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Do Limescale Inhibitors Work

Without a thorough search, you may end up with a fake limescale inhibitor, given the many imitations hitting the market today. Cheap limescale inhibitors lack the characteristics available on high-end models.

Getting an inhibitor with a 50% or worse efficiency won't offer you the results you want. While you can do okay with a cheap inhibitor in a slightly hard water area, you need a better limescale inhibitor in areas with very hard water.

In short, the characteristics of a limescale inhibitor determine how excellently it can prevent limescale deposition.

What Are Limescale Inhibitors?

These are chemical agents that prevent the deposition of lime when water gets heated. Scale inhibitors minimize damage to devices like your water pipe, kettle, boilers, showers, tanks, and washing machines. Moreover, it eases the cleaning process. However, a limescale inhibitor does not physically eliminate calcium in hard water.

How Long Does a Limescale Inhibitor Last?

The lifespan of limescale inhibitors depends on various factors. For one, these inhibitors come with different manufacturer-recommended lasting durations. Some can serve you for ten years. Others last for half that time, some two years, while some only stay one year.

Beyond these recommendations, the hard water area you stay in significantly impacts the effectiveness of limescale inhibitors.

Typically, water hardness gets measured based on the concentration of metals like magnesium and calcium. For instance, if you get supplied with excessively hard water [180 mg/L], you will need to change your inhibitors more often than someone in an area with soft water. And soft water is usually from zero to 60 mg/L.

How Long Do Electrolytic Scale Inhibitors Last?

Like magnetic inhibitors, electrolytic inhibitors also come with lifespan ratings that can last up to 10 years. Additionally, they operate without requiring batteries, salt, electricity, and magnets.

Electrolytic Scale Inhibitor


How Do Limescale Reducers Work?

Limescale reducers function by changing limescale makeup. And the altered makeup ensures the limescale doesn't easily attach to the walls of your pipe, boilers, washing machines, and other equipment. In effect, these reducers lower the level of deposits in these appliances. This way, they improve the water flow rate and enhances the longevity of appliances.

Magnetic reducers change the shape of Calcium crystals from irregular to regular. As a result, the crystals pass through water without sticking to the appliance's surface.

It is imperative to replace your limescale reducer once its recommended working duration elapses to maintain high efficiency.

Another important detail to check is the WRAS approval (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme). Failure to have this approval may void your manufacturer's warranty.

Once the water moves far enough from the physical limescale inhibitor, the calcium crystals no longer experience the effects. Consequently, the crystals assume their original shape and adhere to your washing machine, dishwasher, tank, and more.

That is why a physical limescale reducer should get positioned before your electric shower, heat exchanger, header tank, or combi boiler to work best.

Can Physical Scale Reducers Soften Water?

Physical limescale inhibitors only temporarily change the molecular structure of Calcium ions (Ca+). However, they do not eliminate water hardness.

The only effective water softening method is by eliminating Ca+ from it and not by changing its structure. All softening agents use ion exchange resins. Additionally, they work by chemical means.

Ion exchange involves three steps:

  • Hard water moving across an ion exchange bed
  • Removal of water-hardening ions
  • Replacement of these ions by non-water hardening ions like sodium

Ion exchange resins consist of many tiny beads with a one to 2 mm diameter. They are typically brown or yellow coloured.

There are many water softeners available. Typically, those used in households consist of a cheap ion exchange resin with limited softening capacity. Moreover, they may not be long-lasting and get easily affected by chlorine.

Chemical Scale Reducers

Another advanced method of limescale prevention is the use of chemical limescale reducers. However, these are typically for industrial settings, and it may be challenging to use some at home.

Chemical treatments adhere to pipework forming a small chemical residue. The residue hinders limestone from precipitating and sticking to the pipework that supplies water to your dishwasher, boiler, or electric showers.

These chemicals must be food grade. You have to replace or refill the cartridges about twice a year.

Chemical reducers do not eliminate hardness. They temporarily alter the structure of water hardening crystals by coating them. Therefore, their effectiveness gets affected if you overdose or a pipe gets clogged.

Amongst the most common chemical reducers is the PolyAcrylate SI-306, applicable in various water-cooling applications. This solution polymer has an extensive salt chelation capacity and enhanced insoluble dispersion abilities. It consists of low molecular weight. This feature makes it suitable for many usages.

Besides removing hard water crystals, the solution polymer offers treatment for potassium, saltwater, and other similar additives. Notably, PolyAcrylate is environmentally non-hazardous. And that is why new descaling solutions created from it are hitting the market.

Magnetic Scale Inhibitors - Do They Work?

Most magnetic inhibitors have a tiny magnetic field closely surrounding the water supply pipe. The idea is that this field leads to molecular changes in calcium salts.

Magnetic inhibitors are typically affordable (though not always), and hitting them is a cinch. Some magnetic types have an overly cheap ceramic magnet. As such, they are not highly effective and need replacement within a short duration. The magnetic field needs to be strong if you expect to have any hope of it working.

That said, there is no scientific evidence proving that magnetic fields guarantee the prevention of scale formation. Still, getting a magnetic inhibitor installed may be essential in abiding by building regulations in your country.

Magnetic Scale Inhibitor


The Best Magnetic Inhibitor: Sentinel Eliminator Vortex 500

If you are considering magnetic scale inhibitors, the Sentinel Eliminator Vortex 500 should be your top pick. This unit comes with a powerful magnetic system. And this allows the device to function excellently with a 10-year guarantee.

Its no-blocking design ensures there is minimal maintenance required. It also includes an anti-tamper drain valve for durability.

The Sentinel Eliminator Vortex 500 has a slim design to ease fitting it to small spaces.

Amongst the most enticing features when looking for limescale inhibitors is a company that provides units with a ten-year guarantee. Besides a sturdy brass valving and automotive-grade construction, the Vortex also includes this guarantee. This way, it offers you the confidence you need to entrust it with the protection of your water supply system.

It also includes a smaller design, the Sentinel Eliminator Vortex 300, suitable for tiny spaces. Both inhibitors have an in-line installation with their T-piece able to rotate in all directions. These attributes further ease the plumbing process.

Maintenance practices during the life of the unit are straightforward. You can simply flush out dirt using the drain valve. And this process takes a few seconds. You also do not need bespoke tools to remove the unit when you need to service it. Additionally, you do not have to replace the seals.

Sentinel Eliminator Vortex 300


Electrolytic Vs. Magnetic Lime Scale Inhibitor - What to Pick and How Do They Operate?

Typically, electrolytic limescale inhibitors go at a higher price than magnetic scale inhibitors. Electrolytic Inhibitors operate by forming an electrolytic current between the internal cathode and anode. This can result in a particular quantity of iron dissolving in water from the internal cathode. The iron particles help deter the limescale particles from coming together to create the fur deposits in appliances.

Magnetic inhibitors use a magnetic field to minimize the effect of hard water on appliances. This way, lime crystals, and salt combine instead of depositing in pipes and other appliances.

When it comes to additional costs upon installation, both are pretty efficient. Neither magnetic nor electrolytic inhibitors need an electrical supply for operation.

Both inhibitors are typically compatible with 22mm, 28mm, or 15mm pipes. You can install them to minimize scale formation in incoming water to each appliance. You can also install the inhibitors on the pipework that supplies water to your entire house instead of each component.

Electrolytic Scale Inhibitor


Limescale Water Inhibitor Vs. Water Softener

You can fight the Ca+ that results in limescale in two methods. The first is temporarily by using a limescale reducer. You can also use a softener that permanently prevents limescale buildup via ion exchange.

Typical limescale water inhibitors have limits towards their extent of softening. On the other hand, water softeners rely on ion exchange to totally eliminate Ca+. Softening may lower soap and washing powder usage by almost half. That said, you'd rather use a limescale reducer than lacking any limescale protection.

Temporary treatment, if improperly conducted, can result in limescale deposition in heat exchangers, central heating systems, and boilers. And this does not lower the effects of soap remains on shower cubicles, toiletries, or kitchen surfaces.

Moreover, a temporary solution will not lower the quantity of detergent used for cleaning since Ca+ is still present in the water.

Silicone Polyphosphate

Silicone Polyphosphate is a popular food-grade material proven to hamper limescale formation. The substance lays down to create a protective deposit on the surfaces of the mains supply piping and prevents calcium deposits.

Given its creation of a protective coating, you can also use it in soft water supply pipework to prevent corrosion. Being a food-grade substance, it is safe to drink and doesn't make much difference to your health. It is also suitable for baby water.

Alternative Water Softener Methods

A water softener replaces Ca+ with salt (sodium) ones. Water softeners cost much money and are pricey to fit. Artificially softened water should not get fed into a potable supply. Doing this may make installation challenging, as you need a supply of drinking water.

Water softener units tend to be bulky and can occupy the entire kitchen cupboard. Moreover, they usually need an electrical supply, continuous salt refilling, and a drainage pipe.

Water softener units are not eco-friendly. They demand continuous back-flushing lots of water after a few days. They also require annual servicing, which also demands a lot of money.

That said, they are highly effective in limescale inhibition.


So, do scale inhibitors work? Some inhibitors work while others do not. The surest method to prevent limescale deposition in your pipes and devices is using silicone polyphosphate or water softeners. Be sure to give us a call at Plumb Guardian if you require any plumbing services.


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