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Do Galvanized Pipes Rust? (All You Need to Know)

Waterline pipes are something we seldom pay attention to. The situation can be different if you have galvanized steel pipe installed in your home. There are many issues with zinc-coated steel pipes. So, what should you do? How to deal with the problems of galvanized pipes? 

This article will provide the most detailed answers and tips about galvanized pipes.

Do galvanized pipes rust?

Galvanized pipes become rusty and can easily be clogged from the inside. Those pipes have many more issues, especially when they get old. It is certainly not a good option for the household water lines. If you have old galvanized pipes in your house, replacing them is the best choice.

Galvanized pipes are steel pipes with a layer of zinc inside and the outside. Let’s pull out the root of the issue first.

Steel is actually modified iron to make the iron stronger. Iron is the most abundant and robust metal in the world. But the issue is that it oxidizes and creates  Iron dioxide, which we know as rust.

How does Iron become rusty? For that, iron needs only two things. It needs water and oxygen from the air. Iron gets damaged whenever those elements contact iron, and rust is created. 

So, to stop iron from rusting, we must cover it with something that can prevent the contraction of air and water. Zinc does well to protect the iron.

So, can we use zinc-coated galvanized iron for water pipes? The answer is NO. The zinc layer gets damaged over time, and the line already contains water and oxygen. All the pipe water has some air in it. 

And once the rusting process starts, the rust gets more extensive and can easily clog the pipe.

 We started using galvanized pipes in the 1880s and found out there are many issues with galvanized pipes. We stopped using those pipes in 1960 and started using copper and PVC pipes.

The maximum life expectancy of galvanized pipes is 60-70 years. So, if you still have a galvanized pipe system in your house, the lines are at the end of their life.

So, if you face any issue with galvanized pipes in your house, you should look for long-term solutions as the pipes are already expired. 

Most of the time, the inside of the galvanized pipes is affected, and it’s tough to find out the clogged part and fix that. Moreover, if you hire plumbers and tell them just to fix the blocked part, they will fix the issue, but the problem can happen any time again. 

Black galvanized pipe is one of the most common types of galvanized pipe. Check out if it gets rusty.

Black galvanized pipes:

If the pipe is working for years, the pipe will get corrosive. The zinc layer of black galvanized pipes slowly gets damaged by water. Once the water can reach the steel part, the rusty boom happens. 

Rust starts to build up and pushes the zinc coat fast, causing more rust that can leak and blockage.

Does galvanized pipe rust on the outside?

Generally, a galvanized pipe does not rust from the outside. The zinc part is not easily damaged, and air and humidity can not get to the steel. But inside, water force can damage the zinc layer easily.

However, underground galvanized pipes can get rusty from the outside. In soil, many microorganisms and damaging factors can damage the zinc coat. Once the zinc coat is removed, the ground also has water, air and oxygen in it, which causes rust. 

It’s not a good idea to use galvanized pipes underground. However, those pipes are not often used today. Some big factories use them for their strength. 

If a galvanized pipe gets significant scratches, the pipe can also get rusty sometimes. However, as we explained, there is nothing much to worry about about the outer rust of a galvanized pipe.

How long does it take galvanized pipe to corrode?

It takes 20 – 70 years. Why is the range so huge? Let me explain. There are qualities of galvanizing. In a good-quality galvanized pipe, the zing layer is thick. So the layer can protect the steel for many years.

On the other hand, if the zinc layer is thin, naturally, the rust will appear sooner. But most of the time, good-quality galvanized pipe was used to make household water lines. 

But, nowadays, there is no point in using galvanized pipes for water lines. Many other alternatives come with a lot fewer issues.

What issues galvanized pipes cause? Iron is compact and robust, while rust can expand quickly, and that can cause water blockage, contaminated water and uneven distribution of water.

Who wants to see brownish water from the tap! There is also a health issue related to the galvanized pipes. The root of the problem lies in the 50s or 40s. Back then, the galvanizing process was not much advanced. 

Most of the old galvanized pipes of our old house are at least  60 years old. However, the central fact is a small amount of lead with the zinc coat. As we know, lead is poisonous and causes lead poisoning in many cases. 

However, no scientific evidence supports the fact. But there is indeed lead in the galvanized pipe coat.

How do I keep my galvanized pipe from rusting?

If you have galvanized pipe in your house, the pipe is probably almost at the end of its life. And there is nothing much you can do about it. 

If you installed galvanized pipe for another different reason, still, you can’t do much to minimize the rusting. Check out why you can’t do much to stop the rusting of galvanized pipes.

It’s a water pipe:

Water is necessary for the rusting process, and we are talking about pipes that transport water! Water will naturally damage the zinc coat and reach the steel. It’s uncontrollable.

Hard to know:

As the rusting happens inside the pipe most of the time, it is tough to know which part is damaged by rust. Only experienced plumbers can fix those issues.

The good thing is that galvanized pipes can work just fine for 50+ years. The bad thing is that most galvanized pipes are expired and can cause complicated water line problems that are hard to handle suddenly.

How to get rust out of galvanized pipes?

You can’t stop rust from a galvanized pipe. But once the rust covers inside the pipe, there are a few ways to clean up the rust and get things going temporarily before taking a permanent step to fix the issue. 

The permanent and reliable way to fix water line problems of galvanized pipes is to replace them. The replacement is pretty expensive, but it will cost less money and hustle in the long run. 

Now, let’s talk about different ways to get rust out of the galvanized pipe. 

Baking soda and water: 

You can use baking soda and water to clean a rusty pipe and remove the blockage. However, this DIY project is not easy. To clean the rust, you will have to remove the pipe from the joints. But that may need a lot of effort and the right tools. Once you remove the pipe, you can start cleaning it.

Here are the steps.

  • Add one teaspoon of baking soda with two cups of water.
  • Pour the mix inside the pipe and make sure the baking soda mix reaches every part of the pipe. Keep it for 5-10 minutes. The baking soda will react with the rust, and it will be easy to clean off the rust from the pipe.
  • Clean the pipe with pressured water.

Oxalic acid:

The oxalic acid mix also reacts with the rust and removes the rust. Pour oxalic acid into the pipe and follow the same steps as baking soda.

When should galvanized pipes be replaced?

If the galvanized pipe is from the 60s, change the pipe as soon as possible to avoid unprepared water problems. Some health issues are also related to old galvanized pipes. How can you understand if your galvanized pipe needs to be replaced?

If you notice rust particles, water blockage, and uneven water distribution, you should change the galvanized pipes or else the system can fail at any time.

Can you change a part of the galvanized pipe instead of changing the whole system? Yes, it’s possible, but it’s not a permanent solution and will cost more if you need several partial replacements.

Final Thoughts 

Galvanized pipes are prone to get rusty, especially the old ones. If you are living in a really old house, you can check if your water lines are made of galvanized pipe or not. If the pipes are old, replacing them can save you from hustle and water issues.