Garden Hoses

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Last updated Mon 09 May 2022

Lawn and garden maintenance typically requires quite a bit of water to keep grass, flowers, plants, and trees alive. While this water would in the past have been supplied either by the natural water table or by hand, modern plumbing allows easy access to water for gardening purposes via garden hosts attached to external taps and spigots on a property.

Aptus Plumbing garden hose
Aptus Plumbing garden hose

Physical Qualities Of A Garden Hose

Unlike most pipes used in plumbing, garden hoses are typically tubes, and have flexible properties. The garden hose is designed to be flexible to allow it to easily bend around various obstacles commonly found in yards and on lawns, such as trees, posts, and rocks. They are normally built from either a soft plastic or an extruded synthetic rubber and are internally reinforced with fibres, which enables the garden hose to retain a high level of strength on the exterior surface while still being smooth and flexible. This strength ensures that even if the tube is exposed to extreme amounts of surface stress, such as being stepped on by an adult human or scraped along a harsh surface, it will remain water-tight.

Hoses are connected to additional hoses, as well as accessories, by way of male and female connectors. Some hoses can come with a pair of these preinstalled, or they may need to be fitted by the end-user with connectors compatible with their equipment to allow the hose to be used. These connectors alone do not always appropriately create a seal, though, and a washer made of either plastic or rubber is also commonly seen on female connectors to allow a seal to be made.

Some hoses are made of porous materials or are manually perforated to allow water to slowly leak out of them. These are used to gently distribute water across a wide area, creating a low-cost alternative to other drip-irrigation systems that are common on farms.

Chemical Properties

Garden hoses are typically made to a set of standards created by NSF International, an international organisation that provides standards for a wide variety of product testing purposes. The standard most relevant to garden houses relates to the materials that they are made of, as it cannot be allowed to leach harmful chemicals into any water that may be drunk, whether that be directly from the hose or by introducing the chemicals into the home's water supply via backflow.

Some countries protect against this by legislating mandatory backflow prevention devices on all external taps and spigots. Here in Queensland, only vacuum breakers are required, and while these systems can provide some protection against backflow in the event of a pressure drop, they provide no protection in a pressure reversal event, which means the safety of the materials used in hoses is still quite important.

A coiled garden hose stored for easy access
A coiled garden hose stored for easy access

Hose Fittings

There are various attachments available to be fitted onto one end of the hose to provide alternative functionality instead of the standard spray of water that would otherwise exit the hose. For this purpose, hose connectors are built to physical standards that typically differ from country to country.

These attachments physically alter the flow of water to create different spray patterns. Some create intense sprays best used for cleaning hard surfaces and watering trees, while others can create soft cones that are suitable for children to play in or to water extremely small and delicate plants with.

In the past, these attachments needed to be manually screwed in and secured to the hose with each change. In 1959, though, a UK company created a series of 'quick' connectors designed to thread into the hose while offering a plug-and-play solution for the fittings, which can dramatically cut down time spent performing gardening and lawn care if multiple fittings would be needed in one sitting.

This system was quickly imitated by competitors and has now become something of a standard in the wider world, with some high-end connectors even offering internal valves that only open when a fitting is connected. When this valve is closed, the connector would block the flow of water, allowing users to change their fitting without needing to turn off the water supply at the tap.

A garden hose with a fitting on its head
A garden hose with a fitting on its head

Bacterial Concerns

Unfortunately, water can be allowed to be stagnant inside of garden hoses in the right conditions, particularly when the hose is stored coiled around a holding tool. This allows some bacteria, such as Legionella, to grow inside of the garden hose, and when sprayed using some fittings, can then be inhaled by anyone nearby. This has caused a number of confirmed cases of Legionella cases, and has spurned scientific study to confirm that Legionella can grow inside of a garden hose in typical conditions.

Fortunately, that same research shows that preventing the growth of bacteria inside of a hose is as simple as making sure it is properly drained after use. If you typically leave your garden hose hanging between uses, make sure to drain it regularly to prevent a biofilm from developing inside of it.

Some users choose to modify the flow of water by blocking the output with their fingers
Some users choose to modify the flow of water by blocking the output with their fingers


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