Veridis Plumbing Talk

Removing and Preventing Sink Stains

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Stains are stealth invaders; they creep up on us. Slowly the drain in your sink, depending upon its type, begins to show brown or white traces that become ever darker and more pronounced if left untreated. Or spots appear on your chrome, ceramic and tile.

Worse than annoying, these stains can indicate more serious, unseen problems.

They’re mostly the product of ‘hard water’ and they’re totally preventable.

Hard water (rain is soft) is the presence of calcium, magnesium, lime and iron in drinking water. The microscopic iron particles, upon mixing with oxygen, form iron oxide and cling to the surface of bathtubs and sink. As they build up, they create an orange or brown stain. Or they leave unsightly spots on your faucets and ceramic tiles–they even make your laundry look dingy.

Reddish stains in your toilet bowl are the product of bacteria feeding on the iron in the water. Rust-coloured and blue-green water indicate low Ph or highly acidic water, usually from a high concentration of carbon dioxide. They’re not just unsightly but highly corrosive to galvanized or iron pipes in older homes.

Black stains or suspended black particles in your water, often accompanied by a rotten egg smell, are usually the combination of sulphur and bacteria although they can be caused by the presence of manganese, and can also turn your laundry yellowish. Sulphur-water is a common condition in the Cedar area, for one.

Many water supplies, aquiferous or municipal, in the Cowichan Valley are hard water.

If you think you can simply remove these stains with bleach-based cleansers, you’re wrong. In fact, you’re making the problem worse. But we’ll get to that.

Hot Water Spots and Mineral Buildup on faucets and bathroom surfaces are the result of evaporating water. They become more noticeable and harder to remove the longer you leave them, and can penetrate porous surfaces. Mix vinegar, water, lemon juice and liquid dish detergent (the tougher the stain the less water), apply as a spray and allow to soak 10-15 minutes under a cloth. Then scrub with a cloth or pad and wipe your fixtures with vinegar to seal them (temporarily) against further staining.

Other household cleaning agents are white or cider vinegar, lemon juice and tea.

You’ll slow down the staining process by drying your fixtures after use.

If you really want to know the composition of your household water supply, you can have a sample tested for hardness. If you know your water is very hard you can install a brine-based water softening system. Or, as many do, at least for drinking purposes, buy bottled water.

This, of course, is more costly in the long run.

Stained sinks and discoloured laundry aren’t just annoying, they can also be the tip-offs to unseen damage to your home. As noted, galvanized and iron pipes are subject to corrosion.

Let’s start with prevention: That old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," really does apply here!

Bathtubs and Sinks - Rinse the sink and bathtub after use. Dry with a towel. Don’t drape dish rags or wet laundry over tub or fixtures and don’t leave metal objects (air freshener or shaving cream cans, etc.) in/on the sink or tub.

Ventilation decreases the risk of staining by clearing the bathroom of moisture – and have the bathroom fan on whenever you’re using cleaning agents.

Stainless Steel Sinks - Rinse with clear water and dry after each use. Rub water spots with a clean rag soaked in vinegar or rubbing alcohol. If that doesn’t work, gently rub with a sponge and paste of baking soda and water. Or try a 50-50 mix of salt and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, scrub with cloth or toothbrush. If necessary, do it again.

Dry the sink after every use.

You can also polish SS by buffing it with a plastic dish pad dipped in baby oil.

Granite Sinks - Granite is porous; dry around the faucets so that water can’t pool around them. Seal around the sink and faucet area at least twice a year by gently applying a specially formulated sealer to the granite with a soft cloth. Ensure even distribution by working small areas at a time while keeping the entire stone wet; allow to dry and buff with a towel.

You can tell if it needs resealing by letting the water sit for 15 minutes; if you can see the water is being absorbed into the granite it’s time to reseal.

Utility Sinks - These can be of fibreglass, SS, fireclay and enamelled or cast iron. Start by drying them after use. Fibreglass can be cleaned with a soft nylon brush and a gentle disinfecting cleaner. Rinse and dry.

Prevent stains from forming in acrylic and moulded plastic sinks by wiping dry with a soft clean cloth. Use an all-purpose cleaner to remove grime; don’t use abrasives or aerosol cleaners.

Treat SS sinks as noted above.

Wipe and dry enamelled steel or enamelled iron sinks after using; clean with a mild abrasive.

Ceramic tile - Dry surfaces immediately with a soft towel or squeegee. Prevent splashes by placing mats on exposed floor/shower stall tiles and mop the floor weekly with a ceramic tile cleaner. If spots appear, scrub immediately with a paste of baking soda and vinegar.

Remember - Bleach or bleach-based cleansers contain ingredients that are hazardous to your health and they’re unnecessary when most of the household products listed above are at your fingertips.

If you have hard water check your taps, spigots, faucets, drain rim, pipes for signs of rust, clean it and replace any fittings that indicate serious corrosion.

All of these hazards, and their resulting costs, can be eliminated by installing a water softening treatment system. Veridis Plumbing & Heating will be pleased to advise you as to a system that will best suit your individual needs.