Your wedding ring is a visual symbol of your love and commitment to your partner. It’s also quite likely expensive, conductive of heat and electricity and capable of ripping all the skin off your finger. There are occasions, then, when you might want to remove it. At the same time, those occasions might not always be clear.
There are two practical reasons why one might want to remove their wedding band: Either the activity could be damaging to the ring-wearer, or damaging to the ring itself. The ring could get scratched, or chemicals could discolor it. But the consequences for the wearer are a bit more severe, which is why some jobs forbid workers from wearing wedding rings while on the clock. When operating machinery, there are a lot of things that could go wrong: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for apparel state that employers must enforce that workers remove any jewelry that could either be caught in a machine or could conduct electricity near an energized electrical source.
According to Pat Bonham, an OSHA-certified environmental health and safety professional in Chicago, you might want to remove your wedding ring even if OSHA doesn’t require it. “It doesn’t matter what occupation, take your ring off,” he says. “Anything where you’re working with your hands or working on or near machinery. Anything electric. Anyone working near industrial magnets. Any food manufacturer, since bacteria would be stored under it.”
As further reinforcement, he recommends Googling “pictures of people whose finger skin was peeled off like a sausage casing from wearing a ring at work.” (Only click that link if you have a strong stomach, seriously.) The phenomenon, known as “degloving,” can actually happen to almost any (and I do mean any) body part, but it most frequently happens to hands and fingers.
Among other possible injuries is “ring avulsion,” which is basically a fancy term for “almost ripping your entire finger off.” It happened to Jimmy Fallon in 2015 when he happened to fall and catch his ring on the side of a table. Degloving can also happen along with avulsion, and while a freak accident in the home like Fallon’s might be hard to prevent, most partners are understanding when it comes to OSHA regulations for workplace wear.
Beyond that, though, it can get tricky. “I took mine off all the time at the gym to lift weights,” says Michael Boroski of Illinois. “If you have a metal band, it scratches the shit out of it. But taking it off when you’re in Vegas for a guys’ trip? Not cool.”
While taking your ring off at the gym would seem to be a practical decision, a recent ad from Groove Life silicone rings frames it as problematic. “Ladies, we need to have a talk,” a woman says to the viewer. “Your husband, just like mine, is taking his ring off at the gym. Shocking, I know. He might as well be advertising his availability. It’s the perfect storm, really: sweat, pheromones and your soulmate grunting loudly with no sign of commitment in sight.”
Rather than worry about your dumbass husband cheating on you simply because he’s not wearing his wedding ring, the commercial suggests you buy him a silicone ring that’s safe to wear at the gym. And apparently, people really do buy alternative wedding rings for this reason. “My manager and her husband both have rubber wedding bands that they put on when they can’t wear their real wedding rings,” says Samantha, 23, in Massachusetts. “They both have some form of a ring on at all times.” (Silicon rings have become a popular trend among professional athletes, too — especially football players.)
While I personally don’t see an issue with taking off your ring at the gym, some certainly do. “Removing the ring isn’t okay,” says James Edgar in North Carolina. “There are emergency exceptions (for example, you can’t wear any jewelry when undergoing surgery), but otherwise, no. Anyone who would remove the ring in social situations like the gym or a party is announcing that you want to cheat on your spouse.”
For the most part, though, it seems like people who take off their rings at the gym are simply trying to avoid scratching the ring or equipment and preventing injury. And despite what Edgar says, it’s probably a solid idea. As a general rule, if you could hurt yourself by wearing your ring, it’s fine to take it off. The bar? Probably not so fine.
Now, if you somehow find yourself in a bar with complex operable machinery… maybe find a new bar.