SARRO, coming soon to a waterline near you!

If you have spent any time in the Yucatan, you have heard the word SARRO, probably in a combination of swear words. Sarro is to water systems, as cholesterol is to arteries, it plugs them up.

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Saro in spigot filter of tap

Lets start with the basics, Sarro is simply a calcium deposit, also called scale in Canada or the USA. It slowly builds up in the inside of your tinaco and in some points of your piping as well. Till the water slows and eventually stops due to the build up. If you notice your water flow is starting to slow down, sarro is the most likely suspect. Remember when it comes to piping, 1/4 the diameter is a reduction of flow by 1/2. So if you kitchen tap normally delivers 4 gallons a minute a 1/4 reduction will reduce the output to 2 gallons a minute. So it does not take a lot of build up to drastically reduce the flow. The other related problem that creeps up and slowly stops the flow, is small particles of sarro breaking off and going downstream. They eventually end up in the fine wire mesh at the end of the tap spigot. Since it builds up over time you don’t notice the flow decrease, until it is partially blocked. The other place this occurs and I am willing to bet a lot of you do not know you have one, is the washing machine inlet filter. Samsung LG and most washing machines here, have a small fine steel mesh filter inside the coupling, where the water hoses attach to the machine. Usually it has a small tab to grab and you pull it out. If you notice the washer doesn’t fill as fast as it did, now you know why.

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Saro taken from a tinaco after 2 years.

But, the issue is what do you do about it? The solution is not difficult, but is time consuming. First you need to drain your tinaco and clean every speck of sarro out of it. It is hard to reach the bottom of the big plastic tinacos, but it has to be done somehow. As they build up a lot of sarro over time and of course pieces break off and plug the works.

One way to avoid some down stream problems is to install a filter just downstream of the tinaco to catch particles as they break off. Just make sure it is easy to access and have spare filters handy. Now once the tinaco is clean, comes the messy and what could be dangerous part. No doubt when you have been in a grocery store here you have seen the shelves lined with Muriatic acid (diluted hydrochloric acid). It is used to dissolve sarro. People pour it in the toilet water tank to dissolve the sarro build up on the flapper valve as an example. The locals also use it to clean out the house water lines. I am not suggesting anyone, not familiar with its use, do this, as acid is dangerous, but this is simply an explanation of the process, in a non pressurized house.  Since muriatic acid dissolves sarro, It is diluted and poured into the plastic piping that exits the tinaco, do not use this method if you have old metal piping in the house or a cement tinaco. There are a few things to remember, if you are using this method. Acid stains stainless steel and dissolves limestone or concrete, so if you were to get any coming out of the tap in the kitchen, it needs to be caught in a bucket or other container. you also need to remove every wire mesh filter from taps and other locations and make sure the washing machine taps are turned OFF and all the other taps open and free to let all the gunk out. Now that everything is ready, what the locals do is just pour the acid in the lines, you will see a lot of bubbling and foaming as the acid dissolves the sarro and it may take many bottles of acid to get all the lines clean. While the lines are being cleaned, people pump the tinaco full of water, in preparation to flush the acid and gunk out of the lines. Once the acid has done its work, which could take an hour or more, depending how bad the lines are. the water is turned back on at the tinaco and the lines well flushed. This process may have to be repeated several times, if the lines are really bad.

For day to day removal of saro around sinks and taps, vinegar also works, but a lot slower. As it is not as powerful of an acid. I have also heard of people pouring a gallon or 2 of White vinegar in the tinaco, in an effort to slowly dissolve saro as the home owner uses up the water. But I have no practical experience with it. There are also commercial products like CLR that will do the same job, but they are more expensive than acid.

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