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Okay to stick in an electrical outlet?

  1. Jul 12, 2006 #1
    I have a rather basic question about the danger of electrical outlets. Would it be okay to stick a Q-tip cotton swab inside an outlet in order to clean it? I guess my question is if non-metal objects are okay to stick inside them, as long as it's not your finger. Thanks for your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2006 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I would recommend against sticking anything into the internals of the outlet. If you want to clean the outside plastic, then you'll be fairly safe using a non-conducting (and dry) cloth or Q-tip. The best way to clean the internal contacts of the outlet is just to insert and remove a power cord several times. This will wipe the contacts in a safe manner, and remove any oxidation on them.
  4. Jul 13, 2006 #3
    You could always just switch the fuse to that area of the house if the outlets are in need of a good cleaning, couldn't you?
  5. Jul 13, 2006 #4


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    Gold Member

    You could, but it shouldn't be necessary. If a socket has gotton so messed up that Berkeman's method doesn't work, it should be replaced by a qualified electrician.
  6. Jul 13, 2006 #5


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    Gold Member

    Electronics shops sell aerosol deoxidizers, and spraying some on the contacts of the plug before wiping should ensure a good cleaning job. The simple wiping should be sufficient, though.
  7. Jul 13, 2006 #6


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    Homework Helper

    First, as already mentioned, I would shut off the fuse/circuit breaker to that outlet first and also double check, that it is off, with a voltmeter, before doing anything with it. If you are uncertain, I recommend finding someone you know who can show you how this is done. For learning some concepts you might read an online tutorial such as this

    For cleaning an outlet, Berkeman and turbo-1 have given valuable advice. A deoxidizing cleaner, that does not leave a residue, such as DeoxIT would be useful.

    For your general question: Is it okay to stick a nonmetallic object (such as a Q-tip swab) into an electrical socket? The answer depends on what you mean by okay.

    If you are asking if it would have any adverse effect on the outlet, I would say yes.
    The cotton lint from the swab can become caught on the sharp metal parts in the outlet, resulting in an outlet with some obstruction (bits of cotton in it).

    Is it an electrical hazard to stick a dry Q-tip swab (or other non-conductive object) into one side of an electrical socket. The answer is no.

    Is it an electrical hazard, holding one swab in each hand, to stick two moist Q-tip swabs into both sides (neutral and hot) of an electrical outlet, at the same time. The answer is yes!
    Here is why..Salts from your skin and even on the swab itself, can dissolve in the moisture on the Q-tip, allowing a conductive path through you. If that outlet was accidentally left live, this can cause a fatal shock. :surprised
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