Why Some Bathrooms Have Light Switches Outside?

If you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Details

bathroom has been cleaned and ready for a visit

You may have encountered homes or commercial establishments where the bathroom light switch is outside. Why would they install the bathroom’s light switch outside of it, though? Isn’t that a little inconvenient? Well, there is a legit reason why the light switch in bathrooms should be placed outside, and it all centers around safety.

As we all know, water and electricity are a deadly combination, and since light switches will have electricity flowing through them, now you see where the concern stems from. The reason is solely for safety and protection. Professionally installed light switches have additional safety precautions, but most would not take the risk. 

Because of this some homes and buildings place the bathroom light switch outside. It is common in the EU to see light switches for bathrooms on the hallway wall just outside the bathroom door. 

So, what about the light switches installed within the bathroom? Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the risk of electric shock when using the light switch in the bathroom. 

Building Safety Standard Codes

As long as the installation was done on your house’s electrical wirings meet the standard building codes, the risk of electrocution is slim to none. In the U.S., the safety standards regarding switches are that it needs to be watertight and should be rated for use in damp and wet environments. Additionally, it should only connect to the circuit that only powers the bathroom. 

Other locations implement stricter rules regarding electrical sockets and switches in the bathroom. For example, in the U.K., their safety standards regarding light switches mandate that they should never be placed within 2 feet of the shower and bathtub. As you can imagine, this means that the light switch can only be set outside for smaller bathrooms. Although, the alternative and equally safe option here is to incorporate the ceiling pull-cord as the light switch.

The U.K. imposes far stricter rules for light switch safety than the U.S., which is why the latter commonly find light switches inside the bathroom. However, most U.S. bathrooms feature independent electrical circuits designed to automatically shut off when a change in the electrical current happens. This feature should add additional safety in the event of accidental electric shock.

As long as you follow the building code when installing light switches, you can rest easy knowing that your safety is secured. 

Safety Standards in the Bathroom

Due to the dangers of mixing water and electricity, building codes require that electrical work in the bathroom meet the Part P of the Building Regulations. Part P indicates that any work made to your home’s electrical circuitry must focus on safety from electric shocks and fire prevention. 

To further ensure the safety of everyone in your home, we highly recommend you hire a professional electrician that uses industry-standard tools and methods to accomplish the task. 

Bathroom Electrical Safety Tips

Despite having all the safety standards in place in the bathroom, the risk of electric shock is always a present danger that we must take the necessary precautions to prevent. Due to the high moisture inside bathrooms, the hazards of an electric shock are amplified exponentially and can lead to severe burns, nervous system damage, and even death. To ensure that these accidents are avoided, make sure to remember and apply the following bathroom safety tips:

  • Follow U.K.’s safety standard rule in that the switches must be placed a reasonable distance away from the shower and bathtub, at least 2 feet away, to be exact. 
  • Use light switches that have built-in covers, further providing it protection from moisture and humidity in the bathroom.
  • Install all bathroom switches and outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters that cut off power in the event of a sudden electrical surge. 
  • Never hold any electrical equipment when standing over water.
  • If you wish to install an electric heater in your bathroom, remember to place it on the wall or ceiling, and it is best if it is hardwired to the circuit.
  • Damaged wires should be repaired immediately.
  • Go for recessed or enclosed lighting instead of standard light bulbs, as the less exposed wiring in the bathroom, the better. 
  • It is best if the electrical work is done by a certified licensed professional. 
  • A good and safe alternative to wall switches is the ceiling pull-string. 

Warning Signs that Your Bathroom Light Switch Needs Repairs

The bathroom light switch will be constantly flipped back and forth daily. Over time, the light switch will inevitably require either repairs or a total replacement. How do you know whether your light switch needs to be repaired though? It is essential to know when to fix the light switch as ignoring the signs can lead to more severe problems in the future and can even increase the risk of accidents. 

Below are the signs you should look for to determine whether your light switch requires urgent repairs. 

Delayed Response

A clear sign that your light switch is on the downtrend is the delayed reaction you get when you flip it on. For example, you might find a delay between switching the light on and the light turning on. In some cases, the light would even flicker for a few seconds before stabilizing. This delayed response usually means that the metallic components inside the light switch are already in a significant state of wear and tear. 

This should be a good indication that the light switch needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, ignoring this issue can lead to the light fixture getting damaged. 

Sparks in the Switch

Probably the most worrying sign is if you visibly see sparks within the light switch when you flip it on and off. However, this is often normal in most cases and is not a definite sign of a problem. If you only see a tiny spark occasionally, it shouldn’t be much of a problem and won’t require immediate repairs. However, if the spark is quite significant and even generates a cracking sound, you should have it checked. 

The worst-case scenario is if the spark caused the switch to start smoking. Turn off the electrical circuit in your bathroom immediately and have the light switch repaired asap. 

Crackling or Buzzing Noise

Another sign of a faulty light switch is a constant noise when it is on. These audio cues can either be subtle buzzing noise or a continuous crackling or popping sound. The cause of this issue is typically due to problems with the wirings or a degraded switch mechanism. Either way, it is best to replace the light switch if these issues develop. 

If you have a dimmer light, you should check the light bulb first, as the dimming feature can cause certain light bulbs to generate a low buzzing or humming sound. This is generally a compatibility problem. If this is the case, replace the light bulb with a different brand, usually fixing the problem. 

The Light Switch Gets Hot

A serious sign that your light switch is on the fritz is if it gets too warm to touch. There are a couple of reasons why your light switch is heating up. First, it might be due to faulty wiring that causes an improper electrical flow. Second, it could be that the switch installed is not compatible with the electrical circuit. Note how much amp the circuit generates and use the properly rated light switch. 

The Switch Feels ‘Off’

One of the best ways to determine if something is wrong with your light switch is with your fingers. Does the switch lack that signature snap when flipping it off and on? Does it feel sluggish when you operate the button? These physical signs are often reason enough to have it checked and replaced. 


Bathroom light switches are best installed with a focus on safety. However, even with all the safety mechanisms and components added, there is still that risk of getting electrocuted. Therefore, we highly recommend you opt to install the bathroom light switch either outside or a fair distance away from the shower and bathtub for your protection.