Feb 182013
 

Restoring water flow in lime encrusted plumbing

Out-Of-the-Box DIY is a new feature of JuicyMaters, beginning with this post.  It occurred to me that the Family Homesteading section of JuicyMaters was woefully lacking in specific how-to articles on how to FRUGALLY do DIY projects around the ol’ homestead…things that most folks, even homestead types, might hire a professional for because a simple, frugal fix is not apparent.  Whether it is a planned project or a sudden fix-it emergency, sometimes a frugal DIY type solution is not easily found, and this topic area will, hopefully, take care of at least a little bit of those issues.

This first Out-Of-Box DIY article will tell you how to restore water flow in plumbing in an older home with pipes that have become partially blocked with lime, usually because the potable water is supplied to the house by way of unfiltered water coming from a well that produces hard, mineral-filled water.

The problem:

Most of you who read JuicyMaters on a regular basis (or as regular as possible with my poor posting schedule) know that I recently got married and moved (temporarily) to my bride’s home so her daughter could finish the school year in the town where they lived, before moving back to the yurt this summer.  What I found at her home was a plumbing nightmare.

[loveclaw_buttons]

Her place wasn’t ancient, but it wasn’t built yesterday either.  It was about 30 or so years old and, as described above, the water source was extremely hard well water that was delivered to the home unfiltered.  Over the years lime buildup inside the pipes had all but completely blocked water flow.

  • Of two bathrooms, one shower did not work at all…not a single drop of water would flow…and the one that did have some flow had so little it was a major, 20 minute chore to shower and try to get all the soap rinsed off.
  • Like the two showers, one toilet was completely blocked and the flow to the other was so bad that it took overnight to refill the tank after a flush.  In order to flush either toilet you had to fill a pitcher…several times…from the kitchen sink, the only fixture that worked fairly well.
  • Doing laundry was a nightmare.  Filling the washing machine took about 3 hours…and after the wash cycle it had to be done all over agaain for the rinse.  Needless to say, clothes were cleaned well but retained soap due to incomplete rinsing, bad for clothing AND bad for the wearer’s skin.
  • Water flow to the kitchen sink was bad too, but compared to the rest of the house it seemed like heaven.  It took about 60 seconds to fill the carafe for the coffee maker, so you can imagine what it was like washing dishes…or filling a gallon pitcher multiple times to flush the toilet.  I have never been a fan of the extreme environmentalists saying of “If its yellow, let it mellow.  If its brown, flush it down”, but the plumbing situation in the house ALMOST changed me…LOL.

The solution: 

My first thought when I saw how extreme the issue was was to think, “Oh God…there goes a chunk of money I had planned for adding on to the yurt…this is gonna be a major plumbing job beyond my skills, involving a plumber and a lot of materials.”  I was sure that the only solution was to re-plumb the entire home.

My second thought was, “Wait!  I can replumb the home.  It shouldn’t be that hard…one story home, all plumbing run under the house in the crawl space (I HATE any crawl space I cannot stand up in, and this one was about two feet tall), and except for the washer and shower connections none of the plumbing is in the walls…it all runs through the floors to the cabinets the fixture is mounted in.”  It would be a major job, but one I could handle.  There would still be a good bit of cost…Pex-A tubing is not TOO expensive, but the Shark Bite fittings I intended to use are about $15.99 each.  Oh well…at least the $65.00/hr plumber gets cut out.

Then I had a thought.  Was there a way to clean the crud out of the plumbing so there would be no re-plumbing to do?  I knew you could auger out piping that was clogged, but all I had ever heard of was augers for larger pipes, not the 3/4 and 1/2 inch water lines in this home…and, that would bring that high-dollar plumber back into the equation as I certainly didn’t have access to that specialized equipment, even if it did exist.

Eureka! 

My high school chemistry kicked in.  Limestone (CaCO3) isa base and is dissolved by vinegar, diluted ascetic acid, which, as its name implies, is an acid.  I figured that if vinegar dissolved limestone, surely it would dissolve lime deposits in plumbing.  The only questions remaining were:

  • The actions of an acid on a base produce, among other things, heat.  Would enough heat be produced to damage the plumbing?
  • If the answer to the previous question were “No, it won’t get hot enough to hurt the plumbing”, how long would it take for the lime deposits to dissolve?
  • How strong of a vinegar solution should I use?
  • What tools and materials do I need?
  • Step-by-step, how do I accomplish the project?

The answer to the first two questions is no, there is not enough heat produced to present a danger from fire and it takes about 4 hours, perhaps a bit less, for the vinegar solution to do its job.

Some research and a TINY amount of experimentation showed good results using a 2:1 water:vinegar solution…but I didn’t want to get the job done well enough to know it works but not really done well and have to do it a second time, so I decided to use a 1:1 solution.  It is a strong enough solution to be totally sure to get the job done and done well and it will not damage any plumbing.  Another consideration in favor of using a vinegar solution rather that any of the commercial mineral dissolvers, like CLR (at over $20.00 a gallon), is the fact that you don’t have to worry about contaminating your water…after all, vinegar IS a food product (not to mention a GREAT chemical free sanitizer).

Tools and Materials 

  • My estimation for the amount of solution to fill the entire water system in a 1 story, 1000 sq. ft. home was 6 total gallons, 3 of water and 3 of vinegar.  As it turns out, it only took about 2 1/2 gallons to fill the system.  Vinegar is cheap so I would still suggest buying 3 gallons just to be sure you don’t have to make another trip to the store for more.
  • You will need two 3/4 inch male plugs to plug the water inlet and outlet on your water heater so you are filling only the water lines.  Otherwise, the siphon effect you want to work to your advantage to fill the lines will also be filling the water heater.  If you don’t disconnect the heater and plug the lines (as I did at first) you will need A LOT MORE VINEGAR!
  • Three gallons of vinegar.
  • The list of necessary tools is short.  One pair if slip-joint pliers (Channel Lock pliers), a small to medium sized screwdriver,a medium sized funnel that the spout will fit in the end of the hose attached to the cold water washer connection and a roll of plumber’s Teflon tape, Also sufficient jugs/pitchers. bowels to hold 3 gallons of water.  Don’t forget, once you start you will NOT have a working water supply in the house until you finish.  You need to make sure you have MORE than enough water on hand when you start to finish the job.

Out Of the Box DIY how to, Step-by-Step 

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater.  Be SURE the breaker you turn off is the correct breaker.  If you don’t, not only do you chance being electrocuted but you will burn up the water heater element and will have to replace it, an additional cost of $12.00 to $18.00, depending on the element.  That cost could double if you have one of the heaters with a lower AND an upper element…then you have to buy two.
    Don’t ask me how I know this!
  2. Shut off the water supply.  On a system fed by a well the shutoff will be near the well expansion tank, probably in the pump house.  If you are on a municipal water supply with a water meter the shut off should be JUST barely in the water line on the house side of the meter.
  3. Choose the fixture that is the lowest one in your system and open it to drain as much of the water in your house system as possible.  The lowest fixture will probably be an outside hose bib at floor level, or even below at a level of the crawl space.
  4. Open both the hot and cold valves on every fixture in the house.  ALL of them.  Any additional hose bibs outside, any utility sinks in a utility room or basement, washer connections, kitchen sinks, bathroom lavatories, showers, toilets, tubs…EVERYTHING…to drain your entire system.
  5. Open the over-pressure relief valve on the water heater.  This is usually a brass valve on the top or on the side of the tank near the top of the water heater.  You will recognixe it because it has a hose or pipe attached that runs down the side of the tank that is simply an overflow drain, not feeding water to anything.
  6. The second water line attached to the top, or side near the top, of the tank is the hot water outlet.  Disconnect this line from the tank and plug it with one of the 3/4 inch male pipe plugs listed above in the Tools and Materials section.
  7. There is a water line attached to the water heater at the bottom, the cold water feed that is the same size as the hot water outlet.  CAREFULLY disconnect this line and plug it with the other 3/4 inch male plug described in the Tools and Materials section, above.  Be careful and disconnect this line slowly.  MOST of the water in the system and the heater tank will have drained out by now, but there may be a bit left in the tank, so go slowly and carefully so you don’t wind up having a huge mess to clean up.

    You now have an empty system.  It is time to fill it with the water-vinegar solution

  8. Everything to this point is easily done by one person.  Everything in steps 1-7 is a do things one at the time thing.  From this point forward everything CAN be done by one person, but it would be difficult and two people working together will make things go much easier (and faster)…with the exception of the waiting time, waiting for the vinegar to soften and loosen the lime deposits.
  9. First close every fixture you have opened EXCEPT the highest one in the house, usually a shower fixture (not tub/shower combination, a fixture where the ONLY outlet is high, like the shower head.  Leave this highest fixture open, and the lowest fixture, usually either a floor mop sink or a toilet (the toilet should have been flushed prior to this and the tanks should be empty).  DO NOT FORGET TO CLOSE OUTSIDE HOSE BIBS!
  10. Go back to the washer’s cold water filler hose and open the cold water valve and, while holding the end of the filler hose high, use the funnel to pour the 50-50 water-vinegar mixture into the end of the hose to begin filling the house water system.  Either go back and forth between the washer and the lowest fixture, or station the second person at the lowest fixture, and watch for the water-vinegar mixture to start to flow from it as you continue adding more mixture at the washer connection.  When this happens, close the shut-off for that fixture.
  11. Go to the next lowest fixture and repeat, adding the mixture at the hose connection until mixture comes from the fixture, and close the shut off for that fixture.

    Pay attention to how quickly the mixture can be added to the system.  As the system fills, while the speed at which you can add mixture may slow A TINY BIT, the overall speed at which the mixture can be added should not change significantly.  If it does it is because the air in the system is not escaping through the open highest fixture mentioned in #9, above, OR the shower head is completely clogged with lime…unlikely, else you would have known it already.Don’t be impatient…as long as air is escaping through it at any rate there air pressure will be escaping, albeit slowly, so the siphon effect will allow the system to fill, just slowly.

  12. Continue adding the mixture to each higher fixture as the previous fixture starts leaking the vinegar water and is shut off.  At some point, perhaps when you get to the last, highest fixture, the shower, you will have to hold the end of the washer connection hose up high, above the level of that last fixture.  At this point close the washer connection valve and you will have a water system whose cold water side is full of the mixture and it will be time to do the most important part of the entire process.
  13. Be patient and wait.  I suggest waiting a minimum of 3 hours, but in my opinion it is worth waiting an extra hour or two to make SURE the vinegar water does its job.  You don’t want to have to repeat this process in any less than another 25 or so years.
  14. After several hours have passed, go back and do what you did to start draining the system of water in the first place.  As in step #4, open all of the fixtures in the house (with the water service still shut off) and let the water/vinegar mix drain out.  Don’t forget the outside hose bibs.
  15. After the system has drained, close all of the fixtures.
  16. Go to the lowest fixture and remove the stem from the fixture.  You see, the vinegar water does not dissolve the lime deposits so they are powdery and suspended in the water like they were when they were first introduced into  the system by way of the well.  The lime will slough off the inside of the pipes in flakes and chunks, and these chunks are too large to pass by the stem when the fixture is turned on.  The stems must be removed so the water that comes through the system will blow them out through the open pipe when that line is pressurized.  While shielding the end of the open line to divert the water that will come blasting out, have the second person turn the water on at the well or water meter.  Let the water run for 10 seconds or so or until chunks of lime quit coming out and the water runs clear, then turn the water off again.
  17. Replace the stem in the fixture.
  18. Repeat this process at each fixture in the same order as you did when filling the system with the vinegar water.  Water off, remove stem, water on to blow the lime chunks and other debris out, water off, replace stem.  Repeat at every fixture in the house.

Time consuming?  Yes…a bit, but it takes no longer than it would for a licensed plumber, at $65.00 an hour (and up) to do it, and you save the plumber’s costs and would have to be there with the plumber anyway..  Besides, for the four hours you are waiting for the solution to do its work you can plan other DIY projects that the saved plumber’s fees will finance!

If you have any comments or suggestions on this project, or if you have other out of the box thinking projects to tell us about OR ask about, let us know down in the comments…We love hearing from you!

All about Bob the nutjob!

Bob is a N Georgia blogger, homesteader, yurt liver, self-sufficiency nutjob, pig farmer, political activist, politician baiter...and the best damn cook you know that doesn't make a living at it.He can be followed onTwitter. You can also "Like" our Facebook page.

  136 Responses to “Out Of the Box DIY: How to clear mineral-blocked plumbing”

Comments (136)
  1. Who knew?

     
  2. Who knew what, Ralph? That I could fake being a plumber?

     
  3. Very good guide to unblock drains Bob. Thank you. I’ve heard that some people also salt as well as vinegar and water.

     
  4. Hey there! I�ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!

     
  5. Why doesn’t the hot side get filled with the vinegar solution? And how do you get to the bath/shower mixer on the second floor? I know these are probably a simple physics matters, but any help would be appreciated.

     
  6. Hi Bill…
    In the two homes I have done this the hot water volume and pressure were both OK or I would have done both hot and cold. I’m not sure if I just got lucky or if some reaction is initiated by the water being heated that prevents the minerals, primarily lime, from building up. I rather think its the latter, as the second one I did, the one I’m talking about in the blog post, was terrible, with barely a dribble of water from any cold fixture.

    As for going to the second floor, simply extend the instruxctions up a floor. The highest fixture is just that, the highest fixture, regardless of what floor it is on.

     
  7. Question – What do I do if I don’t have a water heater…my water gets heated by the furnace. Is there anything else that I need to do or not need to do?

    Thanks!

     
  8. That was pretty awesome and a great DIY

     
  9. Great step-by-step article. I was thinking, you could add food coloring to your vinegar before introducing it into the pipes. I can’t think of any harm it might do, and it would allow you to see where your vinegar is (if you think that might give you some comfort :). I’d use blue, and a lot of it, so it is dark–so you can still see the taint of vinegar when it is heavily diluted with water.

     
  10. Great idea, Greg!…Thanks for the additional idea. We are always looking for improvements to the DIY stuff here.

    Keep coming back…your input is appreciated.

     
  11. great info! did u check ph of your 1:1 solution? I was thinking of using dilute muriatic acid. (very carefully)

     
  12. Thanks for the comment and for visiting JuicyMaters! Keep coming back.

    I considered muratic acid, but decided on vinegar for 2 reasons. First, the existing lines were very old (30+ years) flexible plastic lines of an undeterminable manufacturer. I wanted to be as gentle as possible on the lines and still get the job done. I KNEW it was lime, not just “some mineral blockage” and I KNEW what vinegar would do to lime. Voila!

    Also, since it was home plumbing I wanted to use something that would not be harmful if I messed up and didn’t get the flushing done good enough. With vinegar the worst that could happen would be terrible tasting iced tea…LOL

     
  13. Even with acetic acid, I would want to check how it would react with all the materials it might come in contact with–copper, vinyl, PVC, chrome, stainless steel, etc. before piping into my WHOLE house. 🙂 An experienced plumber could probably tell you all of the materials that it could possibly come in contact with if you didn’t want to identify the ones you actually have.

    Personally, I would probably screw something or other up, so the last reason rozzatx mentioned would win me over. I have the feeling I would want something stronger to make sure it did a thorough job–but I try to suppress that feeling, heh. It’s not logical. The grocery store-bought vinegar is already quite strong at 5% to 8%. I use it regularly for demineralization. After 10 or so hours without stirring, it dissolves 1/16″ thick mineralization, and I supposed could damage pipes or fittings. If still want something stronger, you might look into diluting 20%-25% acetic acid with the grocery store stuff down to 10% or so.

    Disclaimer: I am not educated in chemistry or chemical safety, or plumbing, and I am not even a particularly knowledgeable home maintenance guy.

     
  14. Greg…I don’t think anyone here at JM is a pro, certainly least of all me. We all try to share ideas on what has worked for us in the home DIY area, with the appropriate disclaimers, of course. That makes comments like yours especially good for the site. Thinks…and keep coming back!

     
  15. Wow!!! What an amazing post which is useful to unblock the drains. You shared step by step procedure which is helpful for everyone to unblock the drains. I’d like to say thanks for sharing this and keep posting such a nice and informative posts.

     
  16. 1st site I have found that actually tells you how to do, great thanks! I have constant limescale build up, but worse on the hot side.

     
  17. Very good guide to unblock drains, vinegar is awesome tips. Thank you so much, I tried and it worked!

     
  18. Vinegar is amazing stuff…does all kinds of things around the house besides dressing your salad!

     
  19. Going to try this. I have tried to blow the lime out for years now. Sitting here I wondered if there was anybody else with this problem. Thanks Bob I will let you know when I do it.

     
  20. No problem, William. Glad to be of help…that’s what JuicyMaters is all about.

    Let us know how it goes, OK?

     
  21. We spent the better part of the whole day today trying to unclog the drain from the kitchen sink. We thought we had a grease problem which turned out to be a bigger curiosity. The house is almost 20 years old and we have hard water. The drain from the sink crosses the basement ceiling with very little pitch so that the water from the sink must drain slowly and minerals from the water have built up over the years and clogged the 2″ pipe. We know this is minerals as the clog is hard and white like chalk.

    My son took some of this hard, white stuff and put it in pure vinegar. I thought it would have dissolved after 4 hours if it were just calcified mineral but it is still hard though a knife will now cut through it. I am wondering if this could be something formed from a combination of both mineral and grease. If this is the case, any idea what to use to dissolve it? We had to cut the drain pipe out of the ceiling and replace it – couldn’t get the stuff out any other way.

     
  22. Julia…I’ve never had a mineral blockage in a drain pipe, just the feed lines, so this is as much educated guessing as really knowing how to deal with your issue, but I’ll tell you what I would do if it were me, given what you know so far.

    Since the vinegar did soften whatever the clog consists of, I think I’d fill the drain pipe with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution and leave it set for a while…5-10 hours, if possible. Then I would use a snake (you can rent them at the orange or blue big box home improvement stores) to clean the gunk that has been softened out of the pipe. I suggest you run the snake through several times so it cleans the pipe walls as much as possible.

    Thanks for stopping by, and keep coming back to JuicyMaters. We always like having additions to the JuicyMaters family. You might also want to sign up for the JuicyMaters eNewsletter. I don’t spam your inbox with a lot of emails, but when I send one its usually full of info on yurts, cooking, homesteading, and, yes, home DIY projects.

    Again…thanks for stopping by.

     
  23. Very informative.. only part i didnt understand. Did you just keep filling the vinegar from the washers cold valve or did you fill that untill the faucet leaked then shut it off and move to the next fixture say kitchen sink and hook up there and fill with the vinegar

     
  24. I used the cold fill valve at the washer for the whole operation, Chad, but that was because with the hose disconnected from the washer and still connected to the hose bib I could suspend the hose up high so that would be higher than any fixture, including shower heads, in the house (single story). Had it been a two story or multi-story plus basement, I would have done it from the highest fixture in the house.

    Thanks for stopping by, and keep coming back. Also, you can sign up for the JuicyMaters eNewsletter (link at the top of the right sidebar) to keep up with what goes on around this crazy place.

     
  25. Bob et all,

    This is a really interesting article, but I haven’t see anyone mention the results. How well did this work for you or anyone else reading? Did it solve all of the problems you mentioned or just improve on them?

     
  26. Hi KJ…
    Like you I have been looking for responses from others top see how it worked for them, but in my case it was a dramatic improvement. Water flow was greatly improved, if not perfect.

     
  27. Hello Bob! Thanks for this DIY article. It should be amazing once I get my shower unclogged and two of my faucets. I have a small problem as Inwas completing the steps…I get to number 7 and go to disconnect the hot water from the water heater and I notice two pipes coming out the top. They both go in to the wall….one has a red handle to turn off or on and the other just goes straight in to the wall. Both of the galvanized pipes coming out of the water heater are really hot to the touch. I don’t know where the cold waiter is coming in to the water heater. Any suggestions?

     
  28. Hi Texas…thanks for stopping by.

    I’d need to know the make and model of your heater to be certain, but I am GUESSING the pipe with the red handle, especially if the handle is a round handle that looks like the handle on the hose bibs where you hook up a garden hose outside your house, is your cold water IN pipe where cold water is fed into the heater.

    Again…thanks for stopping by, and keep coming back. The JuicyMaters family always has room for more family members.

     
  29. Very interesting. Our house was built in 2000 and we have very hard water. My husband says that our pipes will not clog with mineral deposits. Is he correct? I’m may be overly concerned because my mother had to have her pipes replumbed and put in a water softener. But, then, her house was built right before the Civil War and when pipes were put in, they were put in the concrete flooring in the basement. Thanks, Rachel
    Just curious….what’s it like to live in a yurt? What part of the country? Are you also a survivalist? I’ve probably been reading too many post apocalyptic novels….ha!

     
  30. LOL…”Too many post apocalyptic novels”…no such thing as reading too much fiction literature, Rachel…hehehe.

    You questions, in reverse order:

    Survivalist…no. “Prepper”…yes. “Doomsday Prepper…no. To me, being a prepper is nothing but living as self sufficient lifestyle as you can in anyone’s given situation and I like to be self sufficient. Because of impending total economic collapse, widespread civil unrest, etc? Well, I acknowledge it COULD happen, but medium to long term self sufficiency could also be necessary if there is a regional severe natural disaster. Remember hurricanes Katrina and Sandy…it was months before any semblance of the old normal life returned.

    Living in a yurt is awesome! I’m ofter asked, now 6 years into yurt living, if I would do it again if I knew going in what I know now and the answer is an unhesitating yes.

    Hard, mineralized water WILL eventually clog pipes, period. It will clog copper pipe, galvanized pipe, black iron pipe, PVC pipe, and any other pipe you can think of. No problem though…just keep some vinegar handy!

    Keep coming back to visit…we always like adding to the JuicyMaters family!

     
  31. Awesome guide. For multi-level houses would you have to run a siphon up above the highest line you were trying to clear and fill it from there?

     
  32. You would fill the system from the highest fixture…on a multi-level house that would probably be the shower head in an upstairs bathroom.

    Thanks for the compliment on the guide! Keep coming back to JuicyMaters…we love adding to the JuicyMaters family!

     
  33. just wondering how did this work for long term, still unclogged ? or caused any leaks ?

     
  34. No further issues. System still has full pressure and water flow, and there haven’t been any leaks.

     
  35. Great article thank you very much. Please was the acid level % for the vinegar did you used? Do you think filling the plumbing system with 8% acid vinegar and no water, would cause problems? It seems that using heated vinegar without any water added, would speed up the process. Please share your thoughts on that. Thanks a million for your generous contribution.

     
  36. I don’t know the pewrcentage…I just used the cheap white vinegar at the grocery store…and I’d be guessing to comment on other solution strengths. I don’t even remember how I came up with the solution strength I used. I just know it worked.

     
  37. We are now two and a half years down the road and no issues. Still unclogged, and no leaks.

     
  38. I’m going to give this a shot tonight.

    My mother lives in a trailer and she has hard water. The hot water works without any issues at all but the cold water has got to the point where it will barely run at one end of the house and on the other side the cold water will not come out at all. We have already drained the hot water heater completely and we cleaned the washer connectors. (the water heater and the washer had a lot of build up in it). I’ll keep you guys posted on how this DIY project turns out.

     
  39. Aaron…good deal! I promise you, it WILL work!

     
  40. If the hot water heater is the lowest point on the system, any reason I can’t drain the system by connecting a hose to the bib at the bottom? The washer connection is down in the basement also. This is a one-story house but no showers so the highest water point would be the kitchen sink. Would you have to remove the faucet and fill the system from there? Or use the hot or cold water disconnects under the sink?

     
  41. You could remove the spout of the sink faucet OR do it at the disconnect under the sink…either would work. Pick whichever is easiest.

     
  42. I found this page about a year ago but only was able to put it into practice yesterday. The home I bought has a mixture of copper, pex, and galvanized piping. Unfortunately the water enters the house through a basement wall ascends to the ceiling of the basement, traverses with branches splitting off to fixtures, and finally lowers to a washing machine valve. This means that when I drain the lines I am not bale to drain the full line, instead I can only drain the portions of the line after it is in the basement. With this limitation in mind I attempted an implementation.

    For my mixture I did not do any further dilution, instead I used a general purpose vinegar (3-7% acetic acid solution) and let it soak in the pipes for 4 hours. One fixture showed signs the vinegar had removed patina from the inside of copper piping when the discharge was initially blue. We left the faucet open and ran for several minutes after the blue stopped in order to ensure we removed any remaining acid. Something worth mentioning is that one way to know progress was made is that the water should come out carbonated. The reaction produces CO2 which has no way to exit the system so a sign it worked is how fizzy it is as it leaves the system. Due to waste I used 1.5 gallons or so of vinegar ($3.00 a gallon) to flush the pipes.

    I did not disconnect the water heater, instead I only closed the inlet valves. After flushing the rest of the lines I opened the valves, and flushed the water heater. I did not see any appreciable scale or vinegar smell afterward.

    Even with the inability to clear the first 50ft (or so) of water line I still saw improvements. Flow at the kitchen sink perhaps doubled. Other fixtures may have improved, but not has dramatically.

    Due to a separate issue I’ll be having a change made to the piping where the water enters (a new shutoff valve is required) and I’ll be adding a drain plug. This will let me drain the full line and try again specifically to try and clean out that line with the same strength solution.

    I noticed very little chunks of material come out, but I wasn’t able to remove any fixture stems yet to verify. But I did have a few tablespoons of fine particulate matter come out one fixture.

    When I do the main line I’ll be sure to share the results with some numbers to give an indication of what kind of improvement is obtained.

     
  43. Jacob, thanks for the detailed results of your operation. I, and I’m sure others, appreciate the info.

    One thing I would suggest: Remove those fixture stems as soon as practicable. Your lower results from some fixtures compared to the doubling of flow at the sink (YAY!) may be due to particulate backing up behind the stems.

     
  44. i am renting a section of an old house and the plumbing is shocking .will be trying your vinegar salution soon .thank you all so much for sharing. greetings from Skeerpoort.south africa

     
  45. thanks so much for this step by step guide. i found this article about a year ago also and finally gonna try it. just read something about using a vinegar – baking soda mix, that it may be better than vinegar (and water) alone. any comment?

     
  46. Hi Renee…glad you found this helpful. Sorry I cannot give you ideas on the combo as I’ve only done what I wrote in the article.

     
  47. I hope it works Colleen.

     
  48. Hi Bob, No biggie about the baking soda question. I was just wondering….
    So here I am Sunday morning, anxious as all get-out about getting this process started. We live in my parents’ old 1983 built house in Central Texas, hard well water, no water-softener. 10 years ago the guest shower reduced to a trickle and now no water comes out at all. Hot water presser in sink is great, but cold is just a trickle. Hubby thinks this is a futile hopeless effort because the house is so old. We’ve been living like this at least 7 or 8 years (sharing our master bath shower with two kids, ugh!) Suffice it to say, I am on my own. Wish me luck!

     
  49. Renee, I can’t promise water will run like its new plumbing, but I’d better dollars to donuts it will be vastly improved. Just be sure to remove the faucet stems…some of the scle will come off in chunks large enough to block flow if the stems aren’t removed.

     
  50. I am missing something regarding the hot water heater.
    I understand why it is being turned off.

    What is being accomplished with the plugs?
    What is being protected?
    What happens if vinegar goes into the HW tank?

     

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