Do magnets remove lime scale from water pipes?

26 April 2009

Question

I’ve been told a magnetic field can dissolve lime scale in water pipes. Is this true and how does it work since the pipes and I believe the lime scale aren’t ferrous and not affected by a magnet.

Answer

We put this to Dr Hugh Hunt, from Cambridge University's Engineering department:

I am Hugh Hunt from Cambridge University Engineering Department. Well, there are lots of manufacturer's websites that claim that if you put magnets on your water pipes then that prevents limescale build up on the element of your immersion heater.

Well it's obviously in the manufacturer's interest to make these claims, but let's suppose that, in the last year, a manufacturer has sold a thousand of these devices and they get one letter which says how fantastic it is, another ten letters that say that doesn't work. Well they can give ten refunds. They have still made quite a lot of money and they can publish that one nice letter.

That my be what we are seeing on the websites [selling these gadgets]; that's possibly being a bit mean, but I am a bit puzzled that there aren't any quoted refereed scientific publications out of the mainstream literature [supporting these claims].

Surely if there was something really scientific going on here it would be well and truly understood. So I just wonder.

Now there are few possible candidate theories all to do with magneto-hydrodynamics and water memory and things to do with nucleation and so on, you can read all about these.

But where does that leave us? Well I think if you have found that one of these devices works for you, well it doesn't do any harm so you may as well carry on using it. But if you find that it doesn't work then perhaps there's no surprise in that.

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