How to Clean an Electrical Outlet

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Most people never think about their electrical outlets when they are cleaning their homes. Those who do, may not clean them because they do not know how to go about it. Despite what many people think, this shouldn’t be a challenge once you learn how to clean an electrical outlet. 

How To Clean An Electrical Outlet

There are several ways you can use to clean an electrical outlet. Each of the methods uses different materials and processes. Look at each and choose the one that suits you best. 

Remember, you can clean the outlet by removing it from the wall or by cleaning it while its on the wall. If you want to clean it thoroughly, the best option would be removing the outlet from the wall. This is how you do it.

Before you Start

Start by making sure you switch off power. Once this is done, you can start removing the socket cover plate or receptacle. Typically, the screws that hold the socket in place are countersunk flat-heads, though you may come across Phillips screws. 

Some outlets have two screws and others have four. Unscrew them from the top moving towards the bottom. Pull out the receptacle from the box and place it aside. Unscrew the wires from the receptacle and you can now start cleaning it. 

Some outlets do not have screws instead they use clips. In this case, unclip the receptacle using a flat head screwdriver or a similar tool. Usually, the clips are on all four sides. Wedge the screwdriver and move it around the receptacle. If there are clips, they should snap off loosening the receptacle.

Woman cleaning an electrical outlet

Clean an Electrical Outlet Using a Homemade Solution

If you are a curious person and don’t mind trying experiments, using a homemade solution is the best option. You will not need to use any fancy tools. All the materials you need will be found in your home. 

Materials you Need

The following is a list of materials you will need. While some of them are optional, we recommend you use them all for the best results. 

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White vinegar
  • Tea tree oil (optional)
  • Cloth or paper towel
  • Spray bottle
  • Q-tip (optional)
  • Clean and dry towel
  • Shallow bowl

The Process

Take the shallow bowl and put in 8 ounces of white vinegar (approximately 230g). Add 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. This is approximately 115g for each product. If you have tea tree oil, add three to five drops. You can substitute tea tree oil with any other essential oil. 

With all the ingredients in the bowl, mix thoroughly. You can use a wooden spoon or similar utensil for this process. Stir the mixture for about three minutes. Pour it into the spray bottle and shake it. Turn off power from your mains outlet. 

Take the cloth or paper towel and spray some cleaning solution onto it. The reason you should not spray directly on the outlet is the solution may cause a short circuit. Even if the power is off, the solution may remain in the outlet. When you turn the power back on, it may short circuit the outlet. 

Start rubbing the receptacle using the cloth with the solution. Hard to reach areas can be accessed using a Q-tip. If you do not have one, use a toothpick and the corner of the cloth. Place the toothpick on a corner of the towel and use the sharp edge to clean holes, crevices, and other hard to reach areas. 

Rub the outlet using the clean and dry towel. As you are drying it, look for areas that you may have missed. Rub on any streaks that may have appeared due to the solution. Turn your mains back on and you are done. 

Clean an Electrical Outlet Using a Disinfecting Wipe

A disinfecting wipe has many purposes in your home. What you may not know is you can use it to clean electrical outlets. It comes dampened with a solution, so you don’t need to create or buy a solution. 

Use the same rubbing process mentioned above. The only difference is you will not need to switch off your mains. Disinfecting wipes evaporate quickly meaning they can’t cause a short circuit. 

Use the dry towel to dry the outlet. Try drying hard to reach areas using a Q-tip or the toothpick tip mentioned above. Overall, this is one of the easiest ways to clean outlets.

Clean an Electrical Outlet with a Microfiber Cloth

We recommend you use this method to clean any electrical outlet without stubborn stains. You will not need any other materials. Start by folding the cloth in half two to four times depending on the size of the cloth. Fold in a way that the cloth has eight small sides. 

Folding using this method will ensure you effectively use one cloth for the cleaning process. If you are cleaning several outlets, you will get to use each side for an outlet. Wipe the outlet down starting from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest areas. Microfiber can naturally clean and disinfect electrical outlets without affecting the receptacle chemically.

Clean an Electrical Outlet Using Cleaners

There are cleaners specifically designed to clean electrical outlets. You can find these in your local superstores or online stores. Each cleaner comes with a simple set of instructions you need to follow. 

Typically, the instructions will be on the label of the product. Make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. Another thing to consider is the types of electrical outlets you have. If you are not sure, go for a general-purpose electrical outlet cleaner.

Clean an Electrical Outlet Using a Professional Service

The easiest way to clean an electrical outlet would be by using a professional electrical outlet cleaning service. Although you may be required to spend more, you are guaranteed great results. 

How to Clean the Interior of an Electrical Outlet

Cleaning an electrical outlet on the front is good. Now, how about the back? You will be surprised at the amount of dirt that you will find behind the outlet. Most people do not think about this area and it may lead to other problems.  

Woman wiping her electrical outlet clean

Cleaning the inside of an electrical outlet is similar to cleaning the outside. However, in this case, you cannot use any detergents or wet cloths. Everything you use must be dry or quick drying. You will need to gather the items you need and follow some safety tips before you start. 

Materials You Need

In this case, you will only need a few materials as this is quite straightforward. Major materials you must have include:

  • Flathead or Phillipps screwdriver
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • 2 clean cloths or one cloth and a sponge
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean bowl with Warm soapy water

The Process

Before you do anything, you will need to make sure you have turned off the mains power. Once the power has been turned off, make sure there is no current to the socket. You can do this by plugging in an electrical appliance and checking if you can switch it on. This is a crucial step and you shouldn’t skip it. 

Use the right screwdriver to remove the screws from the outlet’s face. Place the screws in an area where you will not accidentally lose them. Place the outlet cover inside the empty bowl with warm soapy water. Use the sponge or clean cloth to wipe it clean.

Sometimes you may find there are stubborn stains on the interior of the outlet cover. You can remove these by scrubbing them with a soft brush such as a used toothbrush. Wash both sides properly and place it aside to let it dry. To speed up the drying process, you can place the outlet cover outside in the sunshine on a windowpane. 

Now put some rubbing alcohol in the bottle of spray. You will use this to clean areas you can’t reach or you can’t clean using warm soapy water. Spray the rubbing alcohol to all these areas. The reason why you use rubbing alcohol is that it evaporates quickly. This reduces any chances of getting electrocuted or causing a short circuit.  

Option if You Don’t Have Rubbing Alcohol 

If you don’t want to use rubbing alcohol, you can use a can of compressed air. The air will blow out excessive dirt. However, it may not thoroughly clean the inside of the outlet. Make sure the outlet cover is completely dry before you replace it. You can use a lint-free cloth or paper towel if you want to be sure. 

Now you can wipe the screws before you screw the outlet cover back. You don’t thoroughly clean the screws. A single wipe using any of the cloths or sponge is sufficient. Switchback the power on from the mains and you will be done! 

Final Thoughts

Cleaning an electrical outlet is not a daunting task. All you need to do is gather the materials needed for each method. Follow the instructions and you will be good to go. If you don’t want to clean an electrical outlet on your own, you can use a professional cleaning company.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.