If you notice a white or green chalky build up on your taps and shower heads then you may have a problem with limescale. This is when minerals in the water leave deposits on the inside and outside of your pipes, taps, fixtures and fittings. They look unsightly and can also stop things functioning as well as they should.
The Causes of Limescale
The limescale that may collect on your household plumbing is a natural byproduct of the clean water that runs through your system. This water often has a large concentration of minerals such as calcium, magnesium or iron – commonly known as hard water.
Harder water, while safe to drink and wash with has its down sides; it has a different, sometimes unpleasant taste, it’s difficult to form a lather with soap or shampoo and the resulting lather is more difficult to wash away, potentially leaving your skin dry and itchy afterwards. It can also leave water spots on your crockey and cutlery more than in a soft water area.
So, if it’s doing this when you use it, imagine what it could be doing to your pipes and fittings! The clogs that can form from limescale build up can be very difficult to get rid of if left uncleared for any long period of time.
Getting Rid of Limescale
Because of the type of minerals that build up to cause limescale, it can be difficult to wipe away. Even scrubbing it can prove useless.
The best way to get rid of limescale build up is to dissolve it. This can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the severity of the build up. The first port of call should be just your everyday household vinegar. If you can remove the affected items such as showerheads, taps, etc then do so and submerge them in vinegar for at least an hour. Then, remove them from the vinegar and scrub with an old tooth brush. The remaining bits of limescale should come away reasonably easily.
Obviously, removing your fixtures and fittings and submerging them in vinegar is the ideal method as the vinegar will deal with the problem both externally and internally. However, when this isn’t possible you may have to find another way of allowing the item to soak in vinegar. One way is to pour the vinegar into a plastic bag and them secure the plastic bag to the offending fitting with a rubber band. Around the joints in the fitting you can wrap a rag soaked in vinegar around the affected area and tie it on with a piece of string.
If vinegar just isn’t cutting it, then you may need to consider a chemical cleaner. This should be one specially formulated for dealing with calcium, lime and rust build up. Be careful not to expose your skin to these chemical solutions and be careful when using them on metallic or delicate fixtures as they can be quite harsh in chemical content.
Prevention is Better than Cure
If you find that limescale is constantly a problem within your household, then you may want to consider installing a water softening system. These systems inject sodium-based solutions into your incoming water supply to counteract the mineral content of the water and thus reduce its effect on your plumbing as well as your skin.