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Hard Water Calcium Buildup in Pipes: How to Fix? (Answered)

In some particular areas, the harshness in the water can be a lot more compared to other areas. This happens due to the groundwater flowing and filtering through surfaces that contain calcium and magnesium carbonates and bicarbonates, and sometimes, even iron. 

The reason might be the natural soil condition of the place or the overall bad condition of the water treatment process of that area which is supplied by that particular treatment plant. A treatment plant is an installation that purifies contaminated elements, and that includes water.

These minerals have a tendency to precipitate and although there are no immediate health concerns, they tend to cause some nuisances. 

Let us find out how to actually understand the reason behind the buildup in our pipelines and the ways to fix it, along with many other interesting facts about the topic.

Hard water calcium buildup in pipes

The reason one’s pipeline has calcium buildup is because they get a steady flow of hard water in its main water supply. It starts to form when necessary measures are not taken to prevent it like regularly cleaning their pipelines or not installing a water conditioning system or a water softener.

One of the reasons, and honestly, in some cases, the only reason you might be facing clogged water lines or pipes is because your water supply has a huge amount of hard minerals like calcium—that forms lime scale—and you haven’t done anything to prevent it nor notice it.

Hard water has many disadvantages and the signs to confirm that the reason behind the buildup in your pipes is in fact hard water. However, some of the other reasons for which your pipelines can have hard water calcium buildup are as follows: 

Buildup in Pipes: 

Hardness in the water takes place when the water filters through chalk or gypsum before entering your home’s water supply. Some of the minerals are calcium or magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates, zinc, etc.

These minerals form hard sediments and are not easy to dissolve unless acids are used when they form these sediments. 

When this water flows through the pipelines for a long time, they tend to form a ring-like structure surrounding the inside of the pipes and block the normal flow of water.

As a result, one might get a lower flow of water or the drains might take longer to drain water.


Another way to tell if you have hard water is to look for stains. Hard water forms pretty noticeable and ugly stains. They are white, crusty looking, and very unappealing to look at.

They are noticeable when utensils are washed and not wiped before they air dry. The same goes for a mirror in the washroom, the faucet, or any surface that comes in contact with water.

Clogged Showerheads:

Another sign of mineral deposit is a clogged showerhead. 

When a showerhead seems to let out a slower and less flow of water than it originally did due to hard white-like materials building around the pores and the face of the showerhead, then there’s a chance you have a buildup due to hard water. 

Damaged Appliances:

Hard water, since they help in mineral deposits, has the ability to ruin or damage many of your home appliances like water heaters and dishwashers.

Although they might not completely put the appliances out of commission, the water tends to put a dent in the overall working efficiency of the appliances. For instance, one can end up with a dishwasher with a crusted over heating element.

What does calcium buildup in pipes look like? 

The calcium buildup that accumulates when one has hard water in their supply of water, it looks white, and crusty and forms a ring-like structure surrounding the inside of the pipe.

When pipes carry water with hard minerals like calcium and magnesium, upon drying, these minerals form hard sediments that don’t easily dissolve. They clog the pipes and prevent the normal flow of water.

While the mentioned are direct modes of knowing your pipes have buildup, there are more ways to know if the pipes have buildups. Some are the slow flow of water, stains, clogged showerheads, and so on. 

While there may be some variances, most of them look white and crusty.

Will a water softener remove calcium from pipes? 

Yes, a water softener will remove calcium from pipes.

A Water Softener or an Ion Exchange Unit is an electrical appliance that processes hard water and turns it into soft water. The mechanism is easy and it prevents calcium buildup in pipes than removing or dissolving it after the buildup has formed.

The ion exchange units, as entailed by their name, exchange hard minerals like calcium and magnesium that form hard buildups with minerals like sodium and potassium that can dissolve and not form hard sediments.

The softener has resin beads that make the hardness, that’s the calcium and magnesium, stick to the beads, making the water soft. 

When the beads in the appliance reach their capacity, the whole process is made backward and the brine, sodium, and potassium stick to the beads and flush the hard minerals out.

How to fix hard water buildup in pipes? 

Most of the buildup tends to be calcium carbonate which creates a hard surrounding inside the pipe once dry. Calcium carbonate is a base and the way a base can be dissolved by neutralization reaction. 

Therefore, to fix the buildups in line, we need to use anything that is acidic.


5-10 percent aqueous solution of acetic acid is vinegar. Hence, it is a diluted acid and has the ability to break or dissolve the lime scale without harming the pipelines. 

The vinegar reacts with lime to form water and carbon dioxide and dissolves the buildup. One can use baking soda to make the process faster. 

First, pour vinegar and baking soda down the pipe before covering the opening with a rag for 15 minutes. In these fifteen minutes, the vinegar and baking soda will eat away at the buildup after which we can pour boiling hot water.

Strong Acidic Food or Acids:

Strong acidic food items include fruits or vegetables that are more acidic in nature compared to others and that includes but is not limited to lemon, tamarind, and tomato.

The working mechanism of both organic and inorganic acids are the same as vinegar, however, inorganic acids like hydrochloric acid can clean away the buildups faster than organic ones like lime juice or acetic acid. But inorganic acids are strictly advised against.

Chemical Cleaners:

There are many chemical cleaners, also called lime descalers available in the market. However, they are not the most eco-friendly and can cause environmental damage. There are some DIYs on the internet that might be helpful.

How to prevent calcium buildup in pipes? 

Installing a water softener is the best prevention. The steps are below:

Basic knowledge:

Since the appliance will need a steady supply of energy and water to keep the process of ion exchange going one should have basic plumbing knowledge. 

On top of that, different types of piping need different types of tools to work and complete the work.

Select the installation location:

When installing a water softener by ourselves, it’s best to know where to install one since we would rather avoid additional plumbing and make sure the main hard water supply is close to and goes through the water softener first, and then the water heater.

The electrical outlet is also preferable to be inside the same room than another.

Turn off the water lines:

The main water supply and water heater should be turned off before opening all the pipes to empty the pipelines.

Then, remove any additional packaging or installation material from the inside of the salt storage tank after removing the water softener from the packaging.

Connect the outlets properly:

This part is a bit challenging since it involves making the right connections but it will all be written in the manufacturer’s manual and it is a different procedure for different manufacturing brands. 

But the water lines and electrical outlets should be functional and prepared before positioning the softener.

For additional help, in case the manual won’t suffice, there are many helpful videos on the internet and on YouTube to take help from.

Final Thoughts 

To conclude, hard water gains its name from minerals that cause a certain harshness to come over because of their tendency to precipitate and cause problems in plumbing. The best way to fix it is to install a water softener or conditioning system but DIYs help too.