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Chemist1961 12-26-2008 09:35 AM

Visible gel like Sludge in drains
I have one sink without a pop up and notice grey sludge building in the drain pipe there. It's not hair or shave cream as I don't shave at that sink but I'm assuming it is from gel tooth paste or liquid soap and if it builds up there it must also be building en masse down stream and in the shower and tub drains. Is this caused by today's soap products and if so is there a cleaner I should use from time to time.
I have no current drainage issues, it`s just visible and it is not the typical black plumbing sludge I`ve seen when relocating traps,etc.. in the past. I just prefer to be proactive when I see this stuff. Is this something the vertical fins on a pop up would normally be cutting through and wearing away

Frederick j Ward 12-26-2008 03:08 PM

I have heard from more than one person that white vinegar
or plain vinegar will help with sludge and smell from drains.

Wethead 12-26-2008 06:59 PM

Its called a soft stopage .

Use a "blow bag" and clean the line :)

Termite 12-26-2008 09:42 PM

I get the same thing in my underslab line that goes all the way across my basement. It looks like mashed potatoes and is the same consistency. I've had good luck keeping it in check with Roebic enzyme main line cleaner...The enzymes must like whatever it is.

Nestor_Kelebay 12-27-2008 12:03 AM


Did you recently replace your water heater?

If so, then the gel you speak of may be caused by having the wrong kind of anode rod in your water heater for your kind of water.

Termite 12-27-2008 01:07 AM


Originally Posted by Nestor_Kelebay (Post 202889)
Did you recently replace your water heater?

If so, then the gel you speak of may be caused by having the wrong kind of anode rod in your water heater for your kind of water.

You gotta explain that a little more for me/us Nestor. How would that lead to sludge in the sink trap? :)

Chemist1961 12-27-2008 06:32 AM

Yes please, Chemist is just my nickname.:jester: I have a GE water heater and softener, both about 7 years old. Live in an area with very hard water. But I only noticed this buildup recently after I removed the popup when installing a ceramic sink and thought it could be from all the gel type toothpaste, soap, etc we have begun using. Again there is no blocakage or drainage issue.... yet. But what's this mean downline if I see it here?

Nestor_Kelebay 12-28-2008 12:04 AM

Chemist and KCTermite:

If it looks like blue or green gel toothpaste, it might be something called "aluminum hydroxide", and it forms on aluminum anode rods in alkaline water. The blue, green or grey jelly beads form on the anode rod and fall off and accumulate on the bottom of the tank.

When you run the hot water hard, such as when drawing a bath and waiting for the water to warm up, the cold water rushing out the dip tube can break up this jellied mass and cause blobs of this gel to be carried up to the hot water outlet. Typically, the aluminum hydroxide gel will accumulate and plug up faucet aerators...

But, if the guy didn't have a kitchen faucet spout aerator because he had an adapter for a portable dish washer on the end of the kitchen faucet spout, or the screen in the aerator was torn or missing, or if the jelly blobs were small enough to pass through the aerator screen, or if this is a laundry room sink or a bathtub p-trap where there is no aerator on the spout, or a gazillion other things...

...he'd see what looks like blue or green gel toothpaste in the trap of that sink or tub.

Normally, water heaters are supplied with magnesium anode rods. However, in ground waters that contain a lot of sulphates, sulphur reducing bacteria can grow and produce hydrogen sulphide gas that makes the water smell like rotten eggs. Where water heaters are destined for such areas, the manufacturers will use aluminum anode rods instead, or the plumbing companies that install the heaters will replace the magnesium rods with aluminum rods.

If TheChemist is seeing what looks like blue or green gel toothpaste in his p-trap, it could be aluminum hydroxide from an aluminum anode rod in his water heater reacting with alkaline water in the tank.

The Chemist: Were you once on The Handymanwire DIY Q&A forum with the signature line: "Rocks are great at being opaque, and even better at being old."? Which, in turn is something you may have read in one of my painting posts?

Chemist1961 12-28-2008 07:37 AM

Hello Nestor,
Thanks for your input.
First off, no haven't ever been to the Handymanwire DIY post. Stumbled across this site two weeks ago looking for furnace info and it just stopped me in my tracks. Got the nickname years ago from popping vitamins.
Anyway, the sink drain looks more like thin greyish mashed potatoes that KCTermite mentioned. When I pulled the cover off the shower drain yesterday to compare, same room, nothing similar, hence my thoughts on toothpaste. I have also replaced all the sinks in my house through the years and not run across this sludge elsewhere in any ABS or brass piping or traps so I thought it might be a residue of our toothpaste or my wife's make up cleansers or gel soaps or a combination of items specific to our ensuite sink area. Our kids use different toothpaste and there is nothing similar in their sink. This isn't caking, just gel like or slime like in it's texture almost like half cooked egg white and it's easy to scoop out. No odour just unsightly. But I would rather halt the cause before it becomes an issue downline.

Termite 12-28-2008 12:10 PM

Thanks for the explanation Nestor. Very interesting info.

Based on the description of the problem I'm still thinking it is soapy crap buildup. I'd try the enzyme cleaner I mentioned ($13 at Lowes, HD doesn't have it here)....Let it sit for a day or longer and see how that does. If it doesn't work, the anode rod theory might warrant investigation.

Chemist1961 12-31-2008 04:15 PM

Enzyme Cleaner for Sludge
Thanks KCT,
Found some biodegradeable enzyme cleaner at the Nautural food store, for only $6. Poured it in the sink and two days later the sludge was gone.
I thought I got it right until my wife said she had `cleaned`the drain while cleaning the sink. Guess I can`t complain.
Either way, the sink is draining faster, however in pouring the cleaner down all other drains, the mystery sludge was no where else to be seen. So still trying to pinpoint the cause at just the ensuite sink. FYI the enzyme cleaner is septic safe and recommended for toilet and sink clogs as well. Open to further thoughts on the sludge

Mudi 07-13-2009 02:29 PM

Nestor, Blue Gel like sludge, like this???
1 Attachment(s)
Tank won't drain, but this did come out in a spurt when I opened up the valve...

JDC 07-13-2009 08:39 PM

Now THAT looks like aluminum hydroxide. Could be wrong but that would be my first guess.

Mudi 07-14-2009 10:04 AM

Yep, i was at a loss until I read this thread...
Is the tank salvagable with cleaning and a new Anode??? or better off from the time and $$ standpoint to just replace it?? 3.5 years old, light use from the flow standpoint..

AllanJ 07-14-2009 07:37 PM

The hot water tank can probably be saved if you can get it draining freely and clear. Be careful, once a flow of water comes out, it could be very hot.

Start by turning the temperature control to "off" or turning off the electricity.

Methods to try:

1. Leave main water valve on, turn off all faucets, open tank drain valve.

2. Close main water valve, open some hot faucets, open tank drain valve.

3. Close water heater cold inlet valve, open some hot faucets, connect garden hose to tank drain valve and try to inject water. Then remove hose and see if water drains back out.

Open a hot water faucet and see taht water is pouring out before turning the electricity or gas back on.

The heater will have to be replaced if a leak is uncovered when a lot of sediment has drained out.

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