Can Magnets Descale Your Pipes?

27 April 2009
Presented by Diana O'Carroll.

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In this Question of the Week, we find out if a magnetic field can stop pipes from clogging up with limescale?& Many manufacturers would like us to believe that simply clamping a magnet to your plumbing is all you need for clean, free flowing water, but is the science on their side?& Plus, we ask if the planets and stars align to make you weigh less at night!

In this episode

00:00 - Do magnets remove limescale from water pipes?

Can you keep your pipes clean and clear by applying a magnetic field?

Do magnets remove limescale from water pipes?

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 may 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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