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Recently, I headed down into our basement, the first time I've been down there in weeks to be honest, and I noticed that there initially seemed to be a leak coming from the Pittsburgh potty in the corner.

Image of the leak (click to enlarge)

However, when I went over there to check, I noticed that the lid of the commode was damp, so my thoughts went to the pipes above.

Image of the pipes overhead (click to enlarge)

The oxidation on the pipe doesn't thrill me, but when I ran hot and cold water through, I didn't notice any leaking or condensation.

Furthering the mystery, when wiping it up, it smelled, well, vinegary. More white vinegar than cider vinegar if that helps. That baffles me, as I can't think of a good source for that sort of a smell. I've checked with my wife, and we haven't been dumping a bunch of vinegar, or trying to use the baking soda and vinegar method of cleaning pipes. I'm going to check on it again later tonight, and tomorrow morning, to see if there's additional moisture, but the whole thing is rather baffling.

One possibility is that right above it upstairs is a cabinet, which does include a bottle of vinegar at the bottom, but I did not see or smell any vinegar residue in there.

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  • If we do get a further leak, I'm tempted to just call in a plumber, and get rid of the toilet (we haven't run water to it since we bought the house due to the former homeowner saying the wax seal needed to be replaced and, well, not really having any need for the exposed toilet) while he checks/fixes the pipes... Oct 26, 2020 at 18:49
  • The leak and the vinegar may not be related .. is it possible someone poured some vinegar In the tank months ago to remove smells?
    – mark f
    Oct 26, 2020 at 19:03
  • Only my wife and I live here, as we have for years, and neither of us have been putting vinegar in, and we haven't had any plumbing work done for a while. Oct 26, 2020 at 19:06
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    Does that toilet ever get flushed? Is there any water in the bowl to fill the trap and prevent sewer gasses coming in?
    – brhans
    Oct 26, 2020 at 19:08
  • Replace the offending plumbing couplers A'nat, (they need addressing anyway,) and then you have eliminated that variable. What about red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar?
    – Alaska Man
    Oct 26, 2020 at 19:18

1 Answer 1

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The pipe with the corrosion is a SUPPLY pipe, not a drain pipe, so anything having to do with pouring vinegar down a drain would be irrelevant.

That coupling looks bad, as in someone did a poor job of soldering it, maybe used the wrong flux and there is a pinhole leak. The white material looks like a calcium deposit, likely from that pinhole leak and the water evaporating, leaving behind that calcium deposit (think stalactite in a cave). The blue material is copper oxide, a residue from corroding copper.

My guess given that evidence: the previous homeowner did his own copper plumbing (or hired a cheap handyman to do it) and made a mistake on that fitting (which would make me worry about others) right before putting the house on the market. Rather than re-do it, he may have just tried to clean off the calcium deposit. One way to do that is to use vinegar! But then the vinegar also reacted with some of the exposed copper and formed the copper oxide too.

Bottom line, I would not get too into the vinegar smell issue, you have a bad coupling that needs to be removed, the pipes cleaned thoroughly and a new one soldered in properly. If you don't have the skill set for this yourself, hire a plumber.

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