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How to Remove Calcium Buildup in Pipes: Everything You Need to Know
Hard water, limescale, calcification, calcium buildup, or just plain old ugly pain-in-the-rear – call it whatever you want.
Just don’t ignore it.
Doing so could lead to some serious, potentially expensive issues with your plumbing. It can clog your showerheads, reduce your water pressure, make your water run cold, slow your drainage, and leave unsightly hard-to-clean stains on your household appliances.
If you’re already experiencing some or all of the above issues, don’t worry. Read on to learn how to remove calcium buildup in pipes and how to prevent it in the future.
What Is It and What Causes it?
To put it very simply, the term “water hardness” refers to the measure of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the water. If your water is hard, it means that there’s a high concentration of minerals in your water – calcium being one of the main culprits.
And if your water is hard, the signs are hard to miss.
You’ll notice that your glass cups are no longer clear. You’ll notice that your hands feel slimy after you wash them. And you’ll notice films of residue or unsightly spots on your dishes.
You might even notice that your energy bill has inexplicably increased.
But how does this happen? What causes calcium and other minerals to build up in your pipes?
The good news is that you didn’t have anything to do with it. Some areas just have more hard water than others. If the groundwater system you retrieve your water from sees groundwater flowing through or over limestone, gypsum, or chalk deposits – all of which are composed largely of minerals – hard water will make it into your home.
The other good news is that it’s safe to ingest.
But there’s bad news too. While calcium buildup in your pipes doesn’t necessarily pose a health risk, there are other ways that it can wreak havoc on your life.
The Effects of Excessive Calcium Buildup
Besides what we already mentioned, there’s a ton of bad things that could potentially occur as a result of calcium buildup.
Laundered clothes may feel scratchy or harsh and develop a sour odor.
Your hair might become dull and sticky.
A film of soap cord might stick to your skin after you bathe. This could eventually lead to skin irritation.
It affects every appliance that uses water – that includes dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, and even coffee makers. This can cause them to run inefficiently, which in turn can raise your energy bill significantly.
If pipes become excessively clogged, they will have to be replaced.
How to Remove Calcium Buildup in Pipes
To begin, you’ll need a lot of white vinegar – about three gallons per thousand square feet of home.
White vinegar dissolves minerals like calcium.
You’ll also need at least one cup of baking soda for each drain. Mixing the white vinegar with baking soda will help make the process much smoother than if you used just the white vinegar.
Another thing you’ll need is a large pot filled with water for each drain you plan on treating.
And finally, you’ll need time. About 3-5 hours worth of it.
Note: You can use commercial hydrochloric acid products like CLR or Lime-A-Way instead of vinegar, but it’s not recommended. While you can ingest white vinegar (even if you don’t like the taste), the same can’t be said about commercial products. If you use choose to use them, make sure to use goggles and rubber gloves; even inhaling the fumes poses a health risk.
Anyway, below are the exact steps you need to take to remove calcium buildup in pipes.
Step 1: Shut Off Your Water
Don’t do anything without shutting off all the water in your house. Make sure to turn off the water heater breaker too so that it doesn’t burn up.
Step 2: Empty All Pipes
Flush the toilets and turn on all the taps. Turn on even your hoses, if you have any. The goal is to drain out all the water. Once it’s drained, turn off all the taps.
Step 3: Begin Pouring
Begin with pouring one cup of baking soda down each drain.
Follow the baking soda with vinegar – pour it slowly until the pipe can’t hold anymore.
Then let the mixture percolate for about 3-4 hours.
Step 4: Remove All the Showerheads
And place them in a vinegar-baking soda solution. Leave them there for at least three hours. You can scrub them beforehand too if you feel it’s necessary.
Step 5: Grab Those Pots of Water
Grab them about half an hour before the 3-4 hours is up. You have to boil them. Once each pot of water is boiling, and 3-4 hours have completely passed, pour it all into the drains. This will effectively remove any excess calcium buildup in your pipes.
Step 6: Slowly Turn Your Water Back On
One by one, turn each faucet on all the way. Flush your toilets. Turn your water heater back on.
And that’s all there is to it; that’s how to remove calcium buildup in pipes.
The above steps, when taken correctly, work. But if you live in an area with hard water, calcium is sure to build up in your pipes again over time. The best way to ensure they stay clean is to repeat these steps every six months, or at least once a year.
Fortunately, there are more long-term solutions for you to consider.
You may want to consider getting a water softener – there are many benefits to it.
It’s also possible that you have too much calcium buildup. This can happen if the problem was ignored (or went unnoticed) for too long. In that case, you may have no choice but to replace your pipes.
If you think that might be the case with you, make sure to consult with a professional plumber. If you’re in or around Kansas City, you can contact us – we’d be happy to take a look.
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