Can't Reset Your GFCI Outlet? Here's What May Be Wrong And How You Can Fix It

GFCI outlets are an important safety feature commonly found in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas of the home that might contain standing water. GFCI outlets help to prevent electrical shock by immediately turning off power to the outlet when it detects that too much electrical current is moving through it, as would happen if you accidentally dropped an appliance such as a hairdryer into water.

Whenever a GFCI outlet trips and shuts off electricity, you can normally restore power by pressing and holding the reset button on the outlet. If pressing the reset button doesn't work, read on to learn what may be causing it and what you can do to reset your outlet.

1. Check Your Electrical Panel for a Tripped Circuit

Your home's electrical panel performs the same function as your GFCI outlets. When too much current runs through a circuit, it will automatically trip and shut off power to that circuit. In some cases, the excess current that caused the GFCI outlet to shut off may cause the circuit to trip as well.

In addition, modern GFCI outlets won't reset when they're not receiving power — if the circuit it's on has tripped, the reset button will immediately pop back out when you press it in. Reset the circuit breaker that powers the GFCI outlet and see if it can successfully be reset.

2. Reset the Other GFCI Outlets in Your Home

Due to the way that GFCI outlets work, the outlet that you're trying to reset may not even be the outlet that tripped. The outlets in a circuit are wired in sequence to each other. When excess electrical current runs through the wires, the first GFCI outlet in the sequence will trip. When a GFCI outlet trips, it will prevent power from reaching any outlets that are downstream from it in the sequence.

Try resetting the other GFCI outlets that are connected to the same circuit. If one of them successfully resets, that means that it was first in the sequence, so it tripped and was blocking the rest of your outlets from receiving power. If you don't know which outlets share the same circuit, just try resetting all of the GFCI outlets in your home — eventually, you should find the one that actually tripped.

3. Replace the Outlet

If resetting the circuit breaker and all of the GFCI outlets in your home didn't restore power to the outlet, you'll need to replace it. GFCI outlets tend to be installed in areas where they're exposed to a considerable amount of moisture, and that can cause the connections within the GFCI outlet's housing to corrode. You won't be able to reset the outlet, and you won't be able to draw any power from it.

Replacing a GFCI outlet requires working with electricity, so it's a good idea to have the work performed by a residential electrical contractor. If replacing the outlet doesn't work, you'll need to call a contractor regardless — it typically means that there's a ground fault within the electrical wiring in your home, and using the outlet won't be safe until that can be repaired.