Why Are My Bathroom Outlets Not Working?

Bathroom Outlet Not Working

Did you try to use your hairdryer, and it didn’t work? Maybe you plugged in your electric toothbrush to charge it, but nothing happened. Are you suddenly dealing with all of your bathroom outlets not working?

It can be frustrating when your bathroom outlets stop working, but luckily, there could be a simple fix. If the other outlets and electrical components in your home are working, then you might need to reset the GFCI outlet. Or, it’s possible the GFCI outlet tripped the circuit breaker for your bathroom; in some cases, you might need to call an electrician.

Before you start imagining staggering electrician bills and costly repairs, try the DIY fixes first. Often, a bathroom outlet will stop working for simple reasons, and you simply need to do some minor troubleshooting. So, check out some of the most common reasons for this problem before you fear the worst.

Five Common Reasons For A Bathroom Outlet Not Working

If you end up with a dead outlet in your bathroom, it might only seem that way. The outlet could be just fine but perhaps needs a reset. Sometimes, the issue might not be with the outlet at all. Here are five all-too-common reasons your bathroom outlet suddenly stops responding.

1. It’s Actually The Appliance

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If your hairdryer or razor doesn’t work when you plug it in, don’t automatically assume the outlet’s the problem. Before you start fiddling with electrical components, test your appliance.

Plug it into a working outlet to see if it comes on. If it doesn’t, then you’ve solved the mystery–you need a new hairdryer.

Alternatively, you can take a small lamp or something similar from another working outlet and plug it into the bathroom outlet. If it doesn’t work in the bathroom outlet, you’ve determined something is up with the outlet.

2. The Outlet Is Powered By A Lightswitch

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There’s a chance your outlet is tied into a nearby light switch. The switch needs to be flipped for the outlet to work; otherwise, it gets no power. You might be surprised how many people don’t realize they have outlets like this.

If you recently moved into your home, you could very well not be aware that particular light switches power various outlets. To see if this could be the case, plug a small lamp that you know works into the bathroom outlet.

Then, start flipping nearby switches, both inside the bathroom and any that might be outside the door. If the lamp suddenly lights up, then you’ve solved your problem. Plus, you’ve also learned something important about your house.

However, if the lamp stays dark, then you’re one step closer to narrowing down the issue to the outlet.

3. There’s A GFCI Issue

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Bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, and other wet areas typically have a GFCI outlet installed. This is a ground fault circuit interrupter, and it’s an extra safety measure that helps reduce the risk of electric shock. Since your risk of shock increases when you’re around water, that is why it is common to find GFCI outlets in wet locations.

The GFCI outlet will monitor the balance between the neutral and hot wires, breaking the circuit if it becomes too hot. Unlike a regular circuit breaker, a GFCI outlet reacts faster to this imbalance, making it more adept at preventing life-threatening shocks.

Depending on how your electrical wiring is set up, the problem could be a GFCI outlet elsewhere in your house. This other outlet can share the same circuit as the bathroom outlet. If A GFCI outlet trips, anything that’s connected to it down the line will also go dead.

How To Reset A GFCI Outlet

If you suspect the GFCI outlet tripped, it’s easy to reset it. On the GFCI outlet is a red RESET button. Simply press it to restore the circuit. If your appliance comes to life, then you’ve found the culprit behind your seemingly dead outlet.

The other button on the GFCI outlet is a TEST button. You should test the outlet annually by pressing the TEST button. This will trip the circuit; if it doesn’t, you need to replace the outlet.

If the TEST button does trip the circuit, then you press the RESET button to restore it. If it doesn’t restore it, then you also may need a new outlet.

If you press the TEST button, but the outlet still has power, you need to call an electrician. This is a significant safety hazard.

4. Tripped Circuit Breaker

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Another possibility is that you have a tripped breaker. If you don’t have a GFCI outlet, and the outlet goes dead, check your breaker box. If a breaker has tripped, it will usually be between the on and off positions.

Flip it off completely, then flip it to the on position. If the breaker tripped due to a GFCI outlet, the breaker will likely still appear as if it is on.

If resetting the circuit at the outlet doesn’t work, try to reset it at the breaker.  You will need to flip it off then back on to reset it. If this happens, call an electrician to determine why the GFCI outlet RESET isn’t working correctly.

What Is A GFCI Circuit Breaker?

If you examine your bathroom outlet and it does not have a RESET button, peek around the rest of your house. Remember, another GFCI outlet elsewhere in the home can affect the bathroom outlet.

But, if you can’t find any, check your breaker box. You could have a GFCI circuit breaker that protects all the outlets and devices connected to the entire circuit. You would reset the GFCI circuit breaker at the panel.

5. Loose Or Faulty Wiring

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So, you’ve reset the GFCI outlet or circuit breaker, checked for other GFCI outlets, and followed the troubleshooting steps. But you still have a dead bathroom outlet. At this point, you’re closer to needing to call an electrician.

There’s likely loose or faulty wiring in the outlet or with a junction box. Unless you’re a seasoned electrician, it’s best to call in a pro to check the wiring. If it’s faulty, the wiring and possibly the whole receptacle will need to be replaced.

How To Replace An Outlet

If you decide you need a new outlet and are handy with basic electrical work, you can attempt a DIY job.

  • Shut off the power at the circuit breaker. Use a voltage tester to confirm the outlet isn’t receiving power, then remove the outlet cover.
  • Remove the receptacle mounting screws and carefully pull out the receptacle. Don’t touch any wires; they could still possibly have power.
  • Use tester probes to test the top and bottom terminal screws. Once you have confirmed all power is off, remove the terminal screws and pull out the wires. 
  • Examine the wires for any nicks or damage. If necessary, snip the wire and restrip it. 
  • Install the new receptacle by attaching the white wires to silver terminals and the black wires to brass terminals. 
  • Wrap the terminals and any exposed wires with electrical tape and place the receptacle back into the box.
  • Replace the mounting screws and cover plate, restore power, and test with the voltage tester.

Again, if you aren’t comfortable performing electrical work or are unsure, call an electrician.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does an electrician charge to change an outlet?

Electricians typically charge by the hour, and the price can range from about $40 to $100 or more for specialty jobs. Swapping out an existing outlet only takes about 30 minutes. However, many electricians will charge a call-out fee of about $75 to $150 for the first hour.

Or, you might want to ask them what they would charge to switch one outlet before you proceed. However, keep in mind, there’s a chance the initial problem might not be as small as you expected. So any tiny job could turn into something bigger and more expensive.

What if a tripped breaker won’t reset?

If you check your breaker box and the tripped breaker won’t reset, there could be a short circuit somewhere. This is a hazardous issue, and you need to call an electrician right away. 

Sometimes, a tripped breaker isn’t apparent at first glance. You can flip each breaker to the off position, then switch each back on one by one.

Do you need a permit to change an outlet?

Typically, you don’t need a permit to change out an outlet. However, every county and area has different building codes. So the only way to know for sure for your particular area is to check with your local code officials.