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Water Hardness, Scale & Vinegar Wash

What Water Hardness & Scale Has to do With Water Ionizer Care

Water ionizers care for themselves, by removing calcium deposits (a very thin layer of scale, caused by water hardness) inside the water cell with what's called acid-washes. These acid washes are either done periodically or continuously. The water ionizers with better self-care methods use continuous-cleaning. Continuous-cleaning is far better than just automatic, periodic cleaning of the water cell. The water ionizers that use continuous-cleaning never get a thin layer of scale and so the water cell tends to get more efficient water ionization over the entire life of the water ionizer. Water ionizers with continuous-cleaning will last longer and perform better over time than other water ionizers.

What to Do if You Don't Have Continuous-Cleaning: If you have a water ionizer that self-cleans [acid washes] but not continuously, there is an extra routine you can add to your day to help clean calcium film from the plates. This is important, because even the slightest film of calcium on the plates will reduce the efficiency of ionization. What you do is manually "reverse-polarity" once or twice per day. You can do this by pushing the acid water button and letting the acid water come out of the top spout (which means the alkaline water will come out of the bottom hose during this time. You can collect the alkaline water for drinking out of the bottom hose when you do this, or discard it if you prefer.

Hard-Water Scale Inside the Water Ionizer's Internal Water Lines

Hard water causes scale-build-up of calcium crystals inside the water lines. These water lines are external to the water cell, but inside the water ionizer (where you can't readily get to them). Hard water scaling usually manifests itself with a slower water-flow. No matter what type of internal cleaning your water ionizer has it can be subject to this internal water-line scaling if your water source is very hard. Calcium-hardness varies around the country, and depending on where you live, you may need to fix the scaling problem with a periodic vinegar wash (see below). A vinegar wash (or citric acid wash) is an extra way of caring for your water ionizer to protect it from scale.

This page is devoted to helping you overcome the effects of hard water scaling inside your water ionizer. The focus is on how to fix the effects of hardness, but not particularly remove the hardness. See the Hard Water page  to find our how to get hardness out of your water.

How to Reduce Scale Build-Up Naturally, with an Anti-Scale Device

Before we get into the vinegar wash, I want to mention a very good way to reduce scaling inside your water ionizer. This may not completely solve the hard water problem, but it will definitely help to keep your internal lines (and water cell) free of calcium (scale) for a much longer time. It's called the Elimination of Scaling Device, or EOS for short. I highly recommend it for anyone with water hardness over 70 ppm.

What to Do if Water-Flow Slows Down

If either your pH-levels start to drop [which is more likely with water ionizers that don't have continuous-cleaning systems] or your water-flow starts to slow down [which can happen with any water ionizer, regardless of its automatic cleaning system], I suggest you do a vinegar or citric acid wash. Even if your water ionizer has slowed down to a trickle, the vinegar or citric acid wash will work to clean out the scale. You may have to repeat the process on different days if you've let it get so bad that one over-night cleaning doesn't completely fix the water-flow issue.

Don't keep repeating the process beyond a couple of times, though, without contacting your dealer or manufacturer's support terminal about the problem.

If your water ionizer was working fine and then suddenly loses its water-flow, it probably is something else that's wrong, so in this case immediately contact your support terminal.

Why Does a Vinegar Wash Work?

There is a fairly simple method of cleaning your water ionizer of its scale build-up. In high school I once did an experiment where I took a hard boiled egg and placed it in vinegar over night. I was amazed that the next day I could bounce that egg like a rubber ball. What happened was the calcium, which made the egg shell hard, was eaten away by the vinegar. Vinegar [soaked overnight], or a strong enough citric-acid concentration, will react with the calcium, which is clogging up your water ionizer, and will loosen it up and allow you to then flush it away.

Vinegar Wash or Citric Acid Wash? How to Decide Which One

Before you start the steps for a vinegar or citric acid wash, first decide which one you want to do.

The chart, below, tells you what type of wash is sanctioned by each water ionizer manufacturer. It's important to know this, because you don't want to do anything to void your manufacturer's warranty. A reason that I was told why some water ionizer companies don't sanction the use of vinegar in their washes has something to do with the material used for padding between the plates in their water ionizer's water-cell. If the padding is not made of a sturdy enough material, then it could possibly be damaged by vinegar. It could also have to do with the manufacturer wanting their customers to buy their citric-acid-wash products, but I'm just speculating on that one.

 Sanctioned for
Vinegar, Citric Acid,
or Either
Chanson Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Enagic Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Jupiter Water Ionizers Either
AlkaViva H2 Water Ionizers Citric Acid
KYK Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Nexus Water Ionizers Either
Vesta Water Ionizers Either
Tyent Water Ionizers

Citric Acid



How to Do a Citric Acid Wash With a Special Citric Acid Filter 

Some manufacturers provide a citric acid cleaning cartridge, which goes into your filter port. If you have a dual filter system, this would go into the 2nd filter port.

    1. Put the filter in place.
    2. Run the water on any alkaline ionized water setting for 3-5 seconds.
    3. Let it sit (without using) for 20 minutes.
    4. Run it again for another couple of seconds.
    5. Let it sit again for an hour or so (I like to let it sit over night).

This is all you do if you use this method. Remove the citric acid cartridge and replace your regular filter in the port the next morning.

How to Manually Do a Vinegar Wash or Citric Acid Wash

Watch the video, below. It may not completely apply to your water ionizer, but it will help you to see the demo. Then follow these simple instructions for either a vinegar or citric acid wash of your water ionizer.

  1. Pour about 10 oz of vinegar into a cup or prepare 10 oz. of citric acid solution (stir in citric acid powder until it no longer dissolves -- about 1/4 - 1/2 cup).
  2. Take the two hoses (stainless spout and the acidic water hose) and bend them  &/or prop them up so as to have them facing up and at least above the top of the water ionizer.
  3. Now, pour vinegar into the larger of the two hoses until it starts coming out the other hose. This tells you that the water cell is full.
  4. Let it sit an hour or over night.
  5. The next morning, you can blow/suck through one of the hoses to agitate the solution inside the water ionizer lines and break up any stubborn calcium from the line.
  6. Depending on how bad off your water ionizer was before the wash, you can let it sit another hour and repeat the agitation step or you can end off on the wash.
  7. Once done, you should turn both hoses down (back to their original positions) and run the ionizer for a minute or more to see if the water-flow has returned to normal.

If the vinegar wash didn't solve the problem, there may be something else causing the slow flow. Sometimes it is a clog in one of the filters. Sometimes it is something in your water input line somewhere. Use diligence to check every possibility.

If there wasn't improvement and you can't find a reason, do not keep repeating the vinegar wash. Instead, contact your manufacturer support terminal for advice.

Here's a Demo Video With the Athena Water Ionizer - How to Do a Simple Vinegar Wash

The Classic Athena is easier than most water ionizers, because it has a mineral port. But the procedure otherwise is the same.