Slow water flow should be considered a no-go in your home. If you notice water trickling out of your faucets when you turn them on or water slowly draining from the shower or sink, it’s time to flush your water lines and descale your pipes.
A likely cause is a build-up of calcium deposits in your pipes, especially if you live in an area prone to hard water (and since 85% of the U.S. population does, you probably do too).
Steps to Descale Your Pipes
- Fill several pots with hot water, at least one for each drain you need to clean.
- Turn off the water to your home.
- Turn off the water heater.
- Empty the pipes by turning on the faucets. Let the water run out and flush your toilets.
- Shut the faucet taps.
- Fill your pipes with your chosen drain cleaner (more on that later). Wait the appropriate amount of time for the cleanser to work – a chemical cleanser may only take 15 minutes or so, whereas a natural cleanser may need several hours.
- Bring the pots of water to a boil and pour them down your drains.
- Turn the water lines and water heater back on.
- Turn on your faucets at full blast so the calcium deposits you just broke up in your pipes will flow out of your faucets.
Chemical cleaners generally use acid, bleach, or lye to generate heat within the pipes and break up the scale. Some of the more common brand names include CLR® and Drano®. These cleaners can be a fast and easy solution but can cause problems of their own.
The caustic nature of these chemicals can soften plastic, which is very dangerous for PVC pipes. If your pipes are older and heavily corroded, it can eat away at the corrosion, so instead of slow flow from calcium build-up, you could end up with a hole in your pipe and a subsequent leak.
You need to use caution, wear protective clothing, and follow all directions carefully when using chemical cleaners. If you receive your water from a well, you cannot use chemical cleaners as they will get into your drinking water.
Plain old vinegar and baking soda is a popular, natural solution for breaking up calcium deposits in pipes. Use a couple of gallons of vinegar and a few cups of baking soda and mix yourself a homemade drain cleaner.
While vinegar and water is the most popular natural solution, Well+Good recently offered up a few other options for homemade drain cleaners made from pantry staples. There also are new cleaners on the market that claim to introduce beneficial bacteria into your pipes to eat away at clogs rather than using caustic chemicals, so there are plenty of options to consider if you’d prefer a more natural route.
If flushing your water lines and descaling your pipes doesn’t work, you may need to take your pipes apart to soak them in the cleaning solution. Worst case scenario, you'll have to replace them.
If you have continual issues with clogged pipes, consider installing a whole-house water softener. It’s the best way to stop the cycle of calcium build-up in your pipes. If you have any questions about how to determine the right type and size of water softener you might need for your home, feel free to ask our specialists for help. Water softeners provide many benefits outside of protecting your pipes, including cleaner silverware and glassware, longer-lasting appliances, and softer skin. If you have any concerns about hard water in your home, don't hesitate to address them.