Answer to Question #214852 in Inorganic Chemistry for Kelvin

Question #214852

You have gotten a call from one of the tenants of your rental house. He stated that some of the following parts needed immediate maintenance and pictures of those parts were attached as follows. Discuss the factors that cause limescale effect to occur and state the appropriate treatment method used to eliminate the effect.

Expert's answer

Limescale is a hard chalky deposit, consisting mainly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), that often builds up inside kettles, hot water boilers, and pipework, especially that for hot water. It is also often found as a similar deposit on the inner surfaces of old pipes and other surfaces where "hard water" has evaporated.

The color varies from off-white through a range of greys and pink or reddish browns, depending on the other minerals present. Iron compounds give the reddish-browns.

In addition to being unsightly and hard to clean, limescale can seriously damage or impair the operation of various plumbing and heating components.[1] Descaling agents are commonly used to remove limescale. Prevention of fouling by scale build-up relies on the technologies of water softening.


Limescale is caused by a build-up of calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water. This hard water is formed when rainwater filters through rocks like chalk and limescale, picking up hard minerals along the way. Areas which have hard water will use this to boil in their kettle, where it can then cause issues with both the device and the taste of water. You can check if your area has hard water through our postcode tool.

Limescale can float in the water as users attempt to dislodge the chalky residue, leaving damage to the kettle and bits in any water boiled. Buying a filtered kettle can prevent limescale from entering any drinks but will not stop build up. To stop this hard water build-up in kettles, preventative methods are required as listed below.


Preventing limescale and descaling your kettle are two entirely separate activities. If you wish to descale your kettle once it has limescale, you can do so by cleaning it. When it comes to preventing limescale before it arises, there are both short and long term methods available to tackle this. The short term method of maintenance is partly effective and the long term method of a water softener entirely effective. To prevent limescale from building up in your kettle, it requires regular maintenance. Leaving water in the kettle after use will encourage limescale to build up, therefore we would discourage this entirely. After using it, we recommend rinsing and drying the kettle thoroughly each time to prevent any hard water from drying. Completely avoiding limescale in your kettle can be achieved through a water softener. This convenient solution removes the magnesium and calcium present in the water supply, turning it into softened water. This reduces build-up in kettles since soft water does not cause limescale. It also improves the taste of water compared to hard water which often presents an off-metal taste. Installing a water softener will extend the life of your kitchen appliances since kettles, taps and boilers all suffer from limescale. By improving their efficiency, you can, therefore, save money by reducing the amount of energy your appliances require to work.

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