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What home based solvent might dissolve unknown molecular particles?

  1. Apr 9, 2016 #1
    What home based solvent might dissolve an unknown electron microscope seen insoluble particles ?

    There are some sort of unknown insoluble particles in our water. Does anyone know of any home remedy acid solution (baking soda and vinegar) that might dissolve these particles ? Please keep in mind that any suggestions should consider the water needs to be drinkable after trying the solution. These particles seem to be resistant to boiling temperatures 100C as this option has been tried.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2016 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    I am not a water quality specialist. But I do know: Adding chemicals to your water should be the last thing to try. Also be aware that your household pipes could be the source of the problem. Especially in older homes.

    If it is really obnoxious, most municipal water systems will test your water. But be aware the pipes leading from the main may be the problem, and if you have problem pipes, it will cost you to have it fixed:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/details-about-the-federal-rule-regarding-lead-in-water/2016/04/05/513b830a-fb49-11e5-813a-90ab563f0dde_story.html [Broken]

    First off, city water systems may have sediment - fine particles. Fill a clear glass with water, then shine a good flashlight through the glass - preferably in a dark room - and notice if you see the beam of light in the glass. This is the Tyndall effect.

    If yes, then let the glass sit undisturbed, and retest with the flashlight. If the beam becomes less visible the particles may be filterable.
    Try a coffee filter. If that fails you need to have a plumber add some type of water filter to your home system - example:

    Water softeners would probably another last resort. Softener + water filters also exist.

    Do not use chemicals. What you need to have happen is to stop the particles with a filter, or do something to make them flocculate (glob together and sink to the bottom) or cause them to dissolve.
    Which is what water filters and water softeners working together can achieve.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Apr 9, 2016 #3
    Try R/O filtration. It can get rid of pretty small particles. Even carbon filtration works well.
  5. Apr 9, 2016 #4
    Water softeners would probably another last resort. Softener + water filters also exist.

    Not quite. You do not want a flocculating agent in your drinking water. Softeners are just mixed bed ion exchange resins. They remove M+2 ions, and replace them with sodium ions. The mixed bed is then backflushed with NaCl to remove the M+2 ions. There is no flocculation. Carbon filtration removes particles down to a specific particle size. Again, these filters are backwashed to remove them from the carbon pores. Cheers!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2016
  6. Apr 9, 2016 #5
  7. Apr 9, 2016 #6

    jim mcnamara

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    If the water is at all turbid then the flashlight will work. So yes.

    I do not get the electron microscope thing. Did you send the water out for analysis? Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora. Do you have something bad like those things in the water? How did you determine if boiling was effective? You had to be able to see cloudiness.
    Cloudiness = turbidity = flashlight test will work. What you are trying to determine is: can I clear the water using filtration method? And it also works to whatever remedy you may care to try.

    @Kevin McHugh I did mean flocculant - those compounds at <1 ppm are used in gigantic holding tanks for wells here in NM. You cannot do that on home scale. As part of 'chlorination' on pathogens resistant to actual chlorination. My bad if I implied home use.

    If you really insist on chemicals:
    A more practical idea: home brewers (in the US) use chemicals to clarify water from city sources and to remove some things that alter taste or yeast behavior. Do not listen to me, I do not know details, find a hobby brewery supply place. The folks behind the counter know what works in your area. Brewers often start with large volumes of water to brew, so you may have do some recipe changes and work with 5 gallon water coolers.
  8. Apr 9, 2016 #7
    Understood Jim, thanks for clarifying.
  9. Apr 11, 2016 #8
    @Jim what I meant about the comment about if the particle size of these unknown particles are too small like 0.00005 microns and can only be seen by way of an electron microscope will the flashlight trick still work ? I understand the part of the water being cloudy and no the water is not cloudy typical clarity of clean and treated municipal water. Yes there is an odd taste to the water which is difficult to describe and unlike chlorine or sulfur taste. Resistant to boiling is correct the water was tasted without boiling and after and the taste was present before and after.

    Let me know if I missed any other questions.

    Thank you.
  10. Apr 11, 2016 #9
    You can make a (pure water) distiller out of a tea pot a rubber mission band some copper flex pipe pieces and a catch basin, you will have to also make a condenser you can fill with a little water an ice, an old plastic cooler will work. Just cut a couple round holes in the cooler and run your copper line through the cooler filled with water and Ice. Inside the cooler bend your line down till the bottom of the pipe barely touches the water then back up and out the hole on the other side.

    As the kettle heats to boiling just keep putting water in. Make all the pure water you want.
  11. Apr 13, 2016 #10
    If you are trying to kill something in the water, very few things would survive a pressure cooker.
  12. Apr 13, 2016 #11
    0.00005 microns = 0.05 nanometers ::: H2O molecule = no less than 0.1 nanometers.
    Your insoluble particles, at this accuracy, could be the individual water molecules themselves, or anything else on the top half of the periodic table.
    If you have access to an electron microscope capable of .00005 micron accuracy, you should also have access to a spectrometer or spectrophotometer that can give you a better idea as to the contents of the water.
  13. Apr 14, 2016 #12


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    It appears to me that the OP doesn't understand the difference between a (solid) particle and a dissolved molecule (or cluster). To repeat what has already been said: there are plenty of water filters on the market which will eliminate virtually all particulate solids in drinking water. Turbidity is caused by colloids of a certain dimension, and is one measure (among many) of water quality. The claim that something "appears in an electron microscope" is a very poor (useless) way to describe the size of anything - you can image a planet or an atom with electrons ! There are two "ways" to filter a liquid: pass the liquid though a filter, or pass the filter through the liquid. The latter is what flocculating materials do (although they typically do more than just a simple physical filtering). It can be useful to use several approaches, especially if the contaminate is unknown. Material smaller than colloidal dimensions is usually described as "solutes". Materials larger are "suspended" and will settle out. To settle out colloids, it's important to force them to interact. One way is to add a polyvalent ions (such as calcium and sulphate (but in two steps since CaSO4 is "insoluble"). Adding chemicals by an amateur is like allowing a child do surgery - a bad idea. Distillation will separate most (but not all) contaminants, as should reverse osmosis. Any processing done to water might also add contaminants, leaving you worse off, unless done carefully. The OP should also be aware that dust and bacteria are constantly falling onto.into any air-exposed surface, and that containers/pipes may also contaminate contents.
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