Did you wear your stainless steel jewelry in the shower, and now you’re wondering if it’ll rust? You’ve come to the right place. Stainless steel has become an essential part of our homes because everything from cutlery to cookware and kitchen appliances is made of stainless steel.
So why exactly is this steel “stainless”? To understand, we must first know the difference between stainless steel and regular steel.
Regular steel (or carbon steel) contains 98% iron and 2% carbon.
Stainless steel has everything carbon steel has plus other alloying elements like chromium, a shiny metal with high anti-corrosive properties. As long as there’s more than 10.5% chromium in the stainless steel mixture, a protective layer will form on the outside surface of the stainless steel piece as oxygen comes in contact with it, protecting it from rust stains.
Does Stainless Steel Rust?
The short answer is no. Stainless steel remains stainless because of the chromium protecting it. Most stainless steel jewelry won’t rust if well cared for. Wearing your stainless steel jewelry daily may get it scratched or dinged up, but it won’t rust.
However, some things can cause corrosion of stainless steel. Exposure to corrosive cleaners and fluids, high salinity environments like seawater, and high humidity can remove the chromium on your stainless steel and make it susceptible to corrosion.
The Causes of Rust
To further understand why your stainless steel may rust, let’s look at some common causes of rust.
Water, wind, and moisture are a metal’s greatest enemies. If not for the chromium protecting your stainless steel, it’ll rust faster than you can say stainless on exposure to water.
Water and moisture in the air get oxidized quickly to form rust, so even if your stainless steel won’t rust on exposure to water, it’s better to keep it safe from moisture as much as possible.
Climate Where You Live
If you live in coastal regions, your metal objects will rust faster because of the salty moisture in the air. It’s close to the sea, so the atmosphere is usually more humid.
Neglecting your metal objects can cause them to corrode fast because moisture will settle on them. So regular cleaning is required to keep your metal objects in great shape.
Types of Stainless Steel Corrosion
Stainless steel is resistant to rust, and even when the steel’s chromium layer is breached, chromium oxide has self-repairing properties. However, if the damage is beyond repair, rust can occur. Below are a few ways rust can form on stainless steel:
Pitting corrosion occurs when stainless steel gets exposed to environments that contain chlorides. The chlorides attack the passive layer on the stainless steel and eat pits into the stainless steel. Everyday materials that contain chlorides include salt and bleach.
If you add salt to your water before boiling, some salt will settle to the bottom of the pot or pan, causing pitting. So if you’ve seen tiny holes at the bottom of your pot, you now know what caused them.
Elevated temperatures for extended periods, or a lack of oxygen on the metal surface, can also cause pitting.
Once it starts, pitting cannot be stopped or removed; however, pitting doesn’t affect the performance of your stainless steel object. To prevent pitting in pots, wait until the water boils before adding the salt. Salt dissolves in hot water and won’t settle to the bottom.
For your other stainless steel objects like jewelry, keep them away from chlorides like bleach and salt. If they do get exposed to those things, be sure to rinse with clean, pure water as soon as possible.
If two dissimilar metals come in contact with each other and an electrolyte like water, they’ll form a galvanic cell and accelerate the corrosion of one of the metals. The electrolyte helps to move one metal’s electrons to the other metal, and as the electron-giving metal loses electrons, it undergoes oxidation (AKA corrosion).
One of the most common places you can see galvanic corrosion is your piping system. To prevent galvanic corrosion, separate dissimilar metals with pads, pipe shoes, or insulators to reduce metal-to-metal contact.
Chromium needs a steady oxygen supply to form the passive layer on the stainless steel surface. In tight crevices, it’s not always possible for the oxygen to reach the stainless steel surface, so they’re vulnerable.
Once crevice corrosion starts, it quickly spreads to other metal parts. To prevent it, eliminate small gaps in stainless steel that can trap electrolytes and remove them from stainless steel by cleaning the metal.
Crevice corrosion is common in stainless steel jewelry and can happen between two metals or even between metal and non-metal.
Unlike other types of corrosion that happen in specific parts of the stainless steel object, this is the uniform loss of metal over the entire surface.
Stainless steel doesn’t rust like ordinary alloy or carbon steel, but when it comes in contact with some chemicals, primarily acids, the chromium layer of the steel can be uniformly attacked depending on the acid concentration and temperature.
Sulphuric and hydrochloric acids are particularly aggressive toward stainless steel, and general corrosion can be destructive.
Can Stainless Steel Jewelry Get Wet?
Yes, stainless steel jewelry can get wet, and it doesn’t affect its appearance or ability to wear after drying. When you put a steel necklace or ring in water and bring it out, the water balls up into droplets that stick to the steel surface, and you can just wipe it off afterward.
Can You Wear Stainless Steel Jewelry in the Shower?
Yes, you can shower with stainless steel jewelry because regular water, rainwater, and many other liquids, do not affect stainless steel. After showering with your stainless steel jewelry, all you have to do is wipe it dry, and you’re good to go. If there’s still some soap on it, you can rinse it with some warm water first to help clean it off.
Other metals that don’t tarnish under shower water include silver, platinum, and gold.
Bathroom Fixtures: What About Shower Caddies, Organizers, And Other Stainless Steel Fixtures?
It depends on the grade of stainless steel used to produce the caddy. An original stainless steel shower caddy or organizer won’t rust. However, if you have a rusted caddy, you can quickly fix it.
Remembering to clean your fixtures that are in constant contact with water is a good practice to follow. A simple mixture of baking soda and vinegar can be enough to avoid the risk of tarnishing or rust over the long term.