Spring is coming, and with it come rain showers and outdoor projects. How do these two combine, though? Is it safe to keep working with power tools in the rain? As the season for both wet weather and power tools comes, it is important to know the basics of how they work together.
In most cases, power tools are not safe for use in rain. For your own safety and the safety of your tools, wait for drier weather. Unless you have an exceptional power tool that explicitly states it is safe for use in rain, you should not use a power tool in wet conditions.
You can damage both the tool and injure yourself if you do not take the proper precautions and use or leave your tools out in the rain.
If your tools get wet by accident, there are steps you can take to clean them. There are also ways to store your tools to keep them safe and dry.
Below we will talk about why it’s a bad idea to use power tools in the rain, what to do if they get wet, and how to prevent rain from damaging your tools.
Why It Is Unsafe to Use Power Tools in Rain
Power tools all require electricity. Whether the source is an outlet or a battery, there is electricity within the power tool that does not mix well with water.
More accurately, electricity actually mixes too well with water. Water is a conductor, and thus, any water that enters a power tool has the ability to create a short circuit.
A short circuit will result in a shock to the user and irreparably damage the tool.
Water and a Short Circuit
A short circuit occurs anytime there is not enough resistance to the flow of electricity. It occurs anytime the electricity in a current accidentally comes in contact with electricity that was intended to flow in a different section of the current.
Water, as a conductor, can bridge the gap in the electrical current – therefore causing electricity to connect at an unintended point.
Short circuits are particularly dangerous because there is not a stable amount of energy in a short circuit. Instead, the amount can become much greater than what would normally be required.
Your power tools might seem well sealed and waterproof, but it doesn’t take much water to create a short circuit. Even a single small raindrop is enough to cause serious damage to the tool and the handler.
What To Do if Your Tools Get Wet
If your tools do get wet, let them dry completely. For the same reasons that you should not use power tools in the rain, you should not use power tools that were just rained on.
Even if the exterior seems like it dried off, there might be water still left on the inside. There are a few things you can do, however, that will help you be sure your tools are ready to use.
The best way to check that the inside of a power tool is dry is to get a look at it. This requires you to disassemble the tool.
When disassembling your tools, be very careful about handling each piece.
IMPORTANT: Check that your tool is disconnected from any power source before you begin.
If this is not something you feel confident doing, you can wait. Depending on your climate, however, it might take a few days for your tools to be completely dry.
You can consider calling a hardware shop for suggestions on how long you specifically need to wait based on the local forecast.
2. Clean with Distilled Water
As counterintuitive as it might sound, it is important that you clean the pieces of your tools with distilled water before you dry them.
Rainwater has dust and particulates in it that can clog or short circuit tools. To prevent any future complications, it is best to wash off all the rain residue before reassembling your equipment.
It is important that the water is distilled as anything else will have particulates. This is the same issue that rainwater has, so cleaning with anything else will be counterproductive.
Once everything is washed of dust and dirt, you can dry the pieces of your tools. One way to do so without leaving much of a trace is to blowdry the pieces.
You can also try to blowdry your tools without disassembling the, though this is harder and does not ride them of residue.
For finer parts of your tools, consider using pressed air to clean off dirt, water, and debris.
Alternatively, you might be able to just leave your disassembled tool in the sun to dry. If it’s hot and sunny, the metal should heat up quickly, and any leftover water should evaporate quickly.
After everything is dried and still disassembled, it is wise to oil everything. Greasing the parts of your tool that you can isn’t only a good maintenance practice, it can also show you if you missed a spot.
Since grease and water do not mix, the grease can help highlight if one part of your tool needs a little more drying before use.
5. Do Not Use WD40
While it might seem like an easy fix, it is not wise to use WD40 to dry your tools. WD40 repeals water well, but it can attract dust and other particulates.
Thus, WD40 can lead to short circuits and other damage in the future even if it gets your tools dry quickly today.
Safety Precautions for Power Tools and Rain/Water
The best way to protect yourself and your tools from rain caused short circuits is simply to not let them get wet. This means that you shouldn’t use power tools in the rain or let them get any rain on them.
Keep Them Covered
If you are working on a big project and do not want to have to lug out each tool every time you start, lay out a tarp and store your tools on that.
If it is going to rain, cover your tools with another tarp and head inside. Baring serious storms, this should be sufficient to keep your tools dry.
Of course, it also helps to store your tools on a higher elevation, so nothing trickles down and gets to your tools that way.
Even when it isn’t raining, there are some steps you can take to prevent your tools or your person from being damaged by a short circuit.
- Always plug power tools into ground force circuit interrupting outlets (GFCI outlets). The outlets will automatically switch off if there is water in them or too much water in the air. Water in an outlet can be just as problematic for tools and handlers as water in the tool.
- Learn how to inspect your tools. Before using them, check that everything is in order and as you expect it to be. Be it water or dust, if your tools were not stored properly, something might have gotten into the mechanics that could create a short circuit.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has a list of helpful tips for how to use power tools safely.
Information on handling power tools in the rain, how to inspect them, what to do if they are defective, and more is available on their website.
Click here to find a list of common questions and the center’s helpful answers.
Hopefully, this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading and good luck with your upcoming project.
Cheers tools owners!