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How to effectively remove residue from pipes

by Barry Stone, Inman News
Dirty waterDEAR BARRY: We just purchased a home and hired a home inspector before closing. He reported no problems with the whirlpool bathtub. But the first time we turned it on, the bath water became filled with black specks.
There is some kind of mold or mildew in the pipes, and we haven’t been able to remove all of it, not even with bleach.
When we called our home inspector, he said that he checks only the working ability of the tub jets and nothing else. If he checked the jets, he must have filled the tub, so how could he have missed the problem? –Annie

DEAR ANNIE: The mold or mildew problem in your whirlpool tub is a common one because the pipes in most whirlpool tubs do not drain very well. When the tub is emptied, water remains in the pipes and becomes stagnant. When this foul brew evaporates, a black residue is left in the lines. Then, when the tub is filled again, the crud is loosened by the water flow, and black particles are washed into the bath water.

Your question about the home inspection procedures makes sense. If the inspector operated the jets, then he must have filled the tub with water. If so, then black particles must have entered the tub, and this should have been mentioned in the report. It seems fair to ask the inspector this question.
A reliable method for cleaning contaminated whirlpool lines is as follows: Fill the tub with hot water, add two cups of dishwasher detergent, and run the system for at least half an hour. Then drain the tub and rinse with a second tub of hot water. In most cases, this effectively removes the residue from the pipes.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
Copyright 2009 Barry Stone
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  • Regina Munn

    This article has perfect timing for me. Although I don’t have a jet tub, I do have a spa that I recently experienced this issue with and had not thought of This cleaning method. THANK YOU! Currently the spa is chemically treated with Bromine. It would be great if I could add the dishwasher detergent before draining it so that I don’t have to waste as much water refilling it three times and can limit the refills to twice. Do you know if I can mix dishwasher detergents with Bromine without an explosion? I know that you can’t mix anything with cholorine or bleach. In checking the contents of Cascade Dishwashing Detergent I noted that the contents include Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Silicate and Enzymes, and no more than 8.0% of Phosphorus.

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