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White Particles


The Water Utilities Department receives calls from customers showerhead_smconcerning white particles or things that look like white pieces of paper clogging plumbing fixtures. These are most probably one of two things:

  1. They may be bits of calcium carbonate scale coming from your water heater. The scaling may be worsened because the water heater thermostat is too high. Most manufacturers recommend setting it at about 120°F.  If the particles are calcium carbonate, you probably need to flush your water heater.  Most manufacturers recommend that you do this twice per year.
  1. They may be pieces of plastic from the dip tube in your water heater. The dip tube takes the cold water from the supply at the top of the tank down to the bottom of the tank to be heated. Some dip tubes were made of inferior plastic. The staff at the lab can help you determine whether it is scale or plastic.


Here are some tips for flushing your water heater:

  1. Turn off the power or gas to the heater.
  2. Close the cold water supply valve.  It’s usually located at the top of the unit.
  3. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank.  Run the hose somewhere that you can drain the water (it may be hot at first).
  4. Open the drain valve to discharge the water inside the tank.  It will probably have some particles in it.
  5. After the tank is empty, close the drain valve and open the cold water supply valve.  Turn on the power or gas.