How Salt Water Corrosion Affects Your Plumbing

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If you think your home’s plumbing has been corroded by saltwater, you could be at risk of pipe blockages and leaks, exposure to high levels of heavy metals, and more.

Here, we’ve shared the possible effects of salt water corrosion in your plumbing system.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Salt water corrosion is a possible issue if you live in proximity to salty seawater.
  • Left unchecked, corrosion of your pipes could lead to an expensive plumbing bill.
  • Some of the possible effects of saltwater exposure in your plumbing are reduced flow and pipe blockages, leaks, metallic-tasting water, and a high heavy metals concentration in your water.

🤔 What Types Of Pipes May Be Corroded By Salt Water?

Certain types of materials used in plumbing pipes are more at risk of corrosion than others.

Copper pipes are the most likely to be damaged by corrosion due to salt water exposure. Copper reacts with salt, causing the material’s structure to be altered.

Lead is also vulnerable to corrosion, and if your home has lead pipes, we strongly suggest replacing them as soon as possible due to the known lead health effects.

Cast iron and galvanized steel are less vulnerable to corrosion from saltwater, but they still react if they’re exposed to water with a high salt content.

The most resistant plumbing material is plastic, which has a low likelihood of side effects even if exposed to salt water for a long time.

If you don’t know your plumbing type, take some time to work it out now. This will help you to determine your potential for plumbing problems if you live in an area where saltwater exposure is likely.

Corroded water pipes

🔎 Signs Your Pipes Are Corroded By Salt Water

There are a few signs that your pipes have been corroded by salt water. The exact signs depend on the type of pipe material:

  • Copper pipes – Greenish-blue water, flaking or peeling pipes, eventually leading to bursts and cracks.
  • Steel or iron pipes: Reddish-brown water, especially if water is left to sit in a glass or a pot, and flaking/rusting of pipes.

In most cases, discolored water is a major sign of corrosion in your piping caused by saltwater. However, if you have lead pipes that have corroded, you won’t notice a change to your water, since lead is an invisible heavy metal.

Note: Saltwater isn’t the only cause of corrosion – low pH and high levels of dissolved oxygen (two common groundwater parameters) are also to blame. Plus, you shouldn’t wait to see these signs to know for certain that your pipes have been affected by corrosion. Sometimes you won’t notice any signs at all, which is why regular inspections are important if you live in an area that’s susceptible to saltwater exposure.

📈 Effects Of Salt Water Corrosion

Here are some of the effects of salt water corrosion in your home’s plumbing system.

Bitter Or Metallic-Tasting Water

If your metal pipes start to corrode due to exposure to salt water, some of the metals will leach into your water, giving your water a bitter or metallic taste.

You may also notice that your water has an unusual smell that’s caused by its increased metals concentration.

Bitter or metallic tasting water

Reduced Water Flow & Clogged Pipes

Corrosion causes particles of rust and metals to build up in piping, narrowing their diameter and reducing water flow.

Over time, this buildup could eventually lead to a complete blockage, especially in pipes that don’t carry water at a high pressure, like drainpipes.

Increased Likelihood Of Leaks

The clogging of pipes caused by saltwater corrosion could result in a buildup of pressure, eventually leading to a burst.

Saltwater corrosion could also increase the likelihood of pinhole leaks if the water is given enough time to wear through the metal.

Leaking pipe caused by salt water corrosion

Potential Health Effects

There are a few potential health effects of drinking water from a corroded plumbing system.

The water will contain a higher concentration of metals like copper, which may cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and liver damage when consumed in excess.

Saltwater corrosion is particularly concerning in a plumbing system that uses lead pipes. Lead is a highly toxic drinking water contaminant that accumulates in the body over time, causing health effects including high blood pressure, anemia, and toxicity to the body’s internal organs.

🕵️‍♂️ Does Salt Softened Water Corrode Plumbing?

Now you know the potential effects of saltwater corrosion, you may be keen to know whether salt softened water may lead to an increased corrosion risk.

The answer is no. Water softened with sodium only contains very low levels of salt; not enough to cause any damage to your water pipes.

Plus, water softened in an ion exchange softener hasn’t undergone any major changes in pH, conductivity, sulfate levels, or any other parameters that could affect its potential to cause corrosion.

So, as long as you’re not adding excess salt to your softened water, the presence of a water softener in your plumbing system shouldn’t increase the potential for corrosion.

Salt softened water

📖 What To Do If You Discover Corroded Pipes

If you discover corroded pipes in your home and you think exposure to salt water is to blame, call a plumber and ask them to examine your plumbing system and advise on the next steps.

You may need to get one or two pipes replaced, or you might need to replace your entire plumbing system, depending on the extent of the damage and the age of the pipes.

You’ll also need to completely flush your plumbing if saltwater or ocean water has got into your pipes. If you allow this water to remain in your pipes, it’ll damage their inner surfaces.

Checking main water pipe in home

📑 Final Word

Saltwater corrosion can lead to expensive damage in your home’s piping, so if you live in an area that’s prone to this problem, you’ll need to take all the steps you can to prevent it.

Make sure any exposed piping outside of your home is covered, and, of course, don’t intentionally use saltwater in your home’s plumbing – fresh water only! You should also take steps to protect your home from flooding, especially if your area has been flooded in the past.

If you can’t avoid exposure to saltwater, your plumber will probably recommend replacing your plumbing system with plastic piping, which is the most resistant to saltwater damage.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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