What is causing the white ring marks left by the Apple HomePod?


Why is the Apple HomePod leaving white rings?

Apple say that it may be a reaction with the silicon and the polish.

Here’s what we think it may be:

Are the HomePod white rings caused by moisture?

For white ring marks to appear on furniture there has to be moisture present. The usual way this happens is when a hot cup or plate is placed on the surface and the heat energy drives  moisture into the surface where it gets trapped leaving a white bloom of water. We see this  as a white ring mark. The same problem often also occurs when flower vases are left directly on the surface where water can either seep through the vase or when watered the spillages are unnoticed as it flows down the sides and capillary action draws the water under the vase base unseen by the person watering.

The professional way to remove white rings or blooms can be seen here:



Does the Apple HomePod have water trapped in it’s silicon base?

I very much doubt this is the case. How can a dry silicon have moisture in it? Or maybe it attracts moisture? No, I’m sure the multi billion dollar company that is apple will have tested the rubber base before launching its HomePod so I am sure we can rule out moisture rings or water blooming.

2) Does the HomePod secrete an oil or chemical from the rubber base?

Again I find this highly unlikely but from what I have seen and read it appears this may be the case. For a physical chemical reaction to happen I would normally suggest that the surface it has been placed upon would be non cured, ie. still ‘wet’. The majority of finishes applied to furniture in normal atmospheric conditions will cure within a few hours of being applied and once dry will not normally react with any other substances unless it is a strong chemical like nail polish remover, or a very powerful solvent. If there was an oil or silicone residue on the homepod base I would have thought it would have to be quite concentrated and volatile.

Oils are not known to me to be volatile and corrosive in the way we are seeing with the HomePod. I have never seen anything like this before.

We often use a mineral oil when we are french polishing and in considerable quantities when we are dulling a finish. It is wiped away at the time of application and we have not witnessed a milky white residue unlike the HomePod base which it does appear to do in some cases.


Does the Homepod leave scratches on the surface caused by the base itself?

Could this also be happening. The HomePod stands on a silicon rubber base which is attached to the speaker itself, probably in a very similar way to the Sonos speaker. If this silicon or rubber base is only just ever so slightly harder than needed then maybe the unit itself will start to vibrate. Certainly at increased volumes with enhanced bass music or sounds this will really make the unit want to vibrate.

If the vibration is not sufficiently absorbed by the rubber stand on the Homepod then the silicon stand will also start to vibrate which in turn will leave micro scratches on the surface of some finishes. These small scratches may appear as white rings or watermarks but they are really fine micro scratches in the surface.


Why does the HomePod mark some finishes and not others?

It will very much depend on the type of finish it is placed upon, Lacquer, Oil, (there are many different types of oil finishes), french polish, cellulose, wax-oil, wax, melamine, etc. and also the gloss level of the finish. The higher the gloss level the more likely you are to see the scratches, if this is the case

I have read in some cases the marks have disappeared after a few days? The only way I can make sense of this is; if the speaker was placed on a damp surface and the moisture was pressured or absorbed into the finish as I described above.

Or there is some sort of chemical reaction happening with the silicon base and the finish it is sitting on.

From the images that I have seen it very much looks like a milky moisture bloom. It will also explain why the marks disappear after a few days due to evaporation.

** Older lacquer and some french polished finishes do tend to get harder over the years which makes them more resistant to moisture and heat rings.

From other articles I’ve read, ‘rubbing the surface removed the white rings’. This may work by just wiping the surface a few times with a cloth. Again it really will depend on the finish but buffing the surface will drive a little heat into the finish accelerating the evaporation.

It also could work by doing the same rubbing action on fine scratches, similar to that of when you use your finger to wipe away a fine hedge scratch off the paintwork of your car.

The correct way to care for your wood surface and help prevent this sort of damage is by applying a really good wax polish, one with a very high content of natural waxes that will create a barrier between the finish or bare wood and the outside world.

Do not use spray polishes! It will only be successful for a few hours. Even if it says NON SILICONE. There is no magic protection or apple HomePod scratching solution going to come out of a spray can. It may even be the cause of some of the white rings, the chemicals in spray polishes reacting with the silicon rubber.

By using a really good beeswax polish it will create a sacrificial protective layer to the finish which can only help prevent this sort of damage happening again. I’m not saying that a wax polish is the cure but that is what its purpose is: To act as a sacrificial coating that enhances the natural colour and patina of the wood and to protect it or the finish it is being applied to.

If nothing seems to work and the marks are still there then I would suggest seeking professional help from a French Polisher or hiding it with a Sonos speaker!

Simon Gilboy

Managing Director
Gilboy's Professional Furniture Restorers & French Polishers

 

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