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How to do a vinegar flush on your water ionizer

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The #1 cause of water ionizer failure is scale buildup within the machine. Scale buildup occurs when the source water that is feeding the ionizer has an excessive amount of calcium (hard water), and that calcium begins to collect on the interior surface of the ionizer electrolysis plating and tubing.  Although hard water is most associated with those folks who are on well-water (with wells that are over 300 feet deep), it can definitely be an issue even for those on city/municipally supplied tap water.

Doing a vinegar flush periodically on your water ionizer will help to keep your ionizer running smoothly, and will help prolong its useful life.  It is fairly simple for anyone to do, and doesn't require you to have a lot of technical knowledge. This article will describe how to properly do a vinegar flush, and the instructions are very simple to follow.

Signs Of Hard Water
Generally, those who have hard water usually already know it.  But, for those of you who are not familiar with the symptoms of hard water, here are some signs to look for:

  • Spots and white residue appear on glasses and dishes that don't wash off
  • White crusty buildup on shower heads and tips of faucets
  • Washing machines that use hard water tend to make your clothes feel stiffer, scratchy, wear out faster and leave clothes looking less vibrant because of damages to the fibers in the clothing
  • Noticeable shower scum on glass doors, bathroom tiles and a ring around your bathtub
  • Dry itchy skin, rough and dry hair
  • Difficulty in forming lather with soap while bathing or performing ordinary household washing chores

Time To Do A Vinegar Flush
Here are some of the signs that will tell you that its time to do a vinegar flush on your water ionizer:

  • The tip of your stainless steel hose has a white flaky buildup
  • The water flow from your ionizer has slowed down dramatically since you first installed it, and changing your filter does not fix the problem
  • When your machine is set to an alkaline setting, water from your top spout is extremely slow while there seems to be a larger than normal volume of water coming from your acidic bottom hose
  • The highest pH setting on your machine is now much lower than it used to be (e.g. you used to get a top pH of 10.5, but now can only get an 8 or so at the top setting)
Fountain Pump by Total Pond

What You'll Need
To do a proper vinegar flush, you'll need the following:

  1. A gallon of plain white vinegar
  2. A gallon container (a small bucket or large Tupperware container)
  3. An old/expired replacement ionizer filter that you are no longer using, or about to throw away and replace with a new one.  The flushing process will destroy the filter, so you want to be sure you have a new filter ready to go.
  4. A fountain pump* with a minimum output of 140 GPH**
  5. Depending on your ionizer's hose size, you may require a hose connector to help connect your ionizer water inlet hose to the fountain pump
  6. Your water ionizer (of course)

*You can get a good fountain pump from Home Depot made by a company called "Total Pond."  Here is the fountain pump that we use to do a vinegar flush -->
** You don't want to use a pump that puts out more than 300 GPH, or less than 140 GPH

First, Identify Your Water Ionizer Type
The first thing you'll want to take note of is the type of water ionizer that you have. For the purposes of a vinegar flush there are 3 types of water ionizers that we are concerned with:

  1. An ionizer that has a direct flow-through.  This type of ionizer will pass water through it when the water flow is present, without the need to press any "on" button, or without having to open any on-board valve.  When doing a vinegar flush, you should unplug the unit from the wall so that you don't accidentally turn on the machine when the vinegar is going through it.  The vinegar coming from the pump will simply pass through the machine without you having to do anything, or without having to turn on the unit.
  2. An ionizer that has an on-board valve.  Ionizers that have an on-board valve (i.e. Melody, Venus, Athena, etc) must have the valve in the completely open position before attempting to pump vinegar through the unit.  Simply turn your valve to the open position, and then unplug the unit.  With the valve in the open position, vinegar will pass through the machine without requiring the unit to be powered on or plugged in.
  3. An ionizer that requires you to press a power button in order to turn the unit on.   For water ionizers that require you to press a power button in order to turn the unit on, and to allow for water to pass through the machine (i.e. Neptune, Orion, Aquarius, Delphi, etc), you will need to have the unit plugged in, and you MUST set the ionizer to "Purify Only" mode.  Setting your ionizer to "Purify Only" will ensure that no voltage is being applied within electrolysis chamber, while still allowing the vinegar to pass through the machine. PLEASE NOTE: Running vinegar through your water ionizer while the unit is on and is not set to Purify Only mode can damage the electrolysis plating system!

The best place to clean your machine is either on your counter-top, near the sink (so you can easily clean up any spills), or perhaps in your garage or on a back patio (where it doesn't matter if you spill some of the vinegar).

  1. Disconnect the ionizer's water inlet hose from the faucet diverter (or from wherever it is receiving water).
  2. Attach the water inlet hose to the pump's output connector.  You may require a hose adapter to properly connect the hose to the pump, depending on what size hose you have, and what size connector the pump has.
  3. Fill your container with a half-gallon of the plain white vinegar
  4. Position the container with the vinegar next to your water ionizer.
  5. Place the fountain pump into the container of vinegar.  Make sure that the pump is completely submerged in the vinegar.  The pump is going to be pumping the vinegar from the container into your ionizer, so you want to make sure there is plenty of vinegar so that when the ionizer fills with vinegar, the container still has enough vinegar to keep the pump submerged.
  6. Place the old, expired filter in your ionizer.  If you are doing the flush with a filter that you are going to be changing anyway, make sure you have a new filter ready to go after the process is finished.
  7. Place the acid waste hose (the hose that comes out of the bottom of the ionizer) into the container of vinegar so that the stream coming from the acid hose goes back into the container.
  8. Point your stainless steel hose into the container so that the vinegar that comes from the top spout goes back into the container.
  9. Plug in the pump and begin pumping vinegar into your ionizer. After a minute or two you should begin to see the vinegar coming out very slowly from the alkaline spout, the acidic hose, or both.  Both streams should be going back into the container so the the vinegar is recirculating.
  10. Let the pump run for about 30 minutes, being sure to keep an eye on the level of vinegar that is remaining in the container.  Remember, you want to have enough vinegar in the container to keep the pump completely submerged at all times.
  11. After 30 minutes, unplug the pump to stop the vinegar from going into your ionizer.
  12. Disconnect the water inlet hose from the pump, and then reattach the water inlet hose back to the faucet diverter, or from wherever it was receiving its incoming water supply.
  13. Run water through your ionizer the way you normally would, for about 3 minutes, to allow all of the vinegar to flush out of your machine.
  14. Remove the filter and replace with a new filter.  Discard the filter you used for the vinegar flush, as it is no longer usable.
  15. If all went well, all of the previous symptoms of scale build-up will be gone and your ionizer should be running like new again.  Yay!

Final Notes

  1. When you first turn the pump on you may experience a delay of several minutes before anything begins to come out of the ionizer. This occurs when the pump has the minimum gallon per hour setting, and it takes some time for the vinegar to pass through the filter, and the rest of the ionizer.  It can also be caused by the ionizer being completely stopped up, and may require some time for the vinegar to eat away at the scale buildup.
  2. Using the suggested pump above, the vinegar may come out of your ionizer REALLY slowly (almost a drizzle).  This is normal, expected and preferred... as this will allow plenty of contact time for the vinegar to make with the scale deposits.
  3. You may also notice that the vinegar is slowly coming out of only one of the two outputs (the top stainless steel hose or the bottom acidic hose).  Again, this is quite normal during a vinegar flush, with a slow moving flow through the ionizer.
  4. If after you do the vinegar flush you are still experiencing either one or all of the above listed symptoms, there may be other problems occurring with your ionizer, and you may need to send it back to the manufacturer for repair.  Call the technical service department of your ionizer manufacturer for more details.

If you have any other questions that are not covered in this article, you can certainly give us a call at (877) 356-2508.  We're happy to help!

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