The tranquillity of your bathroom can be greatly enhanced with the installation of a dimmer switch, which gives you the power to adjust the lighting to suit your mood or task at hand. The use of dimmer switches in the bathroom is not only possible but can also be a considerable addition to the functionality and ambience of the space.

Can you have a dimmer switch for the bathroom lights?

Yes, you can absolutely have a dimmer switch for bathroom lights. However, there are numerous wiring regulations and Building Regulations in the UK, such as the BS 7671 – Requirements for Electrical Installations, which outline the specific needs for bathroom electrical installations.

Due to the presence of water, bathrooms are classified into different zones with corresponding IP ratings required for electrical fixtures. It is essential that the dimmer switch meets the necessary IP rating for its specific zone, ensuring safety against water ingress.

Basically, Zone 0 is in or around the bath or the shower, which means the component has to be completely watertight, with a minimum rating of IP68, which is pretty much the highest possible level (short of being immersed in high pressure water). This is unlikely to apply to the switch you’ll be installing.

Then come Zones 1 and 2, which are above the bath or shower (1) or very close to them (2). This time the minimum level of protection is IP44. These are the ratings you’ll need for components close to the bath or shower, where water vapour will be ever present, and splashes possible. 

A simpler solution is simply to have the dimmer switch outside the bathroom, in which case normal electrical rules apply.

Why have dimmable bathroom lights?

So now we know that you can have dimmable bathroom lights, the next question is: should you? It all comes down to personal taste and how you use your bathroom, of course. If you pop in to do your business then pop back out again with no fuss, you’re probably fine with regular bulbs. If it’s too bright, just swap them for less bright ones.

If your bathroom is a place of tranquillity and personal spa sessions, the last thing you need is bright lights ruining the vibe. Installing dimmable bulbs means you can have the light nice and relaxing without resorting to candles. It’s also handy for those 2 a.m. bathroom trips – putting the lights on dim won’t dazzle you when you’re half asleep. And when you do need it bright, such as when you’re cleaning, you can simply put them on at full brightness.

Swapping a standard switch for a dimmer switch

A standard switch can typically be replaced with a dimmer switch, provided that the lighting circuit is compatible and the switch being installed is suitable for the bathroom’s zone requirements. Professional installation is highly recommended to ensure safety and compliance with electrical codes.

Remember that bathrooms are one of the spaces in the home where regular homeowners are not permitted to perform DIY electrics – it’s definitely a pro job. If the switch is outside the bathroom, you can do a like-for-like swap – have a look at our dimmer switch installation guide.

Considerations for LED Bulbs

LED bulbs are energy-efficient and long-lasting but require compatible dimmer switches to work properly. Not all LED bulbs are dimmable, so it's important to check the specifications. Furthermore, LED bulbs require a specific type of dimmer switch, often referred to as a ‘trailing edge’ dimmer, to function correctly and without flicker.

Replacing a pull-cord switch with a dimmer pull-cord switch

Pull-cord switches have been used in bathrooms for decades. The switch itself is mounted in the ceiling, and is operated via a length of cord. As the cord is made of a non-conductive material, it’s safe to use as your hand is nowhere near the electric current.

However, they are traditionally simple on/off devices, so can they be used as a dimmer switch? The answer is yes. You can now get pull-cord switches that can operate dimmable lights. The brightness is controlled by how long you pull on the cord, and the bulbs will cycle between bright and dim as you hold it down. This is a good option if you have an existing pull-cord switch, as it will require no rewiring – just swap the switch unit.

How to replace the switch

The process of replacing a switch with a dimmer involves several steps and should always be carried out with caution:

  • Safety first – Ensure the power is off at the mains. Use a voltage tester to confirm that the circuit is dead before starting the work.
  • Remove the existing switch – Unscrew the faceplate of the current switch and disconnect the wiring, taking note of the connections.
  • Install the dimmer switch – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to connect the wires to the new dimmer switch. Ensure correct wiring as per UK standards (Live/Load, Neutral, Earth).
  • Testing – Secure the new switch in place, restore power and test the dimmer function.

For individuals unfamiliar with electrical systems or UK wiring regulations, it’s crucial to use a certified electrician for the replacement. Dimmer switches for bathroom lighting must be installed with due regard to safety, legal compliance and proper function.

If you’re looking for the perfect dimmer switch for your decor, have a look through our collection. We’ve also got the complete range of dimmable LED light bulbs (make sure the one you choose is dimmable) and fittings to ensure the job is completed to your satisfaction.