White or tan/sand-like particles that settle in the water usually come from internal plumbing. This material is pipe scale and is a combination of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Calcium and magnesium carbonates are naturally occurring minerals and are not a health hazard. Over time, these minerals can deposit on the inside of your pipes and then begin to flake off.
There are three common conditions that can cause scale to flake off pipes more rapidly:
- Shutting off water for repair work can cause pressure and turbulence when it is turned back on which can dislodge minerals from pipes.
- Water softener installation can cause minerals to re-dissolve from the pipes. Additionally, pieces may begin to break loose
- Galvanized iron pipes corrode over time and will gradually swell up on the inside causing the minerals to flake off.
Pipe scale can clog washing machine screens, shower heads, and faucet aerators. There is no practical way to remove pipe scale from the inside of your pipes. If the problem is severe, you may want to consider replumbing.
Back to Troubleshoot Water at Your Tap
White or tan/sand-like particles in hot water. The water heater is another source for white or tan particles. As the water is heated, calcium and magnesium carbonates precipitate out of the water, forming white or tan sand-like deposits. As you use the hot water, these minerals can be carried along clogging washing machine screens, shower heads, and faucet aerators. To keep mineral deposits from accumulating in the water heater, flush your water heater at least once a year. Flushing regularly also extends the life of the heater and makes it operate more fuel efficiently.
White particles in hot water that float. Floating white particles can be caused by the disintegration of the dip tube in your water heater. The plastic dip tube, directs the cold incoming water to the bottom of the tank. As the tube gets old, it can disintegrate, sending white particles into the hot water. These particles can be found in faucet screens and sinks or basins where screens are not installed. These particles are brittle and vary in size from small irregular pebbles to longer shards. Contact the manufacturer or vendor for advice on how best to repair the water heater.
White or tan small round beads/resin. Defective screens in ion exchange water softeners can release resin beads that look like small balls in the water. The beads will be uniform in size and are the size of fish eggs. The resin can be brown, orange, or translucent and can sometimes be mistaken for sand. Call your service agent for repairs.