A Hose is a Hose

What's in a garden hose

Remember when you were younger, outside washing the car on a hot weekend, and you might have taken a sip from the garden hose you were using to spray down the car?

It wasn’t such a good idea.

Mike Frentz was talking about that this week as he was noticing how quickly garden hoses and sprinklers have been selling. He wondered if anyone realized that garden hoses, particularly those made of or with vinyl, contain materials that can be toxic when ingested.

"People shouldn’t drink out of any hose," he said. "Well, I take that back. There’s one hose that's safe to drink out of, but the rest of them – the vinyl releases toxins into the water and the heat of the sun as its laying across the lawn, makes it worse.

"Remember how bad that first sip used to taste, if the hose had been stretched across the driveway and the water had a chance to heat up? We all did it. That’s what I mean. Now you’d probably have to drink a lot to feel any ill effects, but why take the chance?"

That goes for pets, too. A lot of people fill their dog’s water bowl from the hose, and animals are just as susceptible as we are.

Frentz is selling a lot of hoses. Some people might balk at paying $20-$30 for a 50-foot garden hose, but then again, it depends on what you’re using if for, and how often you’re willing to replace the hose.

Pure vinyl
Frentz and Sons carries a large selection of hoses, and the least expensive is pure vinyl, 50 feet long, and only costs about $7. Mike says it’s just fine for work that requires leaving the water on (continuous flow) without a nozzle. If you use this hose with a nozzle, the constant release and halt of the water flow will quickly build up pressure, and it’ll burst. There’s also a difference in the fitting – it’s brass, but the brass is thin because it’s made from sheet metal. Just the sort of thing your car can crush if you back over it. This hose might last a year, maybe two, with TLC.

Reinforced vinyl
The next hose, moving up the quality line, is reinforced vinyl. That means there are two inner layers of hose inside a nylon web – the exterior has the slightly bumpy appearance and feel of a knitted fiber. These hoses will stand up to start-and-stop pressure, and have a brass fitting (All hoses, by the way, are five-eighths of an inch wide, with a standard ¾" hose fitting. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about – it’s not like purchasing piping for a plumbing job, which, as we explained a couple columns ago, goes by one size but usually measures out to another. Mike says this hose will last a couple years, no problem.

Rubber hose
Then there’s rubber hose. No vinyl involved, this stuff is all rubber reinforced with nylon. This is where some people will think garden hoses start to get pricey. Frentz has a 50-foot rubberized hose on sale for about $44, but you’re paying for some advantages. For example, Mike says "this is very abrasive resistant," meaning you can drag it all over a concrete driveway without much damage. (In fact, Tom Cruise used a 50-foot length of this hose to pull himself up the side of that mountain in "MI:2." No, not really.) There’s also a version of this hose, red in color, designed to handle hot water. "We sell a lot of those to restaurants because they hose down the entire kitchen floor, and to car washes." Some shoppers looking for an extra durable hose, even for garden use, will end up buying the heat-resistant red rubberized version.

The best there is
The best hose Mike has is made by a company called Gilmore. "It combines the strength of rubber with the light weight of vinyl and carries a lifetime guarantee," Mike says. "If it ever leaks, you cut off the ends, mail them to the company and you get a new hose." This is a hose, which goes by the name Flexogen®, to which someone gave a lot of thought. The ends are solid brass fittings, but not sheet metal – these are thick, one-piece fittings you probably could run over several times and never notice it. Most of the hoses described above are three or four ply (three or four layers thick). This one is 6 ply. It also has a blue plastic sleeve directly beneath the female fitting that connects to your house valve, to keep it from kinking.

If you were interested in drinking out a hose, Frentz sells a special Marine model (most hoses are green. The rubberized models come in black or red, depending on temperature usage, but the Marine model, which many people use on boats or for campers, is white). Unlike other hoses, this one has a lining that is FDA approved that keeps the water safe to drink.

But what fun is a hose without a sprinkler?
If you have to look to sprinklers for fun, you might as well start right at the top and go for the Rain Train, by Nelson. "It’s the ultimate, but you ought to have a lot of lawn if you’re going to get one of these," Mike says.

Step A – lay out your garden hose in a pattern around your lawn.
Step B – connect one end of the hose to the house valve and the other end to the Rain Train, which looks like a toy tractor with a sprinkler on top.
Step C – place the front wheel on top of the hose, so it will follow the hose like a slot car.
Step D – is turn on the water and if you’re very, very patient, watch. The Rain Train will follow the course of the hose, but extremely slowly, so the sprinkler can adequately water your lawn. It can take more than an hour to complete the circuit, at which time, when it hits the end of the hose, it turns itself off. More fun than a man should have.

If you don’t look to lawn sprinklers for entertainment purposes, it’s possible a standard pulsating or oscillating model will do the job, or at least be more entertaining than yet another M*A*S*H. Frentz carries both.

Bonus round
Frentz also carries replacement in-ground piping for people with built-in sprinklers who didn’t, for whatever reason, have them blown out during the winter. That usually means they crack when you crank them up in the summer, a costly error that can involve a lot of digging and new sod, to boot.