How to disable a light switch

Sometimes you need to disable a light switch, such as when a light switch turns an outlet on or off and you want to plug something other than a lamp into that outlet. Here’s how to disable a light switch.

The good news is you can do this in such a way that it is completely reversible. If you want to replace the light switch at any point in the future, you will be able to.

What you need

How to disable a light switch
To disable a light switch, remove the two wires and tie them together.

You only need simple tools and materials to do this. You need a slotted screwdriver, two wire nuts, a blank light switch insert or blank wall plate, and possibly some electrical tape. The project should take less than 30 minutes and cost less than $3.

How to disable a light switch

Safety first: Turn off the power at the breaker box. It’s not safe to work on a light switch with the power on. Plug a light or better yet, a television or radio into the outlet, turn the power on, then flip breakers until the light or sound stops. If you use a light, you may need a helper. This is why I like to use something that makes sound, like a radio.

Assuming a two-terminal switch. Remove the two wires from the switch. Tie them together with a wire nut and tuck them back into a corner of the electrical box where they won’t obstruct anything. Remove the ground wire (green or bare) from the switch if present. Cap it off with a wire nut and tuck it out of the way. If you’re afraid it might short against something else, wrap some electrical tape around it, but that shouldn’t be necessary.

Remove the switch. Replace the cover with a blank wall plate cover, or put a blank insert in the existing cover where the light switch was. Then restore the power at the breaker box.

If the light switch has more than two terminals, I recommend consulting an electrician. Multiple terminals suggests more than one light switch is in play. Circuits using multiple switches can be tricky to figure out.

How to re-enable the light switch

To replace the switch, start by turning off the power the same way as before.

simply remove the wire nuts from the two wires you tied together. Attach one to the upper terminal of a switch, and the other to the lower terminal. The order doesn’t matter unless you’re using certain occupancy/vacancy-type automatic light switches. With a cheap toggle switch, don’t worry about it. Remove the wire nut from the ground wire and attach it to the ground screw on the switch.

Restore the power and you’re done.

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