The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:11 PM
BrandonR BrandonR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Floating white particles in my tap water

My tap water seems to have some kind of white particles suspended in it. When I pour a glass of water (that has passed through a Brita filter as well), the white particles seem to settle near the bottom of the glass (but tend to float just above the bottom of the glass). They kind of look like flecks of undissolved kosher salt. What could they be? My apartment building is quite old (built in the 1920s) so I assume the plumbing is pretty old as well (if that helps identify anything).

Google search has turned up a few possible sources, including calcium. Is there any way to check?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:13 PM
pan1 pan1 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
A couple years back there were people in NW Omaha with similar issues with their water.

Seems someone had misrouted a sewage line into the water main in that area and the white particles - toilet paper.

Not kidding.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:15 PM
Picard Kills Kirk Picard Kills Kirk is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Does it only happen for cold water or hot water, or both? When I run hot water, I always seem to get cloudy looking water that turns clear shortly after. My water doesn't have particles suspended in it though.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:18 PM
BrandonR BrandonR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
I also forgot to mention, the particles only seem to appear when I use ice cubes so I assume they are indeed coming from the ice. Although I use the Brita filter for my ice cubes too.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:27 PM
lieu lieu is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,571
I'm not sure how a Brita works. Do you need to replace the filtering mechanism/medium from time to time?

If you're using Brita water for ice can we assume you're making it with aluminum or plastic trays and don't have an icemaker? These trays, do you run them through the dishwasher? Could there be detergent or some other residual left on them?

Is there a water softener somewhere in the supply line?

Last edited by lieu; 11-13-2009 at 01:29 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:37 PM
TroutMan TroutMan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandonR View Post
I also forgot to mention, the particles only seem to appear when I use ice cubes so I assume they are indeed coming from the ice. Although I use the Brita filter for my ice cubes too.
I'd guess it's based on the temperature, not specifically from the ice (unless your ice maker is sloughing off plastic or something). My first guess would have been calcium carbonate, but that is actually more soluble at lower temperatures. But it's probably some salt coming out of solution. Do you have particularly hard water? Assuming you are on a city water system, they probably provide yearly reports on the water quality, and you could check the total dissolved solids level.

Try heating some water with the particles and see if they disappear - that suggests they are some kind of salt. If there's no change, then it might be something like plastic (or god forbid toilet paper) contaminating your water.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-13-2009, 01:44 PM
BrandonR BrandonR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by lieu View Post
I'm not sure how a Brita works. Do you need to replace the filtering mechanism/medium from time to time?
I believe it's just a carbon filter that does get replaced from time to time. I'm using plastic ice trays and generally I just clean them by soaking them in bleach and rinsing them thoroughly every so often. No clue what kind of water conditioning goes into the building.

I live in Indianapolis so here seems to be the latest report: http://www.indianapoliswater.com/ass...IW_CCR_Web.pdf Of course deciphering it is another thing.

Regarding it seeming to come from ice, I did come across this possible answer: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...7121642AAxly8N

And I will flip out if I've been drinking toilet paper water.

Last edited by BrandonR; 11-13-2009 at 01:46 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:02 PM
TroutMan TroutMan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
From that report you linked to:
Quote:
As is common with water in this region, IW water is considered hard due to the natural levels of the minerals calcium and magnesium.
I'm guessing that's the cause.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:05 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tysons Corner, VA, USA
Posts: 9,470
In our house we had a defective dip tube in our water heater (and were part of a class action lawsuit to resolve). It failed prematurely, depositing a plethora of tiny bits of white plastic into our water supply. It sounds like what you describe but I can't imagine how it would get through a water filter.

You can also check other faucets to see if it is there. Unscrew the aereator from the faucet and see if the screen is trapping the same little bits you see in your glass. This stuff can also mess up valves.

If you rent your landlord needs to take care of this.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:07 PM
BrandonR BrandonR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Cool. I'll try to heat some water tonight to see if the particles disappear. If they do, does it pretty much mean I'm safe?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:07 PM
Dolores Reborn Dolores Reborn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Houston
Posts: 13,844
We have that, too, and we have very hard water in Houston. I think it's some kind of mineral (or maybe salt.) If you leave some melted ice out until it all evaporates, there will be a residue in the bottom of the glass. I've been drinking it for years, and I ain't dead yet!

Last edited by Dolores Reborn; 11-13-2009 at 02:08 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:10 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
I have the same mineral problem with the ice cubes. You can even see it on the ice cubes if they have been in the tray a couple days. I just leave the last half inch of ice water in the glass, not that it would be dangerous to drink.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 11-13-2009, 02:15 PM
TroutMan TroutMan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandonR View Post
Cool. I'll try to heat some water tonight to see if the particles disappear. If they do, does it pretty much mean I'm safe?
It means it's very likely just the hardness of the water. Hard water is not considered a health threat, and in fact is thought to contribute necessary calcium and magnesium to the diet. Don't sweat it.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11-13-2009, 03:31 PM
Waterman Waterman is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Richland
Posts: 841
Based on the water analysis of the City of Indianapolis water supply my first guess would be calcium carbonate (a previous poster had incorrectly stated the solubility relationship as the carbonate is ~1/2 as soluble at 20 degrees C as it is at 100 degrees C). I can't be certain since 1) calcium is one of two metals measured by hardness (magnesium being the other) and the actual concentrations of calcium and magnesium cannot be determined unless one of these metals is measured separately and 2) carbonate concentration could be estimated by both alkalinity (not reported) and pH. The data does show that your water would be classified as relatively hard. It may also be possible that your aparatment has a water softener and the white crystals that you are observing could be sodium chloride (which is also much less soluble at lower temperatures) since the calcium/magnesium is replaced with sodium and carbonate/sulfate replaced with chloride in the softener. In any case, I would agree that the phenomenon that you are observing is caused by the decrease in temperature associated with adding the ice cubes. BTW, neither calcium carbonate or sodium chloride (obviously) would pose any toxicity related issues.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 11-13-2009, 03:35 PM
BrandonR BrandonR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Well I would have to say your username just oozes authority on the topic. Thanks.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 11-13-2009, 03:37 PM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Yep, we had the same problem when our water softener wasn't activated. Since we turned it on, the floaties have gone away.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 11-13-2009, 05:34 PM
TroutMan TroutMan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterman View Post
...the carbonate is ~1/2 as soluble at 20 degrees C as it is at 100 degrees C
Waterman, can you point me toward a link for a solubility chart? I've always heard calcium carbonate is less soluble at higher temperatures, and there are scattered links that say that without backup(here, here and here, for example).

Are we talking about different compounds, or am I reading something wrong?
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 11-13-2009, 06:43 PM
Claude Remains Claude Remains is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Fish jizz.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 11-14-2009, 12:08 AM
Waterman Waterman is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Richland
Posts: 841
Quote:
Originally Posted by TroutMan View Post
Waterman, can you point me toward a link for a solubility chart? I've always heard calcium carbonate is less soluble at higher temperatures, and there are scattered links that say that without backup(here, here and here, for example).

Are we talking about different compounds, or am I reading something wrong?
Lange's Handbook of Chemistry:

http://www.amazon.com/Langes-Handboo...8178623&sr=1-1

and the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics:

http://www.amazon.com/CRC-Handbook-C...8178524&sr=1-1

I think you may be confusing calcium carbonate (which has a more normal solubility curve where solubility increases with temperature) with calcium sulfate. Calcium carbonate is sometimes referred to as "soft scale" and the sulfate is "hard scale". The sulfate is the normal scale associated with hot water heaters, etc.

Hope this helps!
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:43 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.