Saltwater Intrusion and Appliance Care
Saltwater intrusion may impact home appliances. There are important steps that can protect appliances from corrosion and damage to components.
About Saltwater Intrusion
Extended drought conditions in the Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds have brought the river’s flow in southern Louisiana to near historic lows. The lack of flow from the river is allowing salty water from the Gulf of Mexico to push its way upriver toward the New Orleans metro area.
New Orleans and other regional parishes get their municipal water supply from the river, so if the saltwater reaches the water intakes, it will threaten the ability to provide drinkable water. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) will recommend the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) issue a public advisory to consumers if chloride levels rise above the drinking water standard of 250ppm (parts per million). The higher chloride levels mean there is salt in the water.
A secondary concern is that the elevated salt content could lead to corrosion of pipes in the water distribution system. As chloride levels increase, SWBNO may need to add additional alkaline or anticorrosive agents to the water in order to mitigate this type of situation.
The saltwater intrusion could be harmful for home appliances, especially if it persists long-term.
What Does This Mean for Home Appliance Use?
In general, consumers should limit the exposure of their appliances to any elevated levels of salt contamination because certain components could be sensitive to salt. Consumers should contact the appliance manufacturer to address specific product concerns.
Possible Implications for Appliances
- Build-up of salt deposits could cause clogging in appliance water lines.
- Chloride and other chemicals can interact with detergents and degrade appliance performance.
- Tubing and other plastic components should generally be robust against salt, but internal rubber parts in water valves or other components could be compromised if there is direct contact with saltwater.
- Metal parts like fasteners, ice maker trays, internal components for pumps and valves, etc. could corrode if subjected to extended contact with saltwater. Salt is known to be corrosive and may accelerate aging.
- Stainless steel doors, tubs, or other components could be pitted or pockmarked by saltwater in combination with deposits from other contaminants such as iron particles.
- TIP: Check the water inlet to home appliances to see if there is visible discoloration due to rust or suspended solids from the local water supply. If so, discontinuing use of tap water is recommended.
What to Do for Specific Appliances
Refrigerator/Freezers with Water Dispensers or Ice Makers
- Sodium cannot be easily removed from drinking water and cannot be removed through boiling or conventional filtration like common household store-bought water filters. Once the water system is affected, using bottled water or some other freshwater source is recommended. However, if your home has a residential (in-home) water treatment system it may be effective in reducing salt concentrations. Check with your system’s manufacturer regarding its capabilities.
- Turn off water supply if possible.
- Turn off ice makers and in-fridge water dispensers to prevent corrosion.
- TIP: Change filters once saltwater intrusion is no longer a concern.
- Running dishwashers with water containing elevated levels of salt can accelerate the corrosion of metallic parts within the dishwasher. The level or extent of corrosion will be dependent on the concentration of the salt in water.
- Dishes may see spotting due to the increase in particulate levels. Rinse aid may not help this spotting due to the high level of particulates in the water.
- Depending on the level of salt, excessive suds may lead to glass damage, impact cleaning, and increase noise level. Washing heirloom or expensive glass in the dishwasher when the salt levels are high is not recommended.
- TIP: Once incoming water has returned to a healthy state, running the dishwasher with a high-quality dishwasher detergent or a dishwasher cleaning agent will aid in the cleaning out of the residual salts.
Clothes Washers and Clothes Dryers
- Like dishwashers, running washing machines with water that has elevated salt levels can accelerate corrosion of metallic parts within the washer. The level or extent of corrosion will depend on the concentration of the salt in water. Salt water may also damage some of the other components in the washer.
- Salt water will likely leave a residue on clothing. Items may need to be rewashed when the salt levels decrease.
- In times of elevated salt levels in the tap water, consumers should use the washer sparingly.
- If your dryer is connected directly to a water supply, do not use the steam-drying feature on your dryer during times of elevated salt levels.
- Bottled water should be used for steam dryers that operate with a water reservoir.
- TIP: Once incoming water has returned to a healthy state, running the clothes washer with a high-quality laundry detergent or a washer cleaning agent will aid in the removal of the residual salts.
- Steam ovens that are connected to a water supply may have corrosion issues. Using the steam function during times of elevated salt levels in tap water is not recommended.
- Bottled water should be used for steam ovens that operate with a water reservoir.
- Saltwater intrusion could also impact small appliances like coffeemakers, countertop ice makers, crock pots, rice cookers, air fryers, irons, clothing steamers, humidifiers, and larger cleaning appliances like steam mops, carpet cleaners, etc.
- Consumers should use bottled or distilled water when using these appliances.
- TIP: If the appliances are exposed to saltwater, running the appliance with fresh tap water will aid in the cleaning out of the residual salts once incoming water has returned to a healthy state.
- Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO)
- NOLA Ready (The City of New Orleans)
- Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)