If you’re a homeowner or a gardener, you know that a reliable garden hose is essential for maintaining a beautiful lawn and garden. And when it comes to connecting your hose to a water source or accessories, garden hose couplings are an essential component. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at garden hose couplings and tell you everything you need to know about them, from how they’re designed to how to properly care for them.
What Are Garden Hose Couplings?
Garden hose couplings are used to connect a garden hose to a water source or accessory, or to join two pieces of garden hose together. Garden hose couplings are also referred to as garden hose fittings or connectors, which is perfectly acceptable. However, the term “fittings” technically refers to the individual components that make up a garden hose coupling, while “coupling” refers to the entire assembly. For the following in-depth description of garden hose couplings, we’ll be using the more specific terms—fitting and coupling—for clarity.
A typical garden hose has two ferrules, one male coupling and one female coupling.
A ferrule is a cylindrical fitting that goes over each end of a garden hose before inserting the male and female fittings into the hose ends. Ferrules can be either ribbed in design, for use with internally expanded male and female fittings, or smooth, for use with barbed fittings.
For smooth-style ferrules, a barbed male and barbed female fitting are inserted into each end of a garden hose. A die is then used to crimp down the ferrule, pinching the garden hose between the ferrule and the barbed fittings. Because a barbed fitting is usually machined and thicker, it creates a smaller interior hose diameter, and thus a greater water restriction.
Swan typically uses ribbed ferrules in its garden hoses, along with internally expanded male and female fittings. When the male and female fittings are inserted into each end of a garden hose, they expand outward, which pinches the garden hose between the ferrules and the fittings.
The Male Coupling
The male coupling on a garden hose is either a one-piece or two-piece design, which has a “tail” (or “stem”) on one end of the fitting and male threading on the other. The tail of the fitting is inserted into one end of a garden hose. These tails can be designed to be barbed or expanded as previously described. The threading, meanwhile, appears on the outside of the fitting and screws into a female coupling on a watering accessory such as a nozzle, sprinkler, or even another garden hose.
The Female Coupling
The female coupling on a garden hose is typically a multi-part design consisting of a “tail” similar to those on male couplings. The tail of the female fitting is inserted into the other end of a garden hose. It also has a rotating component that contains female threading on the inside that screws onto a male coupling, such as that on a water source. The female coupling also needs to have an O-ring or a garden hose washer inserted for sealing purposes.
It’s important to note that garden hose couplings don’t seal to what they’re attached to based on the threads of the fittings. It’s the pinching of the washer in the female coupling that creates the seal. Because of this, care needs to be taken not to over-tighten the couplings, or you can damage the washer and cause leaks.
What Are Garden Hose Couplings Made Out Of?
Traditionally, all the components of garden hose couplings were made out of brass, from the tails to the threaded fittings.
However, regulations such as Prop. 65 in California—officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986—put a limit on certain materials used in products. This included brass because of the lead it can contain (however, the amount of lead in brass is well-below the regulation’s threshold). At the same time, the price of brass skyrocketed. The industry therefore began to utilize other materials in garden hose couplings such as aluminum, plastic, coated steels and even stainless steel.
Today, you’ll typically find garden hose couplings made of durable materials such as aluminum, brass, plastic or steel, which ensures they can withstand frequent use and exposure to the elements.
What Sizes Do Garden Hose Couplings Come In?
Garden hoses in general are made with interior diameters of ⅜”, ½”, ⅝” and ¾”, with the tails of the male and female couplings sized appropriately to fit within these diameters.
The threads on the garden hose couplings, however, on all residential and most commercial garden hoses in the United States and Canada, are made with one standard size to be able to connect to the threads on all spigots and watering accessories.
This standard thread size is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for garden hose fitting thread size, which is ¾”–11.5 NH or NHR. NH stands for American Standard Hose Coupling Threads of Full Form (used for a standard machined thread), and NHR stands for American Standard Hose Coupling Threads for Garden Hose Applications (used for rolled or formed threads such as Swan’s rolled male thread).
Other thread designations you might see include GHT (Garden Hose Thread), GHM (Garden Hose Male) and GHF (Garden Hose Female), but all of these are made to the same standard.
In contrast, there are special hoses used for commercial applications that have their own thread sizes, while outside of the United States, metric sizes are used.
How to Properly Attach a Garden Hose Coupling to a Water Source
Attaching a garden hose coupling to a water source is a relatively straightforward process. First, place the female coupling of the garden hose onto the male coupling of the water source (such as a spigot or faucet). Then, twist the female coupling clockwise with your hand until a connection is made to its washer, and then just a quarter-turn to half-turn more to fasten the male and female couplings securely.
With smaller round or octagonal-shaped female couplings, you might need the aid of a wrench. Just be sure not to over-tighten the coupling because you can damage the washer and create a leak.
Some of Swan’s garden hoses, such as our PROScape Hose and SoftTOUCH Hose, include our plastic Ergonomic Female Grip on the outside of the female coupling. This can be used like a wrench to tighten the connection to the water source. We also use larger ergonomic aluminum couplings on our heavy-duty hoses, which don’t require a wrench or other tool to tighten the connection.
How to Properly Remove a Garden Hose Coupling from a Water Source
Removing a garden hose coupling from a water source is just as simple as attaching it. First, turn off the water source. If a watering accessory is attached to the garden hose such as a nozzle, squeeze the trigger or open the nozzle to release any water pressure. Then, twist the female coupling counterclockwise to loosen it and gently remove it from the water source.
How to Care for Garden Hose Couplings While Attached to a Water Source
When garden hose couplings are attached to a water source (as well as accessories), it’s essential to care for them to ensure they remain in good condition. To do so, disconnect the couplings from the water source and any accessories at a minimum of three to four times per year and clean the threads. Never leave your garden hose couplings connected all year long.
Also, regularly inspect your garden hose couplings for signs of damage or wear and tear, such as cracks or leaks. If you notice any damage, replace the coupling with a new one immediately.
How to Care for Garden Hose Couplings Once Removed for Storage
Once you’ve finished using your garden hose for the season and removed the couplings from the water source and any accessories, it’s essential to care for the couplings properly to ensure they’re in good condition when you need them again. First, remove any dirt or debris from the couplings by wiping them down with a clean, damp cloth. Next, dry the couplings thoroughly to prevent rust or corrosion.
How to Remove Corrosion from Garden Hose Couplings
Over time, garden hose couplings can become corroded due to exposure to water, dirt and the elements. Periodically disconnect the female coupling from the water source and the male coupling from any accessories or other garden hoses and inspect for corrosion. Pay close attention to any residue in the threads.
Depending on whether your water source is public, well or other, you can see different types of corrosion. If caught early, most types of corrosion can be removed by scrubbing the couplings with a small bristled brush and mild soap and water. Remember to thoroughly rinse with clean water and dry.
In more extreme cases of corrosion, you can find cleaning-solution recipes online that recommend using lemon juice, as well other natural acids, to remove the corrosion.
Garden hose couplings are an essential component for any gardener or outdoor enthusiast. By understanding how to properly attach, remove and care for them, you can ensure they remain in good condition for years to come. Remember to regularly inspect and replace damaged couplings, clean, dry and store them properly, and remove any corrosion promptly. Happy gardening!