Cleaning the irrigation systems in the garden

Years and years of work on your irrigation system and in the end it ends up taking its toll. That is the day to day of today’s agriculture. A lot has to be said by those gardeners and farmers who have fertilizers where they add fertilizers for fertigation.

Today, in Gardenprue, we comment a little on the current cleaning systems of localized irrigation systems , especially the dripper. 

After years of operation you begin to notice that your drippers do not come out the same flow of yesteryear. You are surprised and you think how it can be possible if you have filters in the milk irrigation head. It does not matter, sometimes the particles are very small, they pass the filter and then flocculate and clog the droppers.

Trust us, it’s really easy to plug a dropper …

Solutions? Well, for those who have a small garden and do not have a spreader, there is a very simple (but laborious) way. It consists of introducing a fine wire in each one of the droppers. Yes, it is arduous and unrewarding work.

On the other hand, if you have a fertilizer spreader or injector, things change, as there are products of an acidic nature that are capable of disintegrating the compounds that clog pipes and drippers. We are going to comment on them.


Basically, all those particles that the water carries away. Logically, the quality of the water says everything, both for the health of your crops (remember what we said about electrical conductivity ) and for the work elements (filters, motors, pipes, drippers, etc.).


Whether it is added by fertilizer (be careful, not the typical compost we are used to, but the one that is soluble), or if we water from a well or reservoir, we can find all kinds of organic matter. Algae, fungi, bacteria, tiny plant debris. Everything that has not cleaned the filter.


Solid particles can be inert or natural. The latter would be remains of earth, either clays, sands or silts that are in suspension next to the water. In addition, debris of plastic, metal or any other inert component can also circulate inside the pipe.

Against the latter, little can be done by applying acids, since they neither dissolve plastic nor metal (in the short term). Ideally, the dripper lines will be opened at the end to allow the exit of said inert elements in suspension.


We talk about bicarbonates and here we mention the importance of the salt content in our water.

In addition, the fertilizers as such are salts, so we must also be especially careful with the amount we add by irrigation (to avoid burns and phytotoxicities), their solubility, and their incompatibility with other soluble fertilizers.

When the salts dry out, crusts form inside the pipe or in the drippers, causing blockages, reduced flow and ruptures.


There are different products on the market, most of them acidic in nature, to clean our entire system.

Basically we could differentiate between maintenance cleanings (those that are done, for example, once a month) and deep cleanings, where the amount of acidic matter is increased and all the droppers are closed.

To remove carbonates , a widely used (and inexpensive) product is usually nitric acid .  It has a very acidic pH, so it is good for those soils of a basic nature.


Although it is variable and will depend on how closed the installation is, we recommend a quantity of between 3 and 6 liters for each cubic meter and hour of irrigation.

One moment! And how do I know how much is a cubic meter of water that passes through my pipe?

Very easy. Count the number of drippers in your installation and their flow. If, for example, you have 250 drippers of 4 L / h, we would be talking about 1 cubic meter every hour of irrigation. Therefore, you would have to add between 3 and 6 L.


Although nitric acid achieves much improvement in the irrigation system, there are also other specific products, depending on the nature of the clog. For example, for fillings from accumulations of organic matter , sodium hypochlorite can be added , which we all know as bleach. 

Of course, you will have to be very careful with the concentration and quantity to avoid phytotoxicities in crops.

In addition, sodium hypochlorite can be used, at higher doses, to combat an emerging nematode problem It is usually applied at a rate of 1 liter per 1,000 square meters, always taking into account the number of drippers we have to avoid phytotoxicities .


Finally, you must take into account the many precautions that must be taken when handling products of this nature.

Both nitric acid and hypochlorite are dangerous and corrosive , and they release toxic gases. The use of protective gloves, waterproof suits, boots, glasses, etc. is mandatory for handling.

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