Feeling a little BLUE lately? If you have blue stains starting to cover your homes beautiful fixtures & appliances you might find yourself a bit on the frustrated side.
It would be difficult to count the times I’ve been in a customer’s home, for other water related issues, and happen to notice they had blue stain marks in their shower or sink.
After having it brought to their attention, on average 5 out of ten people are genuinely surprised and have never really paid much attention before. Of the other 5 who have noticed it, 90% of those generally have no idea what it is or where it comes from.
In this article we’ll take a look at:
-What causes these blue stains.
-How damaging it is to plumbing, heating systems and appliances.
-What you can do to fix it.
What Causes Blue Stains?
Blue stains in shower, tub or sink fixtures, are in the vast majority of cases, a result of household water that has a low pH.
So, what is pH, you might ask.
Acidic water is extremely corrosive and behaves very aggressively – it’s quite literally “hungry” and looking for something to satisfy its intense hunger. I tend to think of acidic water much like what it feels like to go to bed on an empty stomach – there’s a really good chance you’re just not going to be able to rest until you finally get something in your stomach to satisfy your hunger!
If you have a home that gets its drinking water from a private well, and that water has a low pH, the instant water begins entering your home it immediately starts trying to satisfy it’s non-stop appetite on the first metallic surfaces it comes in contact with – your piping, heating systems, fixtures and appliances.
This is where the BLUE STAINS part comes in. The blue color you see in the bottom of your tub or sink is the leftover remnants from the insides of those same plumbing and household fixtures, literally being eaten away, from the inside out.
How Low is too Low?
The pH scale for water ranges between 0 and 14.
Water that has a pH of 7.0, right smack dab in the middle, is considered perfectly balanced. This is water that is calm, mild mannered and pleasantly full. Its hunger has been satisfied well before it ever reached your home.
Blue stains start becoming evident for most homeowners at a pH level of 6.8 or less. Water that has a pH of 6.8 or less, is considered corrosive and can cause damage to any metal surfaces it comes in contact with. To make matters worse, each .10 of a point below 6.8 becomes exponentially more corrosive than the number just above it.
For example, if you just learned your water has a pH of 6.5, you might not even get too concerned about it initially, upon hearing the news. After all, it’only a few tenths of a point less then 6.8. How bad can it be, right?
Unfortunately, you would be very mistaken. A pH of 6.5 can cause some serious problems for your home. More on that in a moment.
When water starts its life cycle, in the form of rain, it already has a low pH to begin with as it falls to the earth. It shows up at our doorstep in a “pre-hungered” state – just like most newborn do!
Once rain hits the ground it makes its way underground and travels through bedrock – the very same bedrock that supplies water to our homes’ wells. As the water travels through the veins in the bedrock it gradually satisfies its hunger (hopefully raising its pH) by devouring whatever minerals happen to be in the bedrock it journeys through.
If all goes well, by the time the water reaches your home, it has already fed itself on just the right amount of available minerals, raised its pH to a balanced point and arrived at your faucet in a nice, content, peaceful and non corrosive state.
*FYI the opposite of this scenario can occur as well. Your water supply can pick up too many “hitchhikers” along it’s travels – when this happens water can take on too many minerals like calcium (hardness), Iron or Manganese. These minerals can have their own uninque set of very troublesome concerns to deal with. For more on this see: Water Softening and Treatment
What will Low pH Water do to my Home?
If you are seeing blue stains on the fixtures in your home there’s a good chance your home’s plumbing was made from copper as opposed to the newer Pex or plastic style piping used in most homes today.
The blue stains that you’re seeing around your shower’s drain are most likely the remnants from the innermost layers of the copper piping in your home, being gradually eaten away. These blue stains are merely the “leftovers on the dinner plate” that your water was just a little too stuffed to finish.
Every year that passes by corrosive water will continue eating away new internal layers of copper from your plumbing. Sooner or later pinholes and leaks will be springing up left and right. This can lead to costly plumbing repairs, not to mention the damge that can ensue as a result of water leaks.
When it comes to low pH, the clock is always ticking and believe me when I tell you, sooner or later time is going to run out.
We’ve seen it happen more times than I care to mention in the 35 years we’ve been treating water and the 117 years we’ve been providing plumbing services.
Unfortunately the problem doesn’t end with your plumbing either.
Most of the heating systems manufactured today can be damaged by water with low pH – especially the newer “tank-less” style on demand systems that are becoming more and more popular.
These types of heating systems are remarkable pieces of equipment. Most are extremely efficient and are capable of delivering heat and/or hot water very quickly.
The downside? These systems can be costly…and they’re usually very finicky! They require a very clean & balanced water supply. If the water that passes through them has either low pH or even slightly elevated levels of minerals like hardness or Iron, they can end up experiencing some pretty significant problems after only minimal amounts of usage.
For more information on heating systems and poor water quality, check out Lowering your Heating Bill
Appliances and Faucets
At this point in the article, I’m guessing you’re starting to get a clearer picture of the damage that low pH water can cause in a home.
Faucets, dishwashers, washing machines, and even ice-makers will most definitely experienced problems and/or shortened lifespans if your water has low pH. The lower your pH is, the quicker this will happen.
30+ years ago, these systems were literally built to last – many times even being passed between generations. Unfortunately this is rarely the case with most of today’s appliances. Like most products, quality has drastically diminished. You’ll be lucky to see more than 10 years of life from the vast majority of appliances on the market – and this is under normal circumstances.
Take the “normal” out of that equation, with issues like low pH or other water quality problems, and those same appliances may not even make it anywhere close to that 10 year mark. We’ve seen customers with high-end front loading washing machines damaged beyond repair from poor water quality, in as little as 2 years time.
This can become extremely expensive…quickly.
What Can I do to Fix my pH?
There are a couple different types of treatment methods available for treating water with low pH.
The two most commonly used and dependable types of Acid Neutralization systems are:
- Mineral based Neutralizers
- Solution Feed Systems
In a mineral neutralizing system, water passes through a tank that utilizes ground up pieces of calcium mineral to naturally satisfy the appetite of corrosive water, before it can enter a home – thus raising the water’s pH to a neutral balance.
Periodically (usually every 1-2 years) the calcium in the system is replenished by your treatment professional and the system continues on with its normal function. There are no filter cartridges to change or mixtures for the homeowner to add to the system. On a day to day basis these systems are very low maintenance and provide a lot of peace of mind for homeowners.
Solution Feed Systems
In cases of extremely low pH balance, solution feed systems are usually the most effective means of neutralizing water.
These systems utilize a solution mixture made from either sodium carbonate or potassium.
The mixture is very slowly injected into a home’s water supply using a small holding tank. When the tank becomes low (on average every 2-3 weeks) the homeowner adds more solution to the tank and the system continues on with its normal function.
These systems do require a little more attention from the homeowner, but are much more capable of handing ultra low pH balances, that a mineral neutralizer simply isn’t capable of correcting.
How do I know what is right for my home?
If you have already had your water tested and you found that your water has a pH of below 6.8, you will want to speak with a reputable water treatment professional.
An experienced treatment professional will be able to examine and interpret your complete set of water test results to help you determine which type of a system will work best for you. Each case is always different and quite often what works in one situation won’t be appropriate in another.
Make sure that whoever you choose to deal with is not only willing to look at your water test results, but also has a close understanding of of your family’s needs and lifestyle habits.
Once again, each home and every family are uniquely different. Dealing with a treatment professional who looks at things starting from this perspective should help immensely at creating a long term fix that will take care of your family’s water for the long haul.