Originally Posted by peghall
Distilled vinegar WILL dissolve sea water
buildup, but it's more trouble than it's worth because it has to be changed every few hours (something that most people--you included apparently--don't realize, and it takes forever. So muriatic acid, or better yet a product called Sew Clean
Sew Clean ® | TRAC Ecological
, is the easiest and beats the socks off removing hoses to bang 'em on the dock
and then putting 'em back.
The magic of vinegar is that it contains acetic acid at a very low concentration, somewhere under 10%. Acetic acid is also a pretty weak acid as acids go. Because it is an acid it will dissolve the calcium build up, however, because it is a weak acid it will do it slowly and because it is in a very low concentration, it is limited in the amount of build up that it can remove for any given volume of vinegar. Thus for some applications, such as removing a large buildup, it effectively does little to nothing to address the problem. A statement that is not much different than "it's more trouble than i's worth."
As you note, vinegar has to be pumped into the system and allowed to sit for some time and then rinsed with freshwater to be effective in removing small build ups before they start causing problems. I didn't want to hijack this thread from a failed joker valve thread to a how to clean your plumbing
thread. Those photos were part of a discussion on another list serve, where I noted that in order to be effective as a preventative measure, the vinegar would have had to remain in the pumps and lines for sufficient time to work and that just pumping a quart of vinegar through the system wouldn't do much. (BTW, we miss you over on the Sabre
Sew Clean was also mentioned as a solution. According the MSDS Sew Clean is simply Phosphoric Acid, the same acid that is in many rust removers and gives Cola drinks some bite (and softens enamel, but that's another discussion). A quart of Sew Clean goes for $26, a gallon of phosphoric acid on Amazon is around $35. Their advertising is also a tad misleading. They claim their product is "biodegradable" and I think that is a bit of a stretch. One of the by-products of reactions with phosphoric acid is phosphate, yes, that same chemical we've been trying to get out of the water
and have eliminated from laundry
and dishwasher detergent. Another product mentioned in this thread was CLR. A little research
will show that it is mostly a couple of different acids. At one time CLR included phosphoric acid, it no longer contains phosphoric acid because of the environmental concerns.
To tie all this back to the OP's original concern, I came upon this heavily fouled y-valve on a "new to me" boat that had a chronically failing joker valve on a PHII. After replacing a couple of sections of hose, I stumbled up the fouled y-valve. As this was a freshwater boat, I didn't expect to find much if any buildup. I was surprised and a little suspect of the boat's history
. Whether cleaning
the y-valve has solved
the problem will have to wait a few weeks until the boat is back in the water.
One last caveat about muriatic acid. I would be hesitant to use it at a 30% concentration in the head
for 2 reasons: 1) the reactions are very quick and produce a lot of gas. I'm not sure what would happen to the gas and whether it would cause problems with the pumps in the head
; 2) I don't know what negative effects if any it might have on any metal or soft plastic parts
in the plumbing system, it comes in a plastic bottle so at least some plastics are immune to its effects.