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In another thread I have read something about cleaning your boiler with viniger. Who has done this and how exactly is it done?

-Eric
 

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If you put a tablespoon of white vinegar in a boiler of water it will clean out the scale. It will also clean out the site glass. Do you remember your grandmother using vinigar to clean the windows?
 

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That is the first time I have seen a "quantity" of vinegar to use.

I fear that most folk have interpreted the suggestion to use vinegar to be to empty a whole bottle of vinegar into the boiler and then light the fire and run the engine around the track!

I am sure it is an imprecise method as to how much vinegar to use versus the liquid capacity of the boiler, but at least you have suggested that there is no need to use "full strength", undiluted vinegar.

I hope others will chime in as to how much they have used in various capacity boilers and the results of that concentration.
 

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I don’t measure the amount of vinegar. Like I said, I always use white vinegar and I put about a tablespoon in a boiler of water. You can use the lid of the vinegar bottle and measure out two of those. The smallest boiler I have is an Aster Climax, which is 180cc; the largest is an Aster Big Boy at 800cc. My Aster Daylight is middle of the road at 460cc. I put more in the BB, maybe 2 tablespoons. The point is it’s not critical, this much or if you will this little does the job; it doesn’t interfere with the oiling of the engine. One of the things I use sometimes is those little packs of vinegar you get at the fast food places, two of these is about right or like I said 3 or even 4 in a big boiler. (At least in Canada we get these condiment packs of vinegar, I don’t know if you do anywhere else.)

In the first thread about the blower problem in the Spam Can I gave the amount of a tablespoon for a boiler of water. The precise amount not critical; leave the graduated cylinders at home!
 

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Hi all.
I'm a bit concerned about the use of any scale remover in engines of our size.
If used on a regular basis from the start, I think that it is a great idea. But I'm a bit concerned about their use on a well used, broken-in engine.
The last thing that we need is to have all of the scale and crap broken loose and sent through our soft brass direction valves, cly. valves and cly..
I would think that there is a very good chance that it could gouge the brass and "O" rings. Causing leaks.
Besides that, has any one ever had a significant buildup in a engine using only distilled water?
Short of using a "Borescope" type of instrument, how would you know?

Doug Bronson
 

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I use citric acid or vinegar when I am building boilers to clean them. I also use them as a descale at the end of season, I don't boil them in the boiler just fill and let sit for a few hours, then rinse with water.
Regards,
Gerald
 

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Posted By linuxhost on 08/30/2008 6:56 AM
Hi all.
...
Besides that, has any one ever had a significant buildup in a engine using only distilled water?
Short of using a "Borescope" type of instrument, how would you know?
Doug Bronson




I have never used anything but store-bought "Distilled Water", (not that I have any assurance that it is actually Distilled Water, and not a bottle filled in the back room from the toilet... well, at least it is "clear" and without any flavor... I have drank only distilled water for the last 20 years since tap water tends to have an odor I don't particularly like:sick:)... anyway, both of my Aster Mikados have some discoloration occuring in the sight glass in about the lower 1/2. It has about the color of the scale that one finds in a teapot or a cookpot that has been rinced and the last of the water left to evaporate, leaving a gray spot.

I assume it is mineral deposit, but that leaves me wondering just what is in the "Distilled Water" from the grocery store! :mad: It is only slightly worse in the oldest engine, where I have boiled away probably 20 or 30 gallons in it and maybe only 5 or 6 gallons in the newer one. This also makes me wonder if maybe the quality of the "Distilling" has gone lax in the last few years. :mad:

Again, I ask, please express what approximate concentration of citric acid or vinegar you use... full strength from the bottle, half and half, a dribble in a boiler full of water, "some" in the boiler water?

It should also be noted that there "should" be no need to get the acidic solution into the steam passages as we should be fairly certain that there has only been steam in them and not mineral laden "water" that is losing H2O and thus concentrating the mineral content to the point where the minerals are precipitated out to adhere to the sides of the pipes and such. The acidic solution should be drained from the boiler and then rinced an appropriate number of times to remove any scale that has broken loose as solids that might get splashed up into the steam passages... a very difficult circumstance that would only occur rarely, I would think. But, if you don't get the minerals out of the boiler they will just redeposit on the boiler metal, negating the process that you went through to get rid of it!!! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/cry.gif
 

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I use the white vinegar straight from the bottle, Citric acid powder I use 3 tablespoons per pail. They both pickup a green tinge.
Regards,
Gerald
 

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I also use diluted vinegar to clean my boilers. I rather live with some scale than use too pure distilled water. In our company (semiconductor equipment) the use of distilled water in heat exchangers - without corrosion inhibitors - is banned due to the agressive nature. So probably "cheap" distilled water with some residues left might be optimal.
Regards
 

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Hmm, the green tinge Gerald describes, is probably oxidised copper beeing reduced ("polished". Hopefully the minerals also dissolve ;-)

I'm not certain me and my friends in Stockholm Livesteamers are using th right kind of water :-( We all just buy the "battery water" for cars. I think it is only "de-ionized". Whether that somehow equals destilled water, I'm not certain. On the other hand, nothing else is available :-(

Regner suggests dilluting with 5% plain tap-water to take away the slightly acidious character of / distilled / de-ionized / water.
 

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This has been hashed and re-hashed many times on many forums over the years and some will argue with the following, but... well take it for what it is... my understanding of the subject...


Distilled water is water that has been changed to a gas (steam) by heating and then condensed to water again in a different container... NOTE: just boiling tap water does NOT make it distilled... all that does is concentrate the dissolved minerals by removing some of the H2O in steam that escapes... (it might make the water "sterile" and your boiler will not get the flue or salmonella poisoning, but it leaves the carcasses of the beasties in the water to form limestone on the insides of the boiler). You have to capture the steam that has left the pot and condense it back to water to get "Distilled water". You also need to NOT capture the first of the "steam" as it might contain other chemicals that vaporize before the H2O does.


"Deionized water" is NOT "Distilled water". Water is normally slightly ionized -- electrically charged due to the water molecules either missing an electron or having an extra one (thus the term "ion" and "deionized" means removing the ions). When you neutralize the charge, the nature of the water will be to pull ions from surrounding material, Copper, brass (copper and zinc) and bronze (copper and tin) being metals, freely give up atoms in deionized water... thus your boiler and fittings will become thinner and porous (especially the brass and bronze fittings as zinc and tin will leach out of the molecular bonds and dissolve in the deionized water. Bronze fittings have been known to be easily crushed after a few years in deionized water due to the loss of the tin... grip an old bronze fitting with a wrench or pliers and it will break into many small dusty pieces!


Rain water is a pretty good source of distilled water. But it depends on how you capture it. If it has run off your roof, where the birdies and other beasties of the air have left "deposits",and leaves and other dust and debris are, then there will be germs and other contaminates in the water that should be filtered out. Not that the "germs" are a problem, but their boiled dead bodies will help form the insulating film on the inside of the boiler that you don't want to form.


Water from your dehumidifier is a pretty good source of distilled water. It will be mostly H2O, but since it is collected from free air it will also contain mold spores, pollen, dust, cooking oils and anything else that can get airborne and then collect on the cooling fins of the dehumidifier and get washed into the holding tank. A fine filter could remove the larger stuff, and oils and such could be skimmed off, but that may not be necessary as the amount of these materials would normally be quite low.


Relatively pure H2O is also made with "Reverse Osmosis", where the water passes through a membrane... this is similar to just using an extremely fine filter, but it isn't just "filtered water". The membrane passes only the H2O on a molecular basis, so minerals (and larger contaminants) don't normally make it through. Some oils and other liquids can get through so it is not the same as Distilled water, but it is very close.


"Soft water" is NOT a substitute for Distilled water. It is only "Hard water" that has the dissolved calcium replaced with sodium. It may be only slightly better than plain tap water but will still leave minerals in the boiler to form the insulating film.


If you would like to see what is being left in your boiler, fill a pot with whatever water you want to use and put it on the stove and boil it all away... WATCH THE POT so it does not melt on the stove when the water is gone!!!! Do several gallons this way without rinsing the pot. If a whitish film is left in the pot, you have water with minerals in it and it is not a good water to use in your EXPENSIVE toy boiler.

EDIT: daing spellchecker changed "zink" to "ink", when I thought it was changing to "zinc"
 

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"Relatively pure H2O is also made with "Reverse Osmosis", "

Be careful with this one as the machine takes some time to make your water but is also at a ration of something like 7-8 galons of tap water to 1 gallon of reverse osmosis water. My cousin has one so he can fill his fish tank 150 gallons made a good spike in his water bill. At least we only use a few gallons a month, for some a few may last a year though. In the US we have it pretty easy to get distilled water from almost any grocery store; although my local Stop n Shop had not had any for 2 weeks now.

I do notice the same buildup on the glasses of my locos. Not much to me but it is mostly seen when the glass is dry.

We did try dehumidifer water once and Ill never use it again. The left over water in the boiler actually started to stink like mold and mildew.
 

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About a month ago I picked up a DURASTILL stainless steal distiller with a 5 gallon holding tank,(used off Craigs list) to replace my countertop unit that went bad. The Durastill can make 8 gallons a day. I put some in clean 2 liter soda bottles for the trains, the rest goes thru a "carbon" filter for human consumption (makes it taste better) I spent several hours reading, and from that I found that STEAM distilled will be slightly acidic, giving it a "poor" taste. This is the reason for the carbon filters "Aging" it in the bottles seems to help. The "boiler" portion of the still has a drain where you drain it dry after every 5 to 20 gallons. The low level switch turns it off with about 2" of water remaining. You would NOT want the crap that gets drained out getting in your engines. I may try distilling some "rain water" just to see how much is left from that vs the water we pay for.
 

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Most of us have central air in our houses. These units produce more distilled water than you'll ever be able to use. I've used nothing but now for over 25 years, and anybody who runs on my track is supplied with it.The only thing I add is about a teaspoon of bleach to a gallon container to make sure no 'nasties' grow in the water. Never had a boiler problem or milky water glass yet.

David M-K
Ottawa
 

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Hi,

I live in the UK where I find it impossible to easily buy true distilled water. However in our climate, rainwater is very plentiful(!), I just scoop it out of the water butt, run it through an old domestic water filter anit's ready to go! I've used it for years with no trouble. ;)
I'm grateful for the info about vinegar as I have a Roundhouse Darjeeling B class which I bough second-hand; it has so much grey scale in the sight glass it's hard to read - another problem sorted!

Thanks,
Martin:)
 

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As a retired analytical chemist this is a good time to jump in to the discussion. "Distilled" water applies only to water that has been vaporized to steam and then condensed. It will have some volatiles that carry over but little dissolved solids except for whatever came from the condenser system and piping. It will tend to be slightly acid due to dissolved carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Boiler water should normally be slightly on the alkaline side (pH about 8) to minimize corrosion. Scale formation should be low.

Commercial steam boilers generally use reverse osmosis (RO) water which has up to about 98% of the dissolved solids removed. Probably not quite as pure as distilled, but OK. Same problem with slight acidity.

Deionized water is NOT super water. It has gone through a pair of ion exchange resins - one exchanges metallic cations with hydrogen ions, the other exchanges anions with hydroxyl ions. Most of the resulting hydrogen cations and hydroxyl anions then combine to form water. If the incoming water had neutral pH (7) then the exit water will also be pH 7 which means that the hydrogen ion concentration is now 10 to the minus 7 molar. There are still ions left - just that it is limited to the normal self-ionization of water. Such water is relatively clean for most laboratory purposes but will still contain organic residues which are usually removed in an activated carbon bed. It is no more corrosive than distilled. Store water that may say deionized is usually really just RO water. Cheap de-ionizers are very bad for boilers due to ammonia leaching from the resins.

Tap water is bad on two counts - high hardness and silica which forms scale and worse is the cloramine disinfectant commonly used. While it will usually put the pH on the alkaline side, the ammonia produced from the chloramine is very nasty at complexing and dissolving copper boilers and solder.

Spring water may have anything - usually hard water but no guarantees about what it contains. It may be fine for drinking but iffy for boilers.

Rain water may be relatively pure if carefully collected but will still be slightly acid.

No matter what type of water you use, the first line of defense is to simply flush out the boiler either by blowdown or filling with clean water, slosh around a bit and dump it. Boiling dry is bad not only due to probably seam failure from the sudden increase of temperature but it also bakes on any scale that is present.

Cleaning solutions should be used sparingly. Vinegar will dissolve scale but it is also an acid and will dissolve the boiler if used too much. It is very important to flush thoroughly after use to remove the residual acid.

Standard recommendations for steam boiler water specify low dissolved iron and copper, low hardness, low silica, slightly alkaline pH. Oxygen and carbon dioxide from the air both corrode as well as ammonia.

For the paranoids, test your water source with an aquarium test kit. If the test kit shows detectable ammonia do not use the water. You also can test the pH and hardness. pH about 8, hardness as low as possible. You probably only need to do the tests once on each source. pH can be adjusted if it does not use ammonia - dilute sodium or potassium hydroxide are preferred. Usually only a few drops of caustic are needed for a gallon of water.

Our locomotives are just not big enough water users to justify the special additives used in commercial boilers since they must be tailored to the water supply. Keep them well flushed to minimize scale and enjoy. The use of soldered seams produce a built-in attack point for corrosion.

Of course any commercial water may have quality problems due to fraud or sloppy production. If you find a good source stay with it.

Now putting on my flame-proof suit....
 

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"Now putting on my flame-proof suit...."

Ya gotta be kidding... with all this water around here, flames would be doused rather quickly! :cool:

Thanks for furthering our knowledge, I really appreciate it.

I do have a question though.

How do you pronounce "cations" and "anions"... I have a vague feeling they are not pronounced in the usual English way... i.e.: "cations" is not like "caution", and "anions" is not like "onions".... right????
 

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Both terms are pronounced as if they are two words - 'cat & ion' or 'an & ion'.

I had forgotten that for our soldered copper boilers the primary corrosion path is galvanic attack. Dissimilar metals (copper & the solder alloy) in contact with water make a small battery. The boiler water is what completes the circuit. Anything that raises the conductivity of that water increases the current flow and thus the 'battery' metals dissolve faster.
 
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Note that should be SILVER soldered and the primary ingredient of the typical silver solder used in boiler making is copper, thus the potential for galvanic activity between base metal and joining metal in miniature boilers is reduced to the point where it has never been a factor in strength or length of service.
 

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Well, you can use just straight white vinegar, but you have to remove all the fittings like the safety valves and so on, because the vinegar will attack the steel in them.

The easier (and safer) solution that was recommended to me was to simply put 1/2 distilled water and 1/2 white vinegar in the boiler, steam the locomotive up and run it (preferably outside since the vinegar's going to reek to high heaven) light engine, then drain the boiler out and give it rinse out with straight distilled water, then fill it up again and run it light engine with distilled.

This only really needs to be done once or twice a year to keep a boiler free steaming and clean.

Cheers,
Brendan O.
 
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