Does water have any effect on stainless steel jewelry? We get this question about our product a lot. Normally, we would not expose jewelry to water, but some things are just beyond our control. You could be at the beach or get stuck in the rain. You could be the type who forgets to take off your jewelry before getting into the shower.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular metals for making jewelry. It is affordable yet durable. It has a clean and shiny finish, making it an essential part of any wardrobe. But for some people, like the ones we have described, the sentence they want to hear while purchasing jewelry pieces is "it is waterproof."
So today, let's answer the big question, will your stainless steel jewelry corrode after getting exposed to water?
Shop This Story
Is Stainless Steel Waterproof?
We want to say yes, but the answer is more complicated than this. Stainless steel has a unique composition that protects it from corrosion when exposed to pure water. This unique composition also makes it possible for the metal to withstand corrosion longer than other metals when exposed to corrosive conditions.
Stainless steel consists of several compounds in varying amounts. Carbon, nickel, manganese, molybdenum, iron, etc., are some of the elements you will find in stainless steel. But there is another important element. It is so important that every grade of stainless steel has at least 10% chromium.
It is chromium that makes stainless steel waterproof. So when you expose your stainless steel jewelry to water, chromium reacts with oxygen to form a hard, thin, and resistant oxide layer. This layer is so thin that it is practically invisible without the help of a transmission electron microscope.
But does that mean your stainless steel jewelry is safe? It is very unlikely that you will only expose your jewelry to water. Let's look at other possible wet environments you might end up in and how our stainless steel jewelry will fare.
Can You Expose Stainless Steel To Pure Water?
You can confidently wear your stainless steel jewelry in any wet environment, but under one condition; the water should be pure and free from chemicals.
Several types of corrosion can break through the protective layer chromium gives your stainless steel jewelry (we will discuss this later in the article). However, none of these corrosion types are caused by water. So, if you only expose your stainless steel to pure water, you do not have to fret. Your jewelry is safe.
Can You Take Your Shower With Our Stainless Steel Jewelry?
Your stainless steel jewelry is safe to use in the shower. You can also wash your hands without fear of rusting your stainless steel rings. However, there are buts.'
Water does not corrode stainless steel, but other things might. The products you use in the shower might contain harsh chemicals that could corrode your jewelry. So check your skin and hair products, and if you have something too harsh, it might be best to take off your jewelry before you get into the shower.
Another reason your stainless steel jewelry might rust in the bathroom is if your water has chlorine.
Chlorine is great, so most people prefer to bathe with chlorinated water. It kills bacteria and protects you from diseases. However, bacteria are not the only thing chlorine attacks. It also attacks that protective layer that chromium creates on the surface of your jewelry. This will reduce the durability and speed up the corrosion rate.
So if you want to shower with your jewelry, you must ensure your water has no chlorine or get a filter to block most of the chlorine. If this is not possible, remove your stainless steel jewelry before entering the shower.
What About The Pool?
We already mentioned that chlorine is bad for your stainless steel jewelry. Unfortunately, the pool is filled with chlorine. Your pool, or any standard pool, contains chlorine because of how aggressive they are towards germs.
Bur chlorine is also aggressive to stainless steel and boosts corrosion if exposure continues. Some grades of stainless steel offer some protection against chlorine. The 304 and 316 grades can withstand up to 2 to 5 parts per million (PPM) corrosion from chlorinated water. These grades of stainless steel contain molybdenum which offers a certain level of protection from rust.
These features should tell you how high quality these grades of stainless steel are. However, we do not advise you to enter the pool with your stainless steel jewelry. You cannot control the amount of chlorine you will expose it to. You risk corrosion if you enter the pool with your jewelry.
Can I Wear My Stainless Steel Jewelry In The Ocean?
You can wear stainless steel jewelry to the ocean, but please do not enter the ocean with it. The ocean is the opposite of pure water. It contains chemicals and microorganisms which are not great for your jewelry.
The ocean is filled with salt and contains enough chlorine. These substances will react with the protective layer of your stainless steel jewelry and start eroding them.
The microorganism in the ocean also produces slime (also called biofilms). These biofilms create acidic enzymes that remove oxygen and prevent the rebuilding of the passive protection layer, so your stainless steel jewelry will continue to rust.
So while you can afford to get stainless steel metal wet in certain conditions, pay attention and ensure you are only exposing them to pure water. Remember, stainless steel is still very durable and will withstand more corrosion than most metals under the same condition.
The Types Of Corrosion Stainless Steel Might Have
Corrosion occurs when a substance attacks chromium's passive layer of protection. Let's look at some types of corrosion your stainless steel jewelry might face.
If you notice pits on your stainless steel jewelry, you have exposed it to certain chemicals. The most common culprit is the chlorine ion.
This is due to a lack of oxygen, so the passive layer of protection is missing, exposing your jewelry to corrosive elements.
When you expose your jewelry to a high concentration of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, a uniform corrosion of the passive protective layer and underlying steel will follow.
In the presence of salt or any other electrolyte (detergent, for example), metals undergo an electrochemical process. This process will lead to the accelerated breakdown of your stainless steel jewelry.
Chromium usually combines with oxygen to create the passive protective layer. In the presence of carbon, chromium will combine with excess carbon content, reducing the passive protective layer.
Stress Corrosion Cracking
Stress can lead to corrosion too. A combination of tensile stress, temperature, and exposure to corrosive elements will increase the chances of corrosion.
Notice a commonality among all the types of corrosion we have mentioned. None of them has water as a cause. If you only expose your stainless steel jewelry to pure water, it will remain flawless for many years if you take proper care of it.
What About Tarnish?
Now that we have discussed water's effect on your stainless steel metal, let's look at another pressing topic among users of our product; tarnish.
Will your stainless steel jewelry tarnish? The answer is NO! If you take proper care of your stainless steel jewelry, it should be fine.
However, it also depends on the grade of stainless steel used for the jewelry. Lower grades of stainless steel are likely to tarnish. But a good grade will not tarnish.
For the best protection against rust and tarnish, we advise you to go for 304 and 316-grade stainless steel. Also, ensure your stainless steel has molybdenum because of its resistance to chloride ions and corrosion.
Your stainless steel jewelry is waterproof but not completely resistant to corrosion. To prevent corrosion and increase the shelf-life of your jewelry, here are a few tips to follow:
- Wash your stainless steel jewelry with a bar of soft dish soap and warm water. You can also clean it with baking soda.
- You can try an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner for even deeper cleaning.
- Store your jewelry in a safe and dry place. Get a fabric-lined jewelry box or leather pouches. If you are storing your jewelry pieces together, use soft tissue paper to separate them
Your stainless steel jewelry is waterproof. It has a protective layer that reduces or completely nullifies the corrosion effect of water. However, although your stainless steel jewelry is waterproof, it is still susceptible to other forms of corrosion.
To prevent this:
- Ensure you take proper care of your jewelry pieces.
- Avoid exposing them to the conditions we have mentioned here.
- Clean it regularly and store it properly, and your stainless steel jewelry will last longer than you expect.
However, ensure you get a good grade of stainless steel like the one we offer. This will ensure your jewelry pieces last longer and are more effective against corrosive elements.
Back to Blog