Chlorine Damage to Stainless Steel Promise Ring?

by Zoe V.
(New Britain, CT)

My boyfriend bought me a stainless steel promise ring. I went to the pools and the chlorine of the pool made my ring rough looking, as well as feeling just a bit rough. Can this be polished or have I lost the ring for good?? Can I do it? Or bring the ring to a jeweler and get polished?

Hi Zoe,

I’m so sorry to hear about your ring. Although stainless steel is extremely durable, it can be damaged by exposure to chlorine – especially when submerged for an extended period of time, and repeatedly, in chlorinated water.

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Chlorine affects stainless steel because it breaks down what is known as the ‘passive film’ on the surface of stainless steel. The passive film develops when stainless steel is exposed to certain types of compounds or solutions or through electropolishing. This film protects stainless steel from corrosion, but chlorine can literally eat through the passive film. This is why stainless steel appliances should never be cleaned with any products which contain chlorine bleach.

When chlorine eats through the passive film, pits develop on the surface of the stainless steel. And once this happens, the stainless steel is vulnerable to corrosion and further pitting and damage.

I suspect that the rough look and feel of your stainless steel promise ring is due to small almost microscopic pits which developed when the chlorine ate through the ring’s passive film.

Whether or not the ring can be restored will depend on how severe the pitting is – but if the ring is not restored its condition will continue to deteriorate further.

A jeweler experienced with stainless steel rings may be able to repair the ring by buffing out the pits with a buffing compound. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this yourself because of the tools and compounds which may be required to do the job correctly.

The entire ring will need to be buffed – as any areas which are missed will remain vulnerable to corrosion – and then thoroughly polished. If the pits are severe, the ring may need to have its surface layer removed with an abrasive rotary brush – which could affect any small design features of the ring.

I think your best bet would be to find a jeweler who has experience working on stainless steel rings, and then have the ring checked to see if it can be repaired, how the repair would affect the ring (in terms of style or even size) and how much the repair will cost.

But if you decide to have the ring checked by a jeweler, you’ll need to try to have that done as quickly as possible. (And if you haven’t already done so, rinse the ring thoroughly in water to remove any chlorine residue and then dry it completely with a soft cotton cloth).

However, because stainless steel rings are so affordable – it might be best to purchase another ring and send this one off to be recycled because if you decide not to repair the ring it will continue to corrode now that the passive film has been disrupted.

Hopefully your ring can be repaired, but if not – and you would like a ring that can withstand plenty of trips to the pool – you might want to consider a titanium promise ring. Unlike stainless steel and tungsten, titanium is highly resistant to chlorinated water.

Good luck with your ring – and do write back if you have any further questions!

Everything Wedding Rings

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