I know how frustrating it is to prepare everything needed for a day’s work, only for the heavens to open and it start raining. While you may be tempted to continue working, is it really safe to use your power tools in the rain?
Unless you have a power tool that explicitly states that it is safe for use in rain, you should not use a power tool in wet conditions. Using power tools in the rain puts you at a higher risk of an electrical shock, and the rain could also cause irreparable damage to your power tools. Safety is paramount, so wait for drier weather.
The lightest of drizzles and even a particularly humid day can pose a risk to you and your tools. If your power tools have got wet, I’ll show you how to dry them in the safest way possible.
Why using power tools in the rain is unsafe
Power tools all have one major thing in common: they all need some form of electricity to run, whether in the form of a battery or from mains electricity. It’s a really bad idea to use power tools in the rain as electricity and water should never come into contact with one another.
If this happens, the water will conduct the electricity and cause a short circuit that may result in irreparable damage to the power tool while also giving a dangerous electric shock to the person using it.
Do not think that because your power tool is cordless that it’s safe to use in the wet. Cordless power tools generate electricity through their batteries, which means that they are just as dangerous as corded power tools and must never be used in the wet.
What is a short circuit?
Even the smallest droplet of water is enough to cause a short circuit in a power tool, which can pose a serious risk of injury to the user. Even if your power tool looks like it is waterproof, it’s definitely not worth the risk of damage and injury by using it if there’s a chance that it could get wet.
A short circuit is caused when there isn’t enough resistance to the flow of electricity in a current and also when electricity strays outside of its intended current, coming into contact with electricity that was meant to flow in a different section.
As water is a conductor it can “bridge the gap” in the current and allow it to connect in a place that it shouldn’t, which makes it particularly dangerous.
When there isn’t sufficient resistance to the flow of electricity, the amount of electricity in the circuit becomes greater than it is supposed to, making it unstable and unpredictable.
How to dry power tools that have got wet
Not only should you not use power tools in the rain, but you should never use them if they have got wet as they could have water inside them and that could cause a short circuit.
Accidents happen, however, so if your tools have got wet, then there are some things you can do to make sure they are safe to use again. Here is a step-by-step guide to drying wet power tools:
The easiest way to see if a power tool is dry is to disassemble it and look inside. Make sure that the power tool is switched off and unplugged from the electrical source and remember to take care when taking the tool apart.
If you don’t want to disassemble your power tool, or you’re not confident about doing it, then you could just wait for it to dry, but that would require that you wait several days to ensure that all of the water has dried.
2. Clean with distilled water
It’s highly important to clean your power tool with distilled water before you dry it. This is because rainwater is full of dust and other particulates that can cause issues such as causing the parts to clog up or short circuit.
It is essential that you use distilled water for this job as it doesn’t have any of the particles in it that could cause problems for your tools. For this reason, you should not use water from your tap, even if it’s filtered.
3. Dry the Tools
The next thing to do is to dry all the parts of the tool. The easiest way to do it is to blow-dry them as that way you won’t get any more dust or particles in the parts, which would be the case if you used a cloth or a towel.
It is possible to blow-dry the power tools without disassembling them if you wanted to; however, it will not clean or dry as thoroughly as blow-drying a disassembled tool.
Leaving the parts out in the sun is an alternative method of drying it to blow-drying as the water will quickly evaporate as the parts heat up.
You could also use compressed air to clean the smaller or more delicate parts of the tool.
4. Oil the parts
It’s important to oil all the parts of the tool that require it as it not only helps to keep everything in good working order, especially if oiled as part of regular maintenance, but it can show if any parts are not fully dry as oil and water do not mix.
While still disassembled, it is wise to oil everything after all the parts have dried. Greasing not only helps to keep everything in good working order but, because oil and water do not mix, it can also serve to highlight if any parts have not fully dried.
Note: Do not use WD40 on your wet power tools. It might seem like the obvious solution for drying the tools as it repels water, but it actually attracts dust particles, which would be pointless after you’ve just cleaned and dried it. It can also cause more short circuits and other damage to tools.
How to stay safe when using power tools
It’s just as important to make sure that no water has got into your power outlet as that can be just as dangerous as wet tools. Therefore, you should always use an outlet that is designed to switch the power off if they detect water. These are known as ground force circuit interrupting outlets (GFCI outlets), and they make it much safer for the user.
The safest thing you can do if you are going to use power tools is to make sure that they never get wet at all. Don’t use them in the rain or leave them anywhere where water can get near them.
As well as making sure that your tools never get wet, there are a few other things that you can do to make sure that you stay safe while using them.
Before using your tools, you should always inspect them to make sure that they appear to be safe and in full working order. Ensure that they haven’t been damaged and that nothing, whether that be water, dust or something else, has got into the tools that could cause a short circuit.
Always store your power tools under a waterproof cover
The best way to store your tools is undercover and away from any chance of them getting wet. However, if you need to leave your tools outside, laying them on something waterproof such as tarp is great as a short-term solution. It’s also advisable to keep the tools somewhere higher if possible to avoid any chance of water running onto the tarp they are laid on.
Remember to check the weather forecast to cover over the power tools if it’s likely to rain. To be honest, I just prefer to get into the habit of always covering over power tools that are left exposed to the elements overnight as you can never fully rely on the weather forecast.