We shed some light on this design quirk.

By Meghan Overdeep
March 2, 2019
Dmitry Bakulov/Getty Images

You know the scene: you rush to the nearest bathroom, close the door behind you, and find yourself unable to locate the light switch. Fumbling around in the dark, you realize it’s one of those bathrooms. One with the light switch outside the door.  

We’ve all been there. And boy can it be inconvenient.

Frustrations aside, it might surprise you to learn that exterior bathroom light switches serve a very practical purpose. And no, it’s not so that passersby can play pranks on you from the hallway.

In simplest terms, water and electricity don’t mix, and the combined presence of toilets, sinks, and showers can create dangerous electrical situations. In the old days, keeping switches far from the splashes and the steam was just safer.

As Curiosity explains, the minerals in water conduct electricity, which makes touching electric items while wet a very dangerous endeavor. If your hands are damp when you come in contact with a live wire, you’re at a higher risk of serious injury. So, if something goes wrong with the wiring, you could receive a sizeable shock.

WATCH: One Thing To Know Before Installing a Rainfall Shower Head

For this reason, building codes have strict requirements for outlets and switches placed anywhere near water. Thankfully, modern U.S. safety standards require bathroom switches to be watertight and connected to a bathroom-only circuit. In other words, the chances of you being electrocuted while using a bathroom light switch are exceptionally slim.

Phew!

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