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Is it more dangerous to touch a live plug with a wet hand, or...?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Thanks4helpin, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. Thanks4helpin

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 14, 2012
    Hi everyone :)

    what will give you more of a shock - touching a live plug (from a 120 volt socket) with wet fingers, or touching it with dry fingers but standing on wet ground?

    how will the electrons know that you are standing on wet ground until it completes the circuit all the way through your body? If it doesn't, and you get a shock and pull away before the electricity reaches too far up your hand, the electrons will never know that your feet are wet and thus flow towards your feet into the ground? The same applies for if one hand is touching the plug and the other is resting on a metal surface - how will the electrons know that your other hand is resting on metal, UNLESS the shock is goes through your body and is relatively near the other arm?
    And what happens if your fingers are wet, and you are standing on wet ground? I know that you will get a bigger shock at your finger tips, but again, how will the electrons know to go towards your feet UNLESS it the shock travels all the way through your body, and near your feet? I am just confused about how 'intelligent' electrons are..how they would know to go towards your wet feet compared to say,the shock traveling up to your head..THANK YOU!

    Btw..I've been reading the ebooks on electric shock and grounding and have been confused, so that's why I posted in this forum. Thanks in advance for your patience (i'm a complete newbie and have other question in the future I'm sure).

  2. crutschow


    Mar 14, 2008
    The electrons aren't smart, they are just fast. The electric shock current travels at near the speed of light so it has gone from your hand to your feet in nanoseconds, long before the several tens of milliseconds it takes for your reflexes to respond.

    The electrons just follow the path of least resistance. Since the hands and feet that are touching conductors have the least resistance, that is where they flow. And it is the flow of electrons (current) that cause the sensation of shock.

    Look at it this way. When you touch a voltage, your body is near instantly charged with that voltage. If no other part of your body is touching a conductor, nothing will happen and you will feel no shock (unless the voltage is high and you will feel some current as your body capacitance is charged). But if you are touching a conductor to ground, then a current will flow as determined by the voltage, and the resistance of your body plus the two contacts.

    Since water reduces the contact resistance, then being in contact with water will increase the shock current. Whether water on the fingers is worse than wet ground depends upon their relative resistance. Since dry ground can have a relatively high resistance I would say that wet ground is probably worse than wet fingers. And with both wet, you likely will be the subject of a nice funeral (unless you are protected by a ground fault interrupter). ;)
    Thanks4helpin likes this.
  3. wmodavis

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 23, 2010
    Neither necessarily, or both!

    You could experiment.

    Or you could use a little science and reason.

    Danger comes from the current that flows through your body. And death does not require much current if it flows through vulnerable organs such as your heart.

    Anything that will contribute to increasing the current flow or cause it to flow through the heart muscles (which are controlled by electrical current) will increase the danger.

    Since your body's electrical resistance is relatively high anything that will reduce it will thereby increase the current flow whether it is at your feet or finger. Making better contact by pressing your finger harder into the socket or adding water reduces the resistance, increases the current, causes the muscles to contract to maybe pull tighter making better contact.

    Let us know how your experiment works out.
    Thanks4helpin and shortbus like this.
  4. shortbus


    Sep 30, 2009
    Another Darwin Award contender?
  5. Thanks4helpin

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 14, 2012
    Thanks everyone for helping. I really appreciate it, and I know i'm very ignorant and have a lot to learn. That's why i'm here to learn from experts ;) I'm glad to be here.
  6. BSomer


    Dec 28, 2011
    I wouldn't say that you are ignorant. Personally I don't care for that term. You are smart enough to ask questions. If you learn from the answers given and are able to apply the knowledge gained, you are far from ignorant.
    Thanks4helpin likes this.