The acid test for descal­ing boat toi­lets

Practical Boat Owner - - Letters - Roy Hig­gins, by email

Re­fer­ring to Chris Mar­don’s sug­ges­tions (‘Scale back on out­let pipes’, PBO Au­gust), I believe that there is a far eas­ier and more cer­tain way of descal­ing a toi­let sys­tem.

While in Gi­bral­tar 20 years ago, our Blakes toi­let was truly furred up. The out­let loop was in 38mm cop­per pipe (the boat was built in 1964), and I had dis­man­tled it and laid it and the Blakes pump out on the quay­side. While I fu­tilely at­tempted to rid it of scale, a Swedish sailor pass­ing by told me to go and get some ‘Aqua Fuerte’, which turned out to be a 25% so­lu­tion of hy­drochlo­ric acid, with which I was not too keen to fill my toi­let. It could be bought off the shelf in Spain in those days, ready-di­luted.

How­ever, be­ing per­suaded that it would do no harm,

I went ahead and filled the out­let loop (propped up in a ‘U’ shape). After sev­eral hours this was emp­tied and, lo and be­hold, it was as clean as new. I re­assem­bled the sys­tem and then filled the toi­let bowl with Aqua Fuerte, and drew it into the pump. After an hour or so I pumped in sea­wa­ter to flush out the pump, and again, this was like new. The acid cleans out valves etc that me­chan­i­cal descal­ing could not touch.

Since then we have used 25% hy­drochlo­ric acid on sev­eral sys­tems, with ex­cel­lent re­sults. Warn­ing: do not spill onto stain­less steel, as it will mark (but not dam­age). The job can be car­ried out with the sys­tem in situ, but the out­let pipe must be emp­tied of wa­ter to al­low the acid to fill. This is eas­ier dur­ing a lift-out, but do catch the ef­flu­ent when emp­ty­ing fi­nally. Twenty-five per cent hy­drochlo­ric is not dan­ger­ous with sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions (gog­gles, rub­ber gloves, etc), but im­por­tantly, do add the acid to wa­ter – NOT wa­ter to acid, as this can cause a vi­o­lent re­ac­tion.

Hope this may be of help to some­one in toi­let dis­tress.

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