The West Palm Beach region has moderately hard water, which means that homeowners and renters alike have to be vigilant about scale buildup inside and outside faucets and showerheads. The good news is that scale is easy to control as long as you take time to work on it regularly.
If you’re new to hard water and don’t know what to do to care for showerheads and faucets, you’ll need only a few supplies, most of which you have at home already. Past that, there are some whole-house actions you can take as well.
Distilled white vinegar – the same stuff you have in your kitchen – is very good at loosening and dissolving scale. You can use this to clean both the outsides of faucets and the interior of showerheads.
For showerheads, fill a plastic bag with vinegar. If you have a handheld showerhead, remove it from the wall bracket and submerge it in the vinegar in the bag; you can rest the bag on the tub or stall floor. Tie a string or place a rubber band around the top of the bag.
For non-handheld showerheads, tie the top of the bag around the showerhead pipe, ensuring that the showerhead is completely covered by the vinegar. You may have to check on the bag periodically and pull the tops up to account for any sagging that pulls the bag and vinegar away from the showerhead.
Remove the bag after about an hour and turn on the shower. This will clear out bits of scale; if you were having problems with scale making the water spray out funny, you’ll see the spray looking a lot better.
Tub faucets are a little harder. You can try the vinegar-bag trick, but you’ll have to be more vigilant about ensuring the bag doesn’t slip down. Depending on how the tub faucet is configured, you may have to repeat the process due to vinegar draining out of the bag if the opening of the bag has to rest sideways.
Sink faucets are a little different. Most of these have removable screens at the end that you can clear out manually. To do this, unscrew the part at the tip of the faucet, shake out the bits of scale you see and let the tip sit in some vinegar for a while. Rinse off the screen and tip, and screw them back onto the faucet.
For faucets that don’t have a removable screen, use the same process you used for the tub faucet. Keep checking the bag to ensure the vinegar isn’t leaking out.
Vinegar is also excellent for cleaning scale off the exteriors of your fixtures. Spray vinegar onto the fixtures and wipe off.
Note that fancier fixtures made of materials like iron might not react well to vinegar. Test a small spot in these cases; if you see discoloration, don’t use the vinegar.
For times when the buildup is so thick that vinegar is taking too long, a small pumice stone is all you need. You can find these in cosmetic sections of drug stores and big box establishments. Wet the scale and the pumice stone and then gently exfoliate your sink or tub.
Pumice stones are rough, so don’t press down – just swipe the top of the scale, and stop to check the fixture frequently. Once you’re close to having only a thin layer of scale, switch to vinegar.
Installing a Water Softener
Scale buildup at the edges of plumbing fixtures isn’t the only issue with hard water, though – you can also get a buildup of scale inside pipes, and hard water can affect how you feel after showering and how your clothes feel and smell after using the washer.
If you notice a lot of scale buildup, you need to install a water softener in the house. Contact a plumbing company to have this done; at the same time, the plumbers can try to inspect pipes to see if there is scale that needs to be cleaned out.
For water softener installation or additional help dealing with scale, contact Cleary Plumbing. Scale is controllable, so start now to keep scale at a manageable level.