How waterproof is my Apple Watch? And how do I dry out my Apple Watch if it gets wet?

The Apple Watch Series 2 - and the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, announced alongside it in September 2016 - put a topic on the table that Apple had never dwelt on before: water resistance. While rivals happily tout their smartphones' IP ratings and ability to cope with splash, spray and even total liquid immersion, Apple has historically chosen to keep quiet on the subject.

In fact, in recent years Apple may not have been talking the talk, but it has - to an extent - been walking the walk. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were more water-resistant than any previous iPhone. The first-gen Apple Watch was sufficiently splash-proof that Tim Cook reportedly wore his in the shower. Apple just wasn't prepared to enshrine these characteristics in its spec sheets and warranties.

But now that appears to be changing. In this article we outline the much-heralded water-resistant qualities of the Apple Watch Series 2, as well as explaining how much water the (less water-resistant) Apple Series 1 and Apple Watch first gen can cope with. We also explain what to do if your Apple Watch gets wet, and how to deal with a water-damaged Apple Watch.

Read next: Apple Watch buying guide | Apple Watch tips | Buy Apple Watch

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: How waterproof is the Apple Watch first gen?

The Apple Watch first gen has a water-resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. We go into IP ratings in more depth below, but this means that the Apple Watch first gen is protected against liquid immersion, up to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.

Apple warns that, while the first-gen Apple Watch is splash- and water-resistant, it does not recommend submerging it fully. If your Apple Watch first gen does get a full-on dunk, proceed to the relevant section of What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet, below.

How to dry a wet Apple Watch | How waterproof is my Apple Watch: First gen

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: How waterproof is the Apple Watch Series 1?

The Apple Watch Series 1 has a water-resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529, the same as the Apple Watch first gen. We go into IP ratings in more depth below, but this means that the Apple Watch Series 1 is protected against liquid immersion, up to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.

While the Apple Watch Series 2 is splash- and water-resistant, Apple does not recommend submerging it fully. If your Apple Watch Series 1 does get a full-on dunk, proceed to the relevant section of What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet, below.

How to dry a wet Apple Watch | How waterproof is my Apple Watch: Series 2

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: How waterproof is the Apple Watch Series 2?

The Apple Watch Series 2 has a water resistance rating of 50 metres under ISO standard 22810:2010. In other words, you can take it swimming quite safely (Apple has introduced two swimming routines to the Workout app for this purpose) provided you don't go super-deep.

But there are limits, and Apple is characteristically cautious about the precise aquatic behaviours that the Series 2 is capable of surviving.

Fine (according to Apple):

  • Swimming in a pool 
  • Swimming in the sea

Not fine (according to Apple):

  • Scuba diving
  • Water skiing (or other activities involving high velocity water)
  • Saunas and steam rooms
  • Being lathered with soap, shampoo and conditioner
  • Being doused with perfume, lotions and oils
  • Acids and acidic foods
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Hair dye

Apple also warns that being dropped can damage the waterproof seals and membranes in the Apple Watch Series 2, and these may also degrade over time - so don't assume your Apple Watch is just as water-resistant after you've owned it for a year as it was on the door you bought it. (And there's no way to check if the water resistance is still okay, Apple says, nor to reseal it if it's not.)

If you inadvertently do any of these things with your Apple Watch Series 2, don't fall into a funk: it may well still be fine, because Apple is prone on a corporate level to manage expectations and underplay its products' ability to withstand rough handling. But you should nevertheless proceed to the relevant section of What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet, below.

How to dry a wet Apple Watch | How waterproof is my Apple Watch: Straps

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: How waterproof is my Apple Watch strap?

This is an important consideration. The water-resistance ratings discussed above apply to the body of the watch itself, but the strap may not be as well protected against liquid damage. Apple specifically warns that the Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese and Link Bracelet Bands are not water-resistant.

The best band for water-resistance is the Sport Band.

Read next: Best Apple Watch straps & bands

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: What do IP ratings mean?

Confused by the IPX7 rating given to the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch first gen? What does IPX7 mean?

An IP rating, which measures 'ingress protection', or an object's ability to withstand physical intrusion, contains two digits. (The IP at the beginning is just an indication that you are currently halfway through reading an IP rating.)

The first digit, which generally goes up to 6, indicates how good the device is at resisting solid intrusions. A low number means relatively large objects will be able to get inside the device and cause problems; a high number means it's protected against smaller/finer solid objects such as dust. A rating of 6 means a product is dust-tight.

The second digit, which covers liquid intrusions, is more relevant to us here. This digit normally goes up to 8, although you rarely see a 9 or 9K rating when a device is able to resist pressurised or steam water. Here's what the digits mean in terms of water/liquid resistance:

  • 0: Not protected against liquid
  • 1: Protected against vertical dripping water
  • 2: Protected against dripping water when tilted up to 15°
  • 3: Protected against spraying water (at any angle up to 60°)
  • 4: Protected against water splashing against the enclosure from any direction
  • 5: Protected against water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction 
  • 6: Protected against water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) against enclosure from any direction
  • 6K: Protected against powerful water jets with increased pressure
  • 7: Protected against liquid immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes
  • 8: Protected against liquid immersion, 1m or more depth (exact details vary)
  • 9/9K: Protected against powerful high temperature water jets/steam-jet cleaning

An X rating in either category means 'unrated' or 'untested'. It doesn't mean it has no protection against that element: it just means that this IP rating does not comment on that aspect one way or the other.

So the IPX7 rating of the Apple Watch first gen and Apple Watch Series 1 means: Protected against liquid immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes, with no rating provided for resistance against dust and other solids.

More detail on the IP ratings here.

How to dry a wet Apple Watch: What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet

This is very different to the response if an iPhone gets wet (see: How to dry out a wet iPhone). A wet iPhone is nearly always an emergency, but if your Apple Watch gets wet there's a good chance it'll be absolutely fine - although of course this depends on whether your watch is a first-gen, Series 1 or Series 2, and on how deep or pressurised the water is.

How to dry a wet Apple Watch | How waterproof is my Apple Watch: Series 2

Apple Watch Series 2

If you've got an Apple Watch Series 2, ideally you should be using Water Lock. This is a feature that locks the screen so it isn't activated by the moving water in a swimming pool or shower - very handy. Then when you make it back to dry land, you unlock the screen by rotating the Digital Crown dial, and the watch will automatically make a repeated beeping noise to vibrate the speaker diaphragm and dislodge any remaining water in the speaker aperture.

(Apple is very insistent that you should not insert anything into the microphone or speaker ports, or shake the watch to try to get rid of remaining water. Just use the Water Lock beeping routine, then allow the watch to dry naturally.)

Water Lock is activated by swiping up from the clock screen to bring up the Control Centre menu, then tapping the little water droplet icon. (Water Lock is automatically activated if you start a swimming session in the Workout App.)

How to dry a wet Apple Watch | How waterproof is my Apple Watch: Water Lock

If you forgot to activate Water Lock before getting in the water, however - which is obviously going to be the case if you accidentally drop your watch in the sink, toilet etc - you can still use it to dislodge the water in the speaker aperture. Dry off excess water then bring up Control Centre and tap the droplet icon, then rotate the dial to turn off the lock and spit out the water.

The Series 2 may be designed for swimming, but cautious old Apple still advises you to give it a clean after you get out of the pool or sea: after all, there will probably be chlorine in the pool and salt in the sea. Gently rinse the Apple Watch Series 2 with warm tap water, then dry it carefully. Apple further cautions that the watch should be cleaned with fresh water and dried with a lint free-cloth if it comes in contact with anything other than fresh water.

These steps should also be applied - with a greater degree of urgency - if your Series 2 got a dunk in something it shouldn't have (whether sunscreen, orange juice or sulphuric acid), or if it went to a greater depth, was assaulted by steam etc. In extreme cases it would be worth doing triage yourself - rinse with warm tap water, wipe away excess, use the Water Lock vibration to dislodge interior water, dry with a soft cloth, leave to evaporate further on the charger overnight - and then go to an Apple Store to check everything is working okay.

Apple Watch Series 1, and Apple Watch first gen

The older-design Apple Watches are not designed for total immersion. Many early adopters tried it out anyway and we've not heard from anyone who regrets it but, since we're playing it safe, we'll carefully remove the water from the device as quickly and carefully as we can.

Apple suggests that you should check the various ports for (potentially damaging) interior water by placing the watch, speaker downwards, on a soft cloth to see if any drips out. You haven't got the option of buzzing the water out of these ports, as is the case with the Series 2 and its Water Lock feature, so the best option is to let the water evaporate: leaving the watch to charge overnight is likely to speed up this process. As with the Series 2, don't be tempted to poke around in the speaker and microphone ports in an attempt to clear them of water: this is more likely to cause other problems. Don't shake the watch either.

Even your watch has only been splashed - even if you've only sweated on it quite a lot - then you should still, for maximum safety and product care, give it a clean-up. Wipe off excess water with a nonabrasive, lint-free cloth. (Do not use heat or compressed air.) Remember to dry the strap too.

Read next: Best waterproof phones 2016