Unless they are in oxygen-rich water, plants in a hydroponic system can encounter a myriad of issues.
Air stones supply oxygen to the roots and ensure that the nutrients are bubbled up to the roots according to Oklahoma State University.
They’ll lose the ability to absorb nutrients, and in extreme situations, may even drown!
A hydroponic air stone can help in these situations by infusing the water with plenty of oxygen.
Air stones are an uncomplicated and robust technology which is what makes them so appealing to growers.
More-or-less, the only thing that can go wrong with air stones is that occasionally, they get clogged up and need to be cleaned
Until the attached pump gives out, there is little reason to replace them, so growers should learn to clean them instead.
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How to clean air stones for hydroponics
Take the following steps to clean your hydroponic air stones: 1. Rinse off the air stones and scrub them lightly but thoroughly 2. Boil them for about ten minutes 3. Immerse them in a solution of diluted bleach and leave for about two hours 4. Take them out of the cleaning solution and meticulously rinse them off, then allow them to dry completely.
How to clean air stones for hydroponics – Step-By-Step
If you examine air stones carefully, you find that they are composed of several hundred tiny holes.
At first, the idea of cleaning these holes will seem ridiculously daunting, but it is actually much easier than you might think.
Most of the muck that builds up is eliminated easily enough.
Follow the procedure outlined below, and you will have your stone running like new, and properly set up for the next growth cycle.
Rinse off the air stones and scrub them lightly
First, let the air stones soak in fresh water for half an hour or so.
Simply detach them from any pipes before immersing them in clean water.
In minutes, the water will begin to seep deep inside the air stones to reach and dissolve buildup in interior tunnels.
After you’ve let the air stones soak for the allotted time, using a soft, gentle brush, lightly scrub the air stones.
Usually, this will eliminate external blockages, but be wary to not scrub too vigorously, as it is easy to break air stones.
Let the air stones dry before proceeding to the next step.
For ten minutes, boil the air stones
Put the air stones into a pot and boil them for ten minutes, making sure to keep the burner on ‘low’.
This will break down internal gunk, simultaneously sterilizing the rocks.
Take out the air stones with tongs and place them on a clean, sterile surface. Air dry them normally.
Immerse them in a solution of diluted bleach
Once dry, use a small bowl to mix three parts of water into one part of bleach.
Depending on how dirty they were, figure on leaving the air stones soaking in this solution for two days.
If they weren’t particularly dirty, then just the one day would do.
Take them out of the cleaning solution and allow them to dry
Due to the use of bleach, this is perhaps the most critical step.
The rinse must ensure that no trace of bleach remains, as this would be harmful to your hydroponic system.
After thoroughly rinsing out all the bleach, connect one of the pipes and put the pipe and air stones into more fresh water.
Run air through the air stones for 10-15 minutes to get rid of the final vestiges of bleach and dirt.
Last, take the air stones out of the fresh water but keep the pump going for a final five minutes.
This will dislodge any stubborn dirt in any of the pores.
Cycling through the cleaning process
You can cycle through the process discussed above because you have several stones or because you need to deal with a single rascally and really dirty air stone.
Either way, always allow air stones to dry thoroughly before returning them to the hydroponic reservoir.
Never store air stones in the damp because this could lead to mold and eventually diseased or dead plants.
Why you should clean hydroponic air stones
Apart from not wasting money by throwing away perfectly serviceable air stones, cleaning them can also benefit the environment.
Make your hydroponic air stones last
If you reuse your air stones after cleaning them, you will prolong their life. This will lead to cost savings, perhaps even recovering the expense of your initial setup.
Save money on hydroponic air stones
Air stones are relatively inexpensive. However, when you replace them regularly, the cost of this maintenance adds up and will impact the expense of running your hydroponic system.
Cut waste by maintaining your hydroponic air stones
The natural process of hydroponics is sustainability. Constantly disposing of air stones surely defeats that purpose.
Cleaning and recycling air stones increases sustainability and is another quiet little way to help the environment while avoiding becoming ecologically harmful.
Why you should not bake air stones in microwaves or in ovens
If you have researched cleaning air stones, you might have come across some people who recommend baking them in a microwave or oven.
This is most definitely not a good idea! Using this method to clean air stones could damage them. Furthermore, it isn’t even effective at cleaning them anyway.
Air stones have small plastic couplings that join them with the pipe.
If you try to place them in an oven, there’s no way that they will withstand the temperature.
When these parts start to melt, they permanently damage the air stone and render it ineffective.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Clean Air Stones for Hydroponics
At what intervals do air stones typically need a fresh cleaning?
Based on the mineral content of the water, the air stone cleaning can last two-to-three months.
Is it alright to switch off air stones nightly?
It is not a good idea to switch off air stones when there are new seedlings in the reservoir or you are recovering from a recent instance of root rot. The only reason to switch off air stones nightly is to try and extend the air pump’s lifetime. There is no accessible data on the efficacy of this strategy, so it boils down to your instincts, judgment, and motivation.
Is my hydroponic reservoir’s pH affected by air stones?
Air stones do not normally affect the pH level in hydroponic reservoirs. However, not cleaning for long periods could very well have a small effect on pH levels.
Conclusion About How to Clean Air Stones for Hydroponics
There’s more to cleaning air stones than just saving money.
The health of the plants is the most important factor, and the more you wash your air stones, the healthier your plants will grow.
Cleaning your hydroponic air stones is a worthwhile exercise since you’ll notice an increase in growth that won’t cost anything.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.