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Can Outdoor String Lights Get Wet?

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Whether you are installing string lights on your patio or in your backyard, protecting your lights from different kinds of weather, particularly the rain, should be a high priority.

Outdoor string lights can get wet. You need to look at the IP (Ingress Protection) rating of these lights before buying them. The IP rating tells you how well protected your outdoor lights are against dirt and moisture. You also need to ensure that the extension cords are rated for exterior use.

Deck lights on rainy day with trees in backyard.

RELATED How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

If you want to know what IP rating you need for outdoor string lights and how to keep your connections safe, read on.

What Is an IP Rating?

The IP rating is indicated by the two letters “IP” followed by two numbers.

The first digit in the ranking tells you how dustproof your light is, and the second tells you how waterproof your light is.

The greater the numbers, the more protection your light has.

Both numbers hold importance for outdoor lighting. Therefore, you will need to consider both when choosing your outdoor string lights.

Energy-efficient LED lights with IP65 rating give complete protection against water jets and foreign objects.

Ensure that an outdoor fixture you are purchasing are IP65 rated.

How to Protect Your Outdoor String Lights

Here are some tips to keep your connections secure and protect your outdoor string lights.

Only Use Outdoor Rated Extension Cords

You should choose the right extension cord for your needs. Outdoor extension cords have vinyl, plastic, or rubber covers designed to withstand rougher and wetter conditions.

To confirm if your cord is rated for outdoor use, check the rating code stamped on your cord.

The code is made up of letters and is used to describe the type of cord jacket and where the extension cord can be used.

The letter “W” on the cord suggests that the cord can be used outdoors.

Find more outdoor projects here.

Use Outdoor Rated Bulbs

The majority of C7 and C9 light bulbs can be safely used in outdoor applications.

Additionally, you can use incandescent bulbs outdoors as long as they are not exposed to water, including rain.

If used outdoors, you should take the lights down instantly after an event.

When and where you can use LED bulbs (light-emitting diode) depend on the safety rating. You can use damp rated bulbs in moist environments.

However, these lights should not be exposed to water.

Wet bulb replacement for outdoor string lights.

On the other hand, you can use wet rated bulbs in an open environment.

These lights are designed to withstand direct exposure to water.

The soft glow of an edison bulb is appealing to many and just the right warm glow for an inviting patio.

Just make sure the bulb type is water-resistant and suited for outdoor use / year-round use.

This is also important when selecting replacement bulbs.

READ: When is it OK to Turn on Outdoor Christmas Lights?

Never Use Worn Strings

Use testers to check old string lights for blown fuses, bad bulbs, and broken sockets. Repair lights as required.

Do not use a strand with weak or worn wires as these lights can be potential fire risks.

Use String Lights Meant for Outdoor Use

Before putting any style lights in an open area, you should ensure that the light is safe for exterior use by looking at the safety rating. 

String lights that you can use outside and inside include Christmas light strings, patio light strings, and rope lights.

These lights are made with stronger materials that can tolerate weather conditions.

However, it’s worth knowing that some Christmas string lights are rated to be used indoors only.

Using these Christmas lights outdoors can cause them to stop working or short-circuit if they come in direct contact with water.

String lights specific for outdoor use.

Fairy lights are most often for indoor use only.

It’s best to get commercial grade, heavy duty strings lights that are specifically made for outdoor use to ensure durability.

Avoid Leaving Open Sockets

When bulbs are fitted into the sockets of outdoor string lights, it is difficult for dust and moisture to enter the socket.

On the other hand, open sockets cannot prevent dirt and water from entering and causing a short-circuit.

Therefore, don’t leave sockets empty on string lights. 

Only Use Outdoor Rated Extension Cords

You should choose the right extension cord for your needs. Outdoor extension cords have vinyl, plastic, or rubber covers designed to withstand rougher and wetter conditions.

To confirm if your cord is rated for outdoor use, check the rating code stamped on your cord. 

Bulbs that are no longer working should be left in place until there are replacements available. The lights will still work even though a few bulbs are no longer working.

Protect Connected Plugs From Water

It may be essential to plug many string lights together when setting up patio lights.

You should wrap connected plugs with electrical tape to make sure they don’t get pulled apart.

However, it’s worth knowing that the tape does not offer adequate protection against water. Therefore, you should use cord protectors to protect connected plugs from water.

If you’re using power strips, use cord domes that fit the connections and power strips. While cord domes and cord protectors are resistant to water, they are not totally waterproof.

You can place the connections on items like block or brick to keep them away from puddles and off the ground.

Don’t Use Uninsulated Metal Hooks or Staples to Hang String Lights

Don’t use uninsulated metal hooks or staples to hang your outdoor string lights. 

Metal hooks that do not have a protective vinyl coating can heat up in hot weather, melting the jackets and exposing the wires to the weather.

Staples can crush the wires and damage the jackets.

You can use plastic mounting clips or loops, cup hooks, zip ties, and eye screws to install your string lights.

Use GFCI Outlets for Protection Against Electrical Circuit Failure

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets cut the power if they sense a problem with the electrical circuit.

According to the National Electrical Code (NEC), GFCI outlets are essential for exterior use.

They should be used with care, and they are not fail-safe. You should contact an electrician to install GFCI outlets outdoors.

Also, you should not run extension cords through windows and doors.

They can get damaged by being pinched in the window or door and eventually lead to a safety hazard.

When used improperly, they can overheat and cause fires.

Do Not Overload Your Circuits

If you draw too much wattage through a circuit, it can cause electrical fires, shorts, and tripped circuit breakers.

The circuit in your house can handle either 15 or 20 amps. With a 20 amp connection, you can draw about 2400 watts, while a 15 amp connection affords about 1800 watts.

As with string lights, you should stay below 80% of those amounts.

Before plugging in your outdoor string lights to your power source, check to see if your outdoor outlets have their own dedicated circuits or are on a shared circuit.

To reduce the load, spread the string lights out between circuits as much as you can.

Stay Below the Maximum Wattage

To prevent short-circuiting your string, you should stay below the maximum wattage or number of connections the string light can manage.

The maximum wattage is the maximum amount of power an individual string light can manage.

When connecting multiple string lights, the maximum run is the total wattage multiple string lights can handle.

The maximum connection is the maximum number of string lights that you can safely connect together.

When determining maximum runs from wattage, you should use 80% of the possible wattage.

Use with Remote Control

​For ease of use, you may consider a remote control. Ensure your purchase is specifically made for outdoor use.

Many outdoor light timers have various modes, plus a handy remote control that can be kept inside. The remote control typically is run by standard battery.

Keep in mind, if using the photo sensor mode, the timer will need direct sunlight for the solar panel to work properly. 

Remote controls can also control various light settings, dimmers, etc. 

Amazon has a variety of remote control options from which to choose.

RELATED: Cheap Ideas to Create Backyard Privacy

Store String Lights Properly

Let me start by saying, if you select the appropriate string lights and string light accessories, there is no need to ever take them down.

We live in the midwest and use (and LOVE) ours year round – even in inclement weather!

However, some may wish to only leave their lights up seasonally. If this is the case, store your string lights properly.

This will help mitigate many problems later on when you use these lights again.

Coil your lights prior to storing them to avoid broken wire and tangles. Storage boxes, particularly for string lights, come with plastic reels for wrapping lights around.

You can also prepare your own storage boxes with clothes hangers, paper tubes, and cardboard pieces.

You can also use cord reels for longer patio lights and Christmas string lights.

How to Protect Outdoor Lights from Rain

Bad weather and extreme weather conditions can happen in summer months as well months when cold temperatures are a factor. Since outdoor conditions are unpredictable, it is essential that string lights are suited for outdoor use. 

While most string lights are designed to withstand a certain degree of water exposure, heavy rain with high winds can still cause damage. 

One effective way to protect your outdoor string lights from rain is by using waterproof connectors or covers. These specialized connectors and covers are designed to provide an extra layer of protection against moisture.

During installation of outdoor lights, ensure the power source and outlets are situated in areas protected from direct exposure to rainfall if at all possible. 

Can Outdoor Christmas Lights Get Wet?

The good news is that most outdoor Christmas lights are specifically designed to be weather-resistant, meaning they can handle exposure to moisture and wet weather. That said, it’s important to carefully check each set of lights before installation for any cracks or damage that may compromise their waterproofing abilities.

It’s worth noting that even though outdoor Christmas lights are built to withstand wet conditions, excessive exposure to water can still cause problems. If not properly protected or installed, water can seep into the connectors or sockets, leading to short circuits and potential fire hazards. 

One way to minimize this risk is by ensuring all electrical connections are securely covered with waterproof material such as electrical tape. Additionally, some experts recommend using specialized outdoor outlets with built-in protective covers for an added layer of safety.

While it’s generally safe for outdoor Christmas lights to get wet, it’s essential always to prioritize safety when dealing with electricity and water combination. 

Can Fairy Lights Get Wet?

Fairy lights have become a popular decorative item, adding a touch of magic and whimsy to any space. 

While it is true that most fairy lights are not waterproof, there are a range of styles with some options available that are specifically designed to be used outdoors or in areas prone to moisture.

One important consideration is the type of fairy lights you purchase. 

Traditional battery-operated or plug-in string lights are typically not waterproof and should be kept away from water sources. However, if you want to brighten up your outdoor patio or garden with fairy lights, look for LED rope or copper wire lights that come with weatherproofing features.

These versions often have a protective coating over the bulbs and wiring, making them safe to use even when exposed to rain or snow.

It’s also worth mentioning that even weatherproofed fairy lights should not be submerged in water for extended periods. 

While they may withstand occasional exposure to moisture, constant submersion can still cause water damage and increase the risk of electrical hazards.

Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow proper safety precautions when using fairy lights, ensuring they are securely mounted and protected from direct contact with water. 

Best Outdoor String Lights

Outdoor patio string lights can be a beautiful light source for any outdoor or patio space.

Whether you are looking for edison-style bulbs for outdoor events or a set of color-changing string lights for a small space, you will want to check out these top picks to find the best option for you.

Best Solar String Lights

The good news about many solar lights is they still can provide a warm white glow without the need for electricity. 

Solar-powered string lights will need to get direct sunlight via the included solar panel. Outdoor solar string lights are a good fit for those that do not have a plug in convenient.

Vintage Edison Bulbs

Fairy Lights

Glass Bulbs

The thick glass bulb is dimmable (but note that dimmer is not included), so it is easy to adjust the brightness modes.

Color Changing

If you enjoy a variety of colors with your light output, these color-changing lights are for you.

They come with a variety of smart features and can be controlled with Alexa or Google Assistant.

Get more summer home diys and craft ideas here.


Outdoor string lights are a great accents while providing illumination of your outdoor space.

However, it’s very important to be safe and secure whenever using electricity in open areas.

Hopefully the tips mentioned above will help you keep your string light connections safe and allow you to choose lights that are safe for outdoor use.

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Collage of string lights on deck.

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