Beware of Vinegar - The Pump Killer

Heabel7

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Not mp40, but, I Had two Jebaos fail me after vinegar soak and clean pp-8. My third has never been in vinegar and has been going strong. The jebaos that did go in vinegar showed obvious degradation on the wires and rubber coming out of the pump. Multi hour soak.
 

Zfishman

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Simply Green are consumer surface cleaners and believe that they wouldn't have sufficient "acid" to dissolve calcifications in a reasonable amount of time. Citric acid is cheap....approximately $15 for five pounds on ebay, which should last a long time at a dilution of 1 cup to a gallon of water.....certainly cheaper than Simply Green.
I have posted bits and piece of my vinegar story over the past three years, and I thought it would be beneficial if one post contained all that I've learn. You'll be surprised! This story will contain three parts; my history with vinegar, the cause and simplified chemistry what's happening; and the solution to cleaning your pumps without fear of swelling magnets.


MY STORY

I've been using MP's for many years, and as a good boy, cleaned the wetsides in vinegar (aka, acetic acid) to make them look good and function correctly. I had a very simple way of doing this by immersing the entire wetside in straight vinegar over night and then rinsing and putting back into service.

Cleaning MP40 in Container.jpg



If anyone is interested, this small plastic container that perfectly fits an MP40 wetside is a one pint talenti ice cream (gelato) container....an overpriced ice cream my wife enjoys....too many times!
Talenti.jpg


About three and a half years ago I found one of my MP40 wetsides slowly spinning. To be crystal clear, the entire wetside...cage and all, was spinning. When I pulled it out I found the magnet had swelled and was binding to the body of the powerhead, causing the entire thing to spin.

1567041664548.png



I wasn't a happy camper, but over the next couple months, two more were found with swollen magnets (plastic case either swollen and/or cracked), and now also not functioning.

1567041726890.png


1567041764829.png



Now this isn't just an MP thing. In retrospect, I had four Koralia Evolution powerheads before switching over to MP's. All four were dead in the water within a year of purchasing new. Two with obvious swollen magnetic portions of the impeller shaft, and two that I couldn't even get the impellers out of the body of the powerhead because they were swollen and stuck within the body. Note that these powerheads were also regularly cleaned in vinegar.

So I have a confession...."Bless me Father for I have sinned"....my wife didn't know what I paid for all the MP's I have...and now I need to go out and drop another $225 for three wetsides. I wasn't happy!!! Note, if I die, my wife will be selling MP40's for about $20 - $25, half of what I supposedly paid.

To finish this story, I later had three MP10's do the same thing. My wife will be selling these for $15 - $20 a piece. Now I know, with six MP's with new wetsides, you're all waiting for me to die!


WHY IMPLICATE VINEGAR

So I was puzzled why my overpriced MP's crapped out, and about six months after loosing my first MP, I came across a post by @Randy Holmes-Farley in which he posted:

"I think the effect on plastic may be worse with vinegar than muriatic acid but it may depend on the plastic.

Vinegar can be in the form of acetic acid and that neutral molecule can enter plastic. Diluted muriatic acid won't have any neutral acidic molecules in it to enter plastic, so just exposes the outermost leading edge of plastic. So while the muriatic acid after dilution is a much stronger acid, i would not assume it is worse on plastics."



This made perfect sense! To clarify, charged molecules won't penetrate plastic, but neutral small molecules will. I will repeat that saying it differently....ionic molecules will react at the surface while small neutral molecules will potentially penetrate that material.

If we look at acids in aqueous solution, they dissociate into ions, which is commonly shown as:

HA(aq) + H2O(l) ⇌ H3O+(aq) + A−(aq)

where HA is the acid. Note that the left side is "neutral" while the right side of the reaction contains "charged" molecules (ions). Specifically, for acetic acid (vinegar), this dissocation looks like this:

CH3COOH + H20 ⇌ H3O+ + CH3COO-

Now here's the kicker....some acids dissociate easily and readily while others dissociate very poorly. In the case of acetic acid, it dissociates very poorly, with the majority still in the neutral CH3COOH configuration. To repeat what I said above, charged ions do not penetrate, while small neutral molecules can.

So what is happening when you clean your parts in vinegar, is that it being neutral, has the abililty to penetrate the plastic and, if within the plastic is metal, cause it to oxidize (rust), and swell. Now this doesn't happen over night, or by one cleaning, but happens over time....months, maybe years, but it will happen. In addition, the type of plastic could impact how quickly (or slowly) the acid penetrates.

Don't get me wrong, vinegar is still great for cleaning tanks and pure plastic parts, but I'd avoid it with metal parts encased in plastic (impellers and pumps.) If the cages alone need to be cleaned of coraline, I'd still consider cages only to be soaked in vinegar. But plastic encased magnets...NO, NO, NO!


IF I CAN'T USE VINEGAR, WHAT AM I TO DO

So what can you use to clean your powerheads and pumps that won't potentially cause the magnets to rust and swell and ruin your pumps? We need to find acids that dissociate completely and/or are too large to penetrate the plastic.

Well there just happens to be two readily available acids available that are reasonably price, and in my opinion, with one, clean better (faster) than vinegar. These two acids are Muriatic Acid and Citric Acid.

Muriatic acid (dilute hydrochloric acid) is available at HD and pool stores (and I'm sure other places as well.) One note with muriatic acid, it is hydrochloric acid and needs to be handled with care. It will burn you, cause for holes in your cloths, and is dangerous. So wear rubber gloves, eye protection and be careful.

For cleaning tank parts, I'd recommend dilution 1 to 10. Even at this dilution, it will clean pumps and whatever, much faster than vinegar. You'll actually see the calcification fizz off the equipment.

The other acid that is pump safe is citric acid. You can find five pounds on ebay for a reasonable amount of money....a life time supply. Here you want to dilute about 1 cup to a gallon of water. Throw your pumps into this solution and allow to sit over night and you should find a cleaned pump


CONCLUSION

Vinegar, being a neutral acid, will penetrate plastics. If metal is encased in this plastic, it will find it's way and cause that metal to rust and swell. To avoid this, use other acids, such as muriatic acid or citratic acid to clean your pumps...and have them last forever!
Thanks for the info. I was wondering about if CLR would work cause I know it fizzes but not sure what in the product.
 

Admann

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I have 2 Maxspect XF230s in continuous service since Jan 2018. I have used citric acid exclusively. They have only been turned off enough to pull one from the tank and drop in a bucket with my solution, then rinse and repeat with the other. Never disassembled, no parts changed.
We used citric acid offshore for vessel and pipe cleaning as part of a process to prepare them internally for use. Two reasons, safer, more environmentally friendly. Personal reasons to use it, doesn't stink, works and is very safe.
Protect your eyes, my skin has never been affected by it. They make bath bombs out of this stuff for crying out loud.
Bulk Apothecary, cheapest I have found for the citric acid.
 

robbyg

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I have to thank the OP because I never made the connection before, but now that he posted it I know Vinegar was what killed my MP-40 and Sedra 5000 impeller.

JUST ONE QUESTION: Has anybody used Citric acid over a period of years to confirm that it does not have the same effect, maybe just delayed longer? I went and bought a pound of citric acid but I would like to be sure before I start using it.
 

Shooter6

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I see the post for royal exclusive, one of the recommended cleaners is phosphoric acid, which is what clr cleaner is. Does the original poster know what this acid does to the plastic, is it a high neutral acid?
 

Shooter6

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The details about phosphoric acid is above my knowledge. I use it to kill rust and remove it from old cars. It does leave coating on the metal that will resist rusting. Phosphate. But it doesnt harm the rubbers or plastics it gets on. Another chemical we use is pure molasses. But it will cause flash rusting on metal the second its rinsed off.
 
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Shooter6

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Thanks for the info. I was wondering about if CLR would work cause I know it fizzes but not sure what in the product.
Clr is diluted phosphoric acid. Someone posted about royal exclusive pumps, care and cleaning states phosphoric acid is an approved cleaner. You can buy concentrated phosphoric acid at hm depot/lowes for about 15.00 a gallon.
Brand is kleen, product name is metal prep. It used to be a green liquid in an opaque jug now its blue in the same jug.
 

Jeeperz

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I just wanted to say, if you use hydrochloric acid or phosphoric acid, keep lots of baking soda on hand. Please neutralize it after use. And keep some baking soda paste on hand to cover the burns you can get if either acid gets on your skin. I've played with buckets of this stuff to remove rust from my inside boat exhaust. Use it outside. Be very careful. Don't store it in your house or garage. It can eat the rebar in your foundation. I would never use it to remove rust from cars(anymore) you can never truly neutralize it enough to keep it from attacking the paint, even if you dip the whole car in liquid baking soda. I spent many, many years doing full restorations.

Just be cautious and keep baking soda near by, thank you.
 
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spllbnd2

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So I'm assuming we can keep premade citric acid solution in regular gallon jugs (ie there isn't a plastic we should avoid)?

You can keep the premade solution in glass or heavy plastic jars for extended periods. Keep out of sunlight in cool dry and dark area, such as a cabinet or cupboard.
 

spllbnd2

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Came here to ask the same thing. In my gyres, it's all plastic, no magnets and a bearing at the end which is just a rubber bushing with a ceramic center piece. Would these be safe to continue cleaning with vinegar?

All the gyres I have seen utilize a suspension magnet mount. Unless it is hung from the rim of the tank, I would say yours probably has magnets encased in plastic.
 

mattzang

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i stumbled upon this thread just before i was going to do a cleaning of several pumps. sometimes being lazy and not cleaning stuff works out well!

i totally did my skimmer, icecap 1k, and a couple of powerheads a few months ago in a diluted vinegar mix tho :(
 

CelticReef

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With all the vinegar related magnet issues I still wonder why Ecotech has not come out with a solution that is safe to clean the pumps in maybe they like selling wet sides who knows but I use peroxide and a stiff brush to clean equipment and pumps but I do not own any ecotechs.
 

CavalierReef

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Great information! Thank you for sharing with those of us who may be chemistry challenged. However, I do disagree with one of your statements. Talenti IS NOT overpriced. Have you tried the salted caramel?
 
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