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The Old Lady who lived in my house never cleaned. So much so, that you could tell which light switches she regularly used and which ones she never touched… all the dirt from her fingers smudged them. As I have said in previous posts… YUCK.

So, rather than clean them (I really didn’t want to touch them too much), we decided to replace them. Most of the switches we replaced were simple, 1-way (single pole) switch, which means it is 1 switch for 1 light. Many places in your house use 3-way switches, where 2 different switches go to the same light (such as the hallway light between floors), but that requires a little more know-how. Scott showed me how to do the first, and later I will try to re-post with the 3-way switch instructions:

1. First, and MOST important, go to your circuit breaker panel and make sure you turn the electricity off of the room you’ll be working in. As an additional safety measure, you can turn off ALL of your electricity, but if it takes you a while or if you’re doing multiple switches, turning off all the air/heat/refrigerator can be unpleasant.

2. Remove the light switch cover from the switch you’re going to replace, to expose the switch’s components (called a ‘switch box’) underneath.

3. Unscrew the top and bottom screws which hold the switch into place in the wall. Pull the switch out of its setting in the wall (but don’t yank the wires out of the wall!), so that the wires you will be working with are exposed and at a workable length. Note:  you will need to use the black wires and ground (bare) wires.

4. Disconnect the wires from the switch box. In my case, Scott had to use wire cutters because they were stuck into little holes in the back of the switch box, but in some cases they are simply wrapped around screws so you can unscrew them and pull the wire off the setting.

5. The next step required just the removal of the black insulation around the wire instead of cutting the wire istelf, so Scott used his wire cutters and stripped the wire.

6. The new light switches had an easy hookup feature that saved us from having to twist all of the new wires into place. Simply pop each of the black wires into the little holes (shown below).

7. Take the ground wire (should be green or completely bare) and twist it into a hook-like shape. Wrap this around the ground wire screw on the side of the switch box (on mine, it was green). Tighten the screw on top of the wire so that it’s fixed into place.

8. Position the new switch box back into the wall and screw it into place. Replace the cover over the switch (we wound up also replacing these). Done!

As I mentioned above, this switch was a standard 1-way switch. When it comes to 3-way switches, there will also be a pink wire you’ll have to work with, and hopefully Scott will have some time to pause for pics soon. Later!

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  1. I have those exact nasty switches in our newly purchased home and I want to replace ALL OF THEM!!! they are so gross. thanks for posting this.

  2. From a safety perspective I was told you should use the screws rather than pop in the wires. I guess it is more secure.

    Also I don't think you need to cut the wires. Usually there is something you can depress with a screwdriver and the wire will release. (Won't guarantee that but that is what I've seen.)

  3. I'll second Rich's advice about using the screws and as he said there's usually a release slot that you can stick a tiny screwdriver into and while pressing down you should be able to pull the wire out of the hole. Tip, when attaching wires to the screws wrap the wire in the same direction that the screw tightens down so when you tighten the screw it pulls the wire around (instead of pushing it away) and makes for a tighter connection.