Rusting Pipes: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment (PDF)

Rust is the bane of metal objects, and it’s especially problematic when it comes to pipes. Rusting pipes can cause water damage, decrease water pressure, and even lead to health problems. In this article, we will discuss the causes of rusting pipes, ways to avoid rust in pipes, how to fix rusty pipes, how to remove rust from pipes, and whether rust in water pipes is harmful.

What is a Rusting Pipe?

Rusting pipes are simply metal pipes that have started to corrode due to exposure to water and oxygen. The corrosion process leads to the formation of iron oxide, also known as rust, which can accumulate inside the pipes, causing blockages and other problems. Rust can also cause the pipes to weaken and eventually leak, leading to significant water damage in your home or business.

Why Do Pipes Rust?

Pipes rust due to a chemical reaction between the metal in the pipes and the oxygen in the water. This process is called oxidation. It is more likely to occur in older pipes that have been in use for a long time. Pipes made of iron or steel are more prone to rusting than other materials such as copper or plastic. Other factors that can contribute to rusting pipes include hard water, pH levels, and the presence of certain minerals in the water.

Pipes rust for a variety of reasons, including the quality of the water, the age of the pipes, and the presence of chemicals in the water. The following are some of the most common causes of rusting pipes:

  1. Water Quality: If the water in your area is hard or has a high mineral content, it can cause rusting in pipes. Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which can build up inside the pipes and cause corrosion.
  2. Age of Pipes: Over time, all metal pipes will rust and corrode. If your pipes are old, they may be more susceptible to rusting and breaking down.
  3. Chemicals in Water: Chemicals such as chlorine, which is commonly added to municipal water supplies, can react with the metal in pipes and cause rusting.
  4. Pipe Material: Some types of metal pipes, such as galvanized steel, are more prone to rusting than others.
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Ways to Avoid Rust in Pipes

There are several ways to prevent pipes from rusting and corroding:

  • Replace Old Pipes: If your pipes are old and rusting, it’s time to replace them. Copper and plastic pipes are less prone to rusting than metal pipes and are a good replacement option.
  • Water Softener: Installing a water softener can help reduce the mineral content of the water, which can reduce the risk of rusting in pipes.
  • Pipe Coating: Applying a pipe coating can help protect the metal from the corrosive effects of water and oxygen. Epoxy coatings are particularly effective in preventing rust.
  • Regular Maintenance: Regular maintenance can help prevent rusting in pipes. Flushing the pipes with water regularly can remove mineral buildup and prevent corrosion.
  • Use plastic pipes: Plastic pipes are less likely to rust than metal pipes. They are also more durable and easier to install.
  • Check the pH levels: High pH levels can cause rusting pipes. Regularly checking the pH levels in the water can help prevent rusting.

How to Fix Rusty Pipes?

If your pipes have already started to rust, it’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Here are some steps to take to fix rusty pipes:

  • Assess the Damage: Before you start any repairs, you need to assess the damage. If the damage is extensive, it may be best to replace the affected pipes.
  • Shut Off Water: Shut off the water supply to the affected pipes to prevent further damage.
  • Remove Rust: Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove any visible rust from the affected pipes.
  • Apply Coating: Apply a pipe coating to protect the pipes from further rusting.
  • Apply a rust inhibitor: Applying a rust inhibitor can help prevent rust from forming in the future.
  • Patch the pipes: Patching the pipes can help fix any leaks or holes in the pipes.
  • Reconnect Pipes: Reconnect the pipes and turn the water supply back on.
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How to Remove Rust from Pipes

Removing rust from pipes is important to prevent further corrosion and damage to the plumbing system. If you want to remove rust from pipes, there are several methods you can use:

  • Vinegar and Baking Soda: Mix equal parts of vinegar and baking soda and apply the mixture to the affected area. Let it sit for several hours, then rinse it with water.
  • Lemon Juice and Salt: Mix lemon juice and salt and apply.
  • Commercial Rust Removers: You can purchase commercial rust removers from your local hardware store. Follow the instructions on the package carefully, and make sure to wear protective gear.
  • Wire Brush or Sandpaper: Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove any visible rust from the affected pipes. This method may not be as effective as other methods, but it can help remove surface rust.
  • Pressure Washing: A pressure washer can help remove rust from pipes, but it should be used with caution. High pressure can damage pipes, so use the lowest pressure possible and keep the nozzle at least 6 inches away from the pipe.

It’s important to note that some of these methods can be harmful to pipes and may even cause more damage. If you’re unsure about how to remove rust from pipes, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber.

Is Rust in Water Pipes Harmful?

Rust in water pipes can be harmful, especially if it’s ingested. Rust can contain harmful bacteria and metals, such as lead, which can cause health problems. Some of the health problems associated with rust in water pipes include:

  • Digestive Issues: Ingesting rust can cause digestive issues, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Skin Irritation: Rust can cause skin irritation and rashes, especially if you have sensitive skin.
  • Respiratory Problems: Inhaling rust particles can cause respiratory problems, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Lead Poisoning: If your pipes contain lead, rust can cause the lead to leach into the water. Lead poisoning can cause a range of health problems, including developmental delays, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems.
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To avoid health problems associated with rust in water pipes, it’s important to have your water tested regularly and to replace rusted pipes as soon as possible.

Other Important Points

Here are some additional important points to keep in mind when dealing with rusting pipes:

  • Prevention is Key: The best way to deal with rusting pipes is to prevent them from rusting in the first place. Regular maintenance and water softeners can help prevent rusting and prolong the life of your pipes.
  • Rust Can Spread: If you have rusted pipes, the rust can spread to other areas of your plumbing system. It’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
  • Professional Help: Dealing with rusted pipes can be a complicated and dangerous process. It’s important to consult with a professional plumber if you’re unsure about how to fix the problem.
  • Water Damage: If you have rusty pipes, it’s important to be aware of the potential for water damage. Make sure to check for leaks and signs of water damage regularly.

Conclusion

Rusting pipes can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous problem. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent rusting and fix the problem when it occurs. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can keep your pipes rust-free and avoid the associated health and financial problems. Remember, prevention is key, so make sure to take steps to prevent rusting in your pipes before the problem occurs

Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

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