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This week I moved out of my home. One of the last items on the list was to unhook the washer and dryer for donation. As soon as I unscrewed the water hose from the cold water hookup, water started spraying out onto the floor.

The valve was a quarter-turn valve, and it turned out the inner ball had completely rotted away from having water flow through it for over thirteen years. The entire thing needed to be replaced.

Is there any sort of preventative maintenance I can perform to keep this from happening again? I won't tell you how much it cost me to replace the valves, and I'd like to avoid that little bit of pain in the future.
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I have never seen a valve like your whose construction was not brass or plastic. It is possible for either type to have been damaged before installation or to possess a serious manufacturing defect. Beyond these situations the only thing I can think of that would bother a metal valve is very acidic water - but that would be doing the same damage to every metal valve in your house. Plastic materials can be softer and resultantly damaged by trash in the water lines.

Others on this board certain have knowledge I don't - but my view is you suffered an event whose probability is similar to winning Powerball twice in the same month.
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Its possible you encountered galvanic corrosion. When different metals come together, the corrosion due to one gets transferred to the most active metal. If you had a steel ball in a brass or copper body, that would be disaster.

The most common way to deal with this kind corrosion is to attach a more active metal like zinc to the metal. Bars of zinc have been used for this.

But as a practical matter simply checking for corrosion occasionally could be your best solution. Or maybe a stainless steel valve would last longer.

In chemistry, this is known as the activity series. Zinc is higher than iron is higher than copper. You can find info on all metal elements if you look for it. But some like aluminum get protected with an oxide film. So difficult to predict.
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Galvanic erosion in washer setups are really common. Last time we replaced ours, the remove/replace option was part of the Lowes sale price, but when they came by, I was out of town, they refused to hook it up as the valves were obviously corroded. So I took it on, replaced the valves, they came back, leveled, checked things out... Glad they stopped when they did, it was my problem, not theirs to solve, and talking to other folks it dod turn out to be pretty common..

Another thing I do is bond, ground, the chassis of both washer & dryer to the cold water pipe, years ago I had a situation where I'd feel a tingle between the washer & dryer, likely insulation leakage internally, but the bonding keeps it safe at least.. Most washers, dryers have a wire for it, rarely connected I guess...

weco
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