Can You Use A Dry Rated LED Light In A Bathroom?

LED lights are an excellent choice for your bathroom.

Because LEDs come in so many styles, they offer several different ways of highlighting key features.

Whether it’s the main light in the room, a vanity mirror light, or under-lighting around the edge of a bathtub.

However, unsurprisingly, bathrooms tend to get wet. As you know, water and electricity generally don’t mix.

This is why you may think you need a damp-rated LED light for your bathroom instead of a dry-rated one.

Damp-rated LEDs are more resistant to steam and moisture.

Bathrooms have different lighting zones, based on how close they are to water. Damp-rated lights are needed within 600mm/23″ of bathtubs, showers, or basins. Dry-rated lights can be used outside these areas providing the room is properly ventilated. Still, it’s safer to use waterproof lights if you can.

In this article I’ll explain:

  • The main differences between dry-rated and wet-rated LED lights
  • Whether a bathroom is considered a damp location
  • The hazards of using a dry-rated LED in a bathroom
  • The best LED bulbs for your bathroom

Dry Rated Vs Wet Rated LED: Main Differences

light fixture

The main difference between dry-rated and wet-rated LEDs is in how they are manufactured to deal with moisture.

Dry-rated LEDs are not carefully built to be completely sealed, while wet-rated LEDs are. This means no water can get in or out of the bulb.

The key is in the ingress protection (IP) rating. This explains how sealed an electrical item is against dust particles and moisture. It’s given in two digits.

On a scale of 0-6, the first is how protected it is against solid objects, from ‘completely open air’ (0) to ‘completely dust-tight (6).

More importantly, for bathrooms, the second digit deals with water protection on a scale from 0-9, with 0 being no protection and 9 being protected against high pressure, high-temperature water jets.

For the main lights in your bathroom, you’ll need an IP rating of at least IP44 ideally, which is completely protected against splashing of water.

For shower lights or lights within the bathtub, if you have something like a hot tub, they’ll need to be rated IP67 – safe in total immersion up to a water pressure of one meter.

Is Bathroom Considered As A Damp Location?

The term ‘damp location’ isn’t just one use as a general adjective. It’s a fully defined term from the National Electrical Code.

You can read the code here in full – you’ll need to subscribe (for free) to download it.

However, in summary, locations are either rated dry, damp, or wet.

A dry location isn’t normally subject to moisture or wetness for a sustained period.

A damp location is somewhere protected from the weather but not from some dampness.

While a wet location is anywhere in direct contact with the earth or subject to saturation.

A bathroom is actually considered by this definition to be a dry location.

That’s because the room is not constantly suffering from moisture. By regulation, all bathrooms require ventilation to remove steam and dampness.

However, there are different zones of a bathroom to consider.

bathroom zones

The base of a shower or the inside of a bathtub are wet locations, so any recessed lighting here needs to be completely sealed, rated at least IP67.

Then anything above a shower or bathtub to a height of 2.25m is considered a damp zone where you need a minimum damp-rated bulb of IP44 or better – but really, it’s best to get IP 65 or more for a completely sealed bulb.

Many shower lights are rated IP65 or better for safety.

Finally, any zone within 600mm surrounding a bathtub, basin or shower is considered likely to be damp, and you should use an IP44 or better bulb.

Hazards Of Using Dry Rated LED In A Bathroom

modern bathroom with lighting

If you choose to use dry-rated bulbs in your bathroom, then moisture can get into the circuitry.

The reason this is problematic is that water is conductive.

Electrical circuits are designed to flow in a certain way to keep them safe – the current passes through the circuit’s components in a carefully managed way.

As soon as moisture gets into the circuit and starts creating unplanned connections, acting as a bridge for the current, it can cause the circuit to short out.

It’ll only be reactivated once the circuit is dried out, and there’s a chance component could be damaged as a result.

In some cases, the bulb could even pop.

Suppose the light is a good quality bulb. In that case, it should be protected from this, but if you’ve bought cheap LEDs, then not only could a bulb pop, but it might not withstand the internal damage, causing the casing to shatter, becoming a physical hazard.

Which LED Bulbs Are Best For The Bathroom?

You might not technically need damp-rated LEDs in your bathroom. Still, it’s better to be safe if you can and upgrade to one that definitely won’t be damaged by moisture.

It means the lights will be safe to use even if something happens to your ventilation fan and leaves it out of use for a couple of days.

When looking for good lights, you want to avoid lights manufactured in China, where regulations aren’t as tight.

And then you should look for anything with a rating of IP44 or better.

There are various different bathroom lights you might want to buy.

It’s good to start with high-quality ceiling light because you need to safely use the bathroom and see any potential hazards, especially as slipping over in a bathroom with ceramic furnishings can be dangerous.

Here are some good options for damp-resistant ceiling LEDs:

Last update on 2021-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another good idea for a bathroom is a vanity light. Having a bright light near your mirror helps give a better view, so whether you’re caring for your skin or trimming facial hair, you’ll catch every fine detail.

Last update on 2021-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Words

Because bathrooms are designed to be well-ventilated, they’re not considered damp rooms – even if they do frequently get damp after a shower (or bath time for younger, splashier family members).

So, while you technically don’t need damp-rated LEDs in some parts of your bathroom, it’s safest to get them if you can.

If you do find an LED light you love that’s not damp-rated, make sure it’s installed at least 600mm from showers, bathtubs, and basins so that they’re safe to use.

What lighting do you have in your bathroom? Have you checked its IP rating?