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October 9, 2007 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Can I use my hairdryer even though it got wet?

Yesterday I discovered the bathroom sink had been leaking. The good news was that it had leaked into a plastic box below it but the bad news was that the box held several small appliances (hair dryer, straightener, etc). There was a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the box. So once I've let them sit for a bit, is it okay to use them again?

Mr. Wallaby is rather gung ho about using them again and just started plugging things in--"See? It still works!" but I'm a little more wary. Something about water and electricity...
posted by wallaby to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Pure water is a very bad conductor of electricity, popular mythology to the contrary. Don't worry too much about that, in itself.

What you do have to worry about is whether something that was acting as an insulator inside was soluble in water. It's not very likely. It's take a real bone-head to design something like that.

AC electricity isn't very good at killing people, either. If you have something that converts its power to DC to use it, I'd be more wary, but most appliances don't.

So, all this is to show you that I've thought of most of the problems, and I'd indeed try to use it. I'd let it dry out for a few days. Then, I'd first make sure that I'm not touching anything that looks conductive and then I'd plug it in and let it run by itself for a few minutes.

Some strange odors may come out at first, for the things that get hot. If they continue to make the smell after a while, then I'd stop using it, just for that reason.

Next, test that nothing is electrified. Tap it with the back of your fingers -- it's a cheap and fast test, and it's safe unless you have a pacemaker or the like.

After that, I'd be satisfied.
posted by cmiller at 7:34 AM on October 9, 2007

In my opinion, a hair dryer is one of those things that is always the same, no matter how much you spent on it. Here's a nice-sounding ceramic/ionic dryer for twenty bucks on Amazon. I'm sure your local drugstore sells them, too. I wouldn't risk it just to save twenty bucks.
posted by k8lin at 7:43 AM on October 9, 2007

I'm someone who tinkers with electronics, and in the past I've discovered that keyboards and other damaged items can harbor water for -weeks-. There just isn't the circulation inside a closed shell to air it out. Considering all the nooks and crannies that water can get into, this can be a serious safety hazard.

There is no way I would use an AC appliance like this without doing a partial disassembly and drying the parts for several hours in front of a fan. The alternative is to put it in a well-ventilated place and forget about it for a month or two -- eventually all the water will be gone but it will take a lot more time than you suspect. Either way there may be some rusting of parts which will shorten the lifespan of the hairdryer.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:54 AM on October 9, 2007

Pure water may be a very bad conductor of electricity, but your bathroom tap does NOT give out pure water. Tap water conducts electricity perfectly well, including the very high current used in a hairdryer.

The water could cause a short, which could result in a small part of the inside of the hairdryer melting, making nasty smells and then never working again. Potentially it could also set itself on fire. It's unlikely to kill you but I'm not sure I would be willing to test it to find out.
posted by emilyw at 9:55 AM on October 9, 2007

I would definitely try to dry it out...depending upon the inner workings. Take it apart and set a fan on it. You could stop by your local glass shop and see if you can get a bag of dessicant to speed up the process. If you have an air compressor, spray it down with a nozzle.

If you do plug it in, make sure it is one of the GFCI outlets.
posted by rocket_johnny at 7:19 PM on October 9, 2007

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