlet itself is dry, then allow the outlet cover to dry completely. Take out the screw and replace it. Once everything is back together and completely dry, turn the breaker back on. Finally, announce that work on the outlet is complete and take a sticky note from the breaker box.

How to clean an outlet without committing suicide

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