I have a light switch in the laundry room that has two white wires, one black wire. It had a problem with the switch so I decided to replace it. I bought a single pole switch, with 2 screws, and put the two white wires on one screw, the black on the other. The light stayed on and wouldn't switch off. So I bought another switch that has three screws, just like the old one. But I couldn't remember which wires went on which side. So I put the two white wires on the two top screws, the black on the bottom - no current. I switched the two white wires, but had them still both at the top with the black on the bottom screw - no current. I don't want to short circuit anything, but would the right answer be to have the black wire by itself on the top screw on the left, and the two white wires on the screws on the right, top and bottom?


1 Answer 1


Does the light this switch controls have a second switch? Meaning, is it a three way switch? If so, you should have one white, one black, and one red (this one may be white if it was done by someone who did not use appropriate wiring). This would mean that you will have to find some means of making a plan of what wires run where, and then make the necessary connections. If you are not electrical-savvy or are not comfortable working with electricity, call an electrician.

If, on the other hand, this is the only switch for the light, then it is not normal to have two white wires and one black. You should have either two whites and two blacks, or just one white and one black. In case you take a closer look at the wiring in the wall and find four wires, plug one white on each end of the single pole switch, and wire and cap the two black wires together. Make sure your ground is connected.

This leaves you with one last option - your switch controls more than just one light (i.e. light + fan). In that case, you have wiring that does not conform to code ; as far as I know, and please correct me if I am wrong, you can only have one wire on every terminal of a switch. In this case, I suggest once again you call an electrician.

  • Technically -- you can use both the side and back terminations on a switch to double-tap it, but it's an ugly hack compared to pigtailing the wiring. Apr 21, 2015 at 1:00
  • @swordfishdesigns: That is what I wound up doing. I capped the black wire, connected one white wire on each end of the single pole switch. THANKS!!!
    – user35814
    Apr 21, 2015 at 1:04
  • @user35814 Make sure you're not switching the grounded (neutral) conductor.
    – Tester101
    Apr 21, 2015 at 4:14

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