[Greenbuilding] scale buildup in toilet prevents toilet from flushing!

RT archilogic at yahoo.ca
Sat Sep 29 09:07:55 PDT 2012

On Fri, 28 Sep 2012 15:33:32 -0400, Reuben Deumling <9watts at gmail.com>  

> low performing toilets could be traced to scale
> buildup that had completely blocked portions of the toilet's internal
> plumbing ... 1/2" thick layer of very hard limestone


The "quick" fix using the acid that one of the ListGrrrls mentioned is  
muriatic acid (aka hydrochloric acid -- HCl).

When HCl is exposed to air and/or water, it produces fumes that are very  
caustic and will do a pretty good job of damaging soft tissue like  
eyeballs and pulmonary systems so safety goggles and respirator masks with  
cartridges designed for chemical fumes (and rubber gloves & exhaust fan)  
are a Good Idea when using the stuff.

A less hazardous, slower-acting acid that will also do the job is acetic  
acid -- vinegar.

When I used to use vinegar to dissolve the scale build-up in my electric  
kettles (in the Olde Days before microwave ovens), I'd put my ear next to  
the spout to listen for a "hissing" sound. If there was no hissing, I knew  
that the vinegar was spent (neutralised) and needed to be replaced with a  
fresh batch.
IIRC, it'd take about 12 hrs or more of full immersion of the copper  
elements in the vinegar to expose the copper again.

I've never tried de-scaling a badly encrusted toilet bowl but my guess is  
that the process would be:

(1) Siphon the standing water out of the bowl & trap. (running a fan to  
exhaust septic tank gases out of the bathroom would probably be a good  
idea since the trap will be empty)

(Quick/caustic method)
(2) Make a swab out of a piece of sponge foam elastic'd to a short stick  
or stout straw with which to apply the acid to the scale (wearing  
afore-mentioned gloves, goggles, respirator mask) dipping the swab into a  
small amount of acid poured into a small plastic tub (ie cream cheese or  
cottage cheese container, with lid over container when not dipping swab in  
to load ). Any rust stains can also be cleaned up at the same time. My  
guess is that the cleaning should be accomplished within 1 or 2 minutes.

(slower/healthier method)
(2) Pour part of a jug of vinegar into the trap and let it soak,  
refreshing as necessary. My guess is that a minimum of 12 hours soaking in  
active solution . Have a look at a cross-section view of a toilet to get  
an idea of what you're dealing with if you're unfamiliar with the innards.  
My guess is that less than a litre of vinegar would be required to immerse  
the affected portions.

If the upper portion (rim) is also encrusted, my guess is that you'd need  
to empty the reservoir, plug the vents in the rim (plumbers used to use  
balled-up bread to temporarily plug the drains in new plumbing until the  
customer paid them I'm told  -- maybe you use bread or plasticine wrapped  
in pieces of polyethylene) and pour some vinegar into the rim via the  
emptied reservoir and let it soak to clean the inacessible raceways.

If the water is so hard that encrusting happens in a relatively short  
period, I think that I'd look at plumbing the toilets to a cistern to use  
rainwater for flushing.

=== * ===
Rob Tom					AOD257
Kanata, Ontario, Canada

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