Does Saltwater Damage an Apple Watch? Don’t make this mistake!


You own an Apple Watch and wear it just about anywhere, including to the beach. It’s not a beach day to you unless you take a dip (or several) in the ocean. Can your Apple Watch get wet or will the saltwater wreck it?

Saltwater can damage an Apple watch, causing corrosion that could break the watch. The best way to limit saltwater damage is to refrain from saltwater exposure. You can also rinse the components of the watch after taking a swim.

Ahead, we’ll talk more about the saltwater resistance of Apple Watches and what to do if salty conditions ruin yours. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure you keep reading!

Apple watch in water

Can Saltwater Damage an Apple Watch?

You are technically allowed to use an Apple Watch in saltwater. The latest Apple Watch (which is the Apple Watch 7 as of this writing) is rated for use in shallow freshwater and saltwater under 50 meters according to ISO standard 22810:2010.

Only until this depth is the watch water-resistant. No Apple Watch is waterproof as of yet.

All that being said, it doesn’t matter if yours is the original Apple Watch or the upcoming Apple Watch 8. Saltwater is not a watch’s friend.

Even though an Apple Watch is a heck of a lot more technologically advanced than your basic wristwatch, it still has many of the same components of a wristwatch that can be destroyed by salt. We’ll talk more about that coming up, so check it out.

You have two options for preventing saltwater damage to your Apple Watch. The first is to avoid wearing and using the watch around any saltwater bodies, be those the ocean or a brackish lake.

The second is to rinse the watch thoroughly when you’re done surfing or swimming. Be sure to dry the watch when you’re done.

What Can Saltwater Do to an Apple Watch?

Many reports have been written on the Apple Watch since its inception. These reports usually break down all the parts used to make one of these watches. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Touchscreen
  • Display module chip
  • Force touch sensor
  • Loudspeaker
  • Taptic Engine
  • Battery
  • Processor
  • Wireless charging coil
  • Bluetooth antenna
  • Aluminum housing
  • Digital crown
  • Side button
  • Watch strap

The reason we went over the components of the Apple Watch is so you can see how salt water can be very damaging if it seeps into the internal and external components.

Sure, parts such as the touchscreen and watch strap will remain in good condition, but from the display module chip to the loudspeaker, the battery, the wireless charging coil, and the all-important Taptic Engine, these parts are made of metal.

So what does salt water do to metal? It corrodes it.

If the saltwater is accompanied by humid, salty air such as at the beach, then corrosion accelerates. According to a 2018 article from science resource Sciencing, the rate of corrosion can happen 10x faster compared to non-humid, non-salty air.

The electrons of the metal atoms can travel faster in salt water, which is why the acceleration of corrosion occurs.  

So what’s the big deal with a corroded Apple Watch?

Well, for starters, your watch is going to look unappealing. If you hoped to someday sell the Apple Watch, it will be all but worthless at this point.

Much more importantly, the watch might not work anymore. If the battery corrodes or the Taptic Engine does, then you can say goodbye to your Apple Watch.

What Can You Do If Your Apple Watch Was Damaged by Saltwater?

You hadn’t realized that taking your Apple Watch on a tropical vacation with you would result in the watch becoming corroded. Although you’re going to feel panicked and upset, try to take a deep breath.

You have plenty of options for restoring your Apple Watch’s condition, so let’s go over them now.

Treat Mild Corrosion at Home

If you only splashed around in the ocean a few times with your Apple Watch on, then the corrosion might not be all that severe.

For mild corrosion, you can treat it at home using specialty products.

We recommend a stainless steel cleaner with phosphoric acid. The solution only needs to contain 10 percent phosphoric acid. This stuff is strong enough to eat away at corrosion, so too much more phosphoric acid would be excessive.

Please always wear gloves when working with phosphoric acid, as the acid can irritate and even burn the eyes and skin. Flush your eyes with water for 15 minutes if exposure occurs. Wash your hands with water and soap.

You can use a clean kitchen sponge or a cotton swab to get into the nooks and crannies of your Apple Watch with phosphoric acid.

To rinse away the phosphoric acid residue, don’t use water. Instead, you need ammonia.

Ammonia can neutralize phosphoric acid so it doesn’t settle onto the surfaces of your Apple Watch and somehow worsen the damage.

Be sure to remove all liquid residue and then use a soft microfiber cloth to dry your Apple Watch. This will prevent a streaky finish from appearing on the metal.

Use Apple Watch Repair

If the corrosion is more serious than that, then the above method will not work. Rather, it’s time to turn to the pros.

Apple Watch Repair is a service offered for Apple Watches. You’d send your watch to an Apple Repair Center where trained technicians would assess and repair your watch so it’s about as good as new if not better.

You have the option to directly ship your saltwater-damaged Apple Watch to your closest Apple Repair Center. Apple Watch Repair will send you packaging so your watch is safe in transport, and they’ll provide instructions as well.

You would likely have to incur the shipping fees to get your watch to the Apple Repair Center.

Another option is to contact your Apple Store technician or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Both these parties can ship your Apple Watch to the closest Apple Repair Center.

You probably wouldn’t have to pay for shipping, but you wouldn’t know when your watch is sent out.

Once your Apple Watch arrives at the Apple Repair Center, it can take up to five days for the watch to be repaired or serviced. You can watch the status update in real-time so you know when your watch will be sent back to you.

If you have AppleCare+ or an Apple Limited Warranty, then you won’t have to pay to get your Apple Watch repaired.

What if your warranty has long since ended? According to Apple’s website, here’s what you’d pay to get your Apple Watch serviced or repaired:

  • Apple Watch Series 1 & 2 (Second generation) – $199 to $800
  • Apple Watch Series 3 – $159 to $800
  • Apple Watch Series 4 – $299 to $399
  • Apple Watch Series 5 – $299 to $800
  • Apple Watch Series 6 – $299 to $499
  • Apple Watch SE – $219 to $249
  • Apple Watch Series 7 – $299 to $499

Look into Third-Party Repairs

If those prices are too costly for you, then you can always browse the third-party Apple repair shops in your neighborhood. Confirm that the company specializes in repairing Apple Watches and not only iPhones or iPads. Apple Watches are indeed different devices.

Replace Your Apple Watch

Apple Watches that are actively part of the AppleCare+ plan can take advantage of the Express Replacement Service. With the Express Replacement Service, Apple will send you a new Apple Watch before your current one even goes in for repairs.

For those who are ineligible for even that option because they’re not part of the AppleCare+ plan, then the only option is to spring for a new Apple Watch and avoid saltwater use in the future.

Conclusion

Apple Watches are water-resistant (that’s right, they’re not waterproof) smart devices that are rated for shallow water use in freshwater and saltwater alike. However, saltwater exposure can accelerate corrosion of the metal components, of which an Apple Watch has plenty.

Unless your watch is still covered under warranty or you’re part of the AppleCare+ plan, you might want to think twice before swimming in the ocean with your Apple Watch on. Repairs can be expensive!

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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