It’s useful to first understand the difference between dry, damp, and wet-rated LED lights to determine what to do if your LED light strings get wet. Afterward, you can go about the best course of action based on the relative need of the situation.
LED Light String Ratings
Dry-rated LED lights are to be used indoors, to remain sheltered, and to be kept from sources of water.
Damp-rated LED lights can only be exposed to indirect water. Think of these as being in the laundry room, within a bathroom, or under a patio awning. There may be some slight moisture accumulation, but ultimately very little.
Wet-rated LED lights may be within dripping or flowing water. They’re tightly sealed against water. These may be near a pool or in an area that receives rain or snowfall.
The danger of an LED light being exposed to water is when it’s fully submerged. Electricity flows through the bulb, and because water is a conductor, it’s possible for electrocution to occur. It’s a safe assumption that if water is introduced to a live electric current, it may very well travel away from the intended direction.
How To Handle Wet LED Light Strings
Here’s a quick and simplified protocol for what to do when an LED light string gets wet.
If possible, determine its moisture rating. It’s possible that the situation is a non-issue if it’s a wet-rated LED light string. Next, make sure that you can get to the source of power without coming into contact with a live wire in a wet environment. Then, remove the fixture from the power source if it cannot or should not be exposed to moisture.
You’ll want to clean up the water if possible and if needed. That goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning.
Then, dry out the LED light string. Leave it in the sun for a couple days after giving it a good wipe and only when you’re sure that it’s dried out, give it a test. Connect it back to a power source and take the necessary safety precautions with your LEDs by clearing the area.
It’s possible that the light will end up fine. Though, it’s also a possibility that it’s been damaged and will need to be replaced.
The ability for LED lights to survive exposure to water depends on how they’re sealed against it.
One common method of measuring this is by referencing an ingress protection rating chart, otherwise referred to as international standard IEC 60529 by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) who designated it for international use. Though, unless you travel in herds of engineers, you’re unlikely to run across anyone casually mentioning IEC 60529.
The IP rating refers to two categories of numbers that categorize a product’s durability in the face of intrusion and moisture. It’s a two digit code, i.e. IP65.
The first number refers to its ability to protect against objects of various sizes — a hand versus dust particles, for example. There are six levels here. An IP64 is completely dust tight, for example. An IP54 is dust protected. An IP25 will protect against things that are 12.5 mm wide, like a finger.
The second number refers to its ability to protect against moisture. The moisture categories will vary from dripping water, splashing water, spraying water, jets of water, and total submersion under water. Total submersion notwithstanding, the measurement also accounts for the angle the water hits the object in question as well.
If you know that a light is IP64, then you know it can handle water splashes from any direction. If you know that a light is IP67, then you know it can handle submersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. These numbers go from 0 to 8.
Therefore, if a light has an IP measurement, you’ll understand its relative resistance to water and whether or not you need to even worry about doing anything at all to dry off the LED light string.
Does every manufacturer provide this? No, it’s not always necessary. Some do, however. It’s useful to remain informed and educated about the entire industry, but it’s usually a good idea to know at bare minimum that an electric current shouldn’t be exposed to water.
Once all water has been dried and removed from the equation, you’re good to go.