You know that white gunk you see accumulating on your faucets and showerheads? It isn’t just unsightly; it can be downright damaging to your plumbing if you allow it to accumulate. At Steve’s Plumbing at Heating, we know how incredibly mineralized our central Wisconsin water is, which means that unless your home has a water softener, you’ve definitely got scale buildup. So what exactly is scale, how can it damage your plumbing, and what can you do about it? Let’s take a look.
What is Scale?
Scale is a buildup of minerals that forms when your home has hard water. Usually, scale is comprised primarily of calcium and magnesium, but depending on your location and the hardness of your water, several other minerals may be present.
Most frequently, you’ll notice scale buildup on your shower head, water faucets, within your boiler (if you have one), and on the heating element inside your water heater. These fixtures and appliances have a higher propensity for developing buildup because scale requires heat or pressure to form. Here’s how it develops.
● Minerals dissolve in your water to form what is known as hard water. Hard water’s high mineral content raises its alkalinity, which facilitates scale development.
● As hard water passes through your plumbing, it typically experiences an increase in temperature, an increase in pressure, or both.
● As the water heats up and becomes more pressurized, the minerals within it precipitate out of the solution.
● Those minerals have nowhere to go once they’ve precipitated out of the water, so they cling to the interior of your pipes and on the outer surfaces of your plumbing fixtures. This buildup is what we call scale.
How Can Scale Affect Your Plumbing?
If you’re worried scale buildup might affect your plumbing system, you’re correct. Unfortunately, mineral scale—when left to accumulate with no intervention—can reduce the efficiency of your plumbing system and increase maintenance costs. Here’s how:
● Scale Buildup Decreases Water Flow
If you’re struggling with low water pressure and can’t seem to locate the cause, it’s probably due to scale buildup within your pipes or fixtures. When mineral buildup becomes significant, it prevents water from flowing freely through your pipes and out of your fixtures.
● Scale Affects Your Water Heater
When scale accumulates within your water heater, it reduces its efficiency because the heating element cannot effectively transfer heat to the water when it’s caked in gunk. If there’s substantial buildup within the water heater, it can prevent water from traveling freely out of the appliance and into your pipes. When this occurs, the pressure within the tank becomes unbalanced, which may result in rattling noises as the minerals move throughout the tank.
● Scale Increases Maintenance Costs
Unfortunately, when scale buildup becomes severe, it can prevent components of your plumbing system from operating. Just 19 millimeters of buildup on your water heater’s heating element can reduce its efficiency by up to 90%, and eventually, the buildup can prevent it from working altogether. The same situation applies to your boiler’s heating element, too. Say hello to another unwelcome expense.
Can You Remove Scale?
What can be done about damaging scale buildup? You try to clean your showerhead, and it’s forever caked in gunk, or you scrub your toilet for what seems like hours, only to find the buildup remains. This stuff seems impossible to eradicate! Is there anything you can do to remove those unsightly, damaging minerals and increase the efficiency of your fixtures? Fortunately, the answer is yes!
Since scale is nothing more than a collection of minerals, it’s a highly alkaline substance. So, to get rid of it, you’ll need to dissolve it using an acidic solution such as vinegar. However, dissolving the scale within your pipes is a huge undertaking that would require a substantial amount of vinegar. For your fixtures, however, you can simply soak them in pure vinegar for at least an hour, then scrub away the buildup with a brush or cloth.
When it comes to tackling scale buildup within your plumbing system, the most effective course of action is installing a water softening system. A water softener won’t remove scale, but it will prevent further accumulation and help you maintain the efficiency of your plumbing system.
Need Water Heater or Boiler Repair? Contact Steve’s Plumbing and Heating
If scale buildup has reduced the efficiency of your water heater or boiler or rendered them inoperable, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Steve’s Plumbing and Heating. We specialize in all things plumbing, which includes water heater repair and boiler repair. We know how uncomfortable winter can be without properly functioning heating units, so whenever you need us, our 24/7 team will be there. To learn more about our services or to schedule your appointment, contact our team. You can also request a service estimate by filling out this form.