The brass-, copper- and iron-based surfaces of typical electrical components are easily attacked by salt water. Corrosion starts almost immediately and continues until all salt ions are removed. The challenge with most affected devices is being able to remove the salt residue from all of the places the salt water has reached.
Termination points, wire ends and contact surfaces are highly susceptible to damage. Draining and drying alone will not suffice, and the cost to properly remediate salt residue down to acceptable levels can be prohibitive. Inadequate techniques leading to unsuccessful attempts to remove the salt can leave the component vulnerable to continued damage. (Fig. 1)
Electronic devices have the same susceptibility to saltwater corrosion as electrical devices, but with the added concern for lamination degradation. The coatings on many types of printed circuit boards, motor windings and transformer ballasts are attacked by the residual salt. In the presence of condensing water vapor, the remaining salt residue can provide enough of an electrical pathway to cause a short circuit. In the case of the ballasts, a short circuit can occur without the presence of condensation if the lamination of adjacent, closely wound wires deteriorates from the salt.
Fig. 1 — Circuit breakers corrode after salt water submersion.
Fig. 2 —This boiler over-temperature safety switch is corroded in place. It will not activate when needed, compromising safety.
Fig. 3 — Salt residue at a conduit coupling indicates that salt water was present within the conduit.
Brass D-Severe Effect
Carbon Steel D-Severe EffectCast
iron D-Severe Effect
Polyurethane D-Severe Effect
Stainless Steel-304 C-Fair
Stainless Steel-316 C-Fair____________________
* Cole Parmer Corporation, Chemical Compatibility Database http://www.coleparmer.com/Chemical- Resistance (09-Jan-2013)