Appliance Tips: Cleaning Your Water Heater

Article giving step by step instructions on how to cleam your water heater. Also, preventative measures to be taken to avoid water heater problems.

Regularly cleaning out your water heater is a good way to deal with water heater problems, but even in the most ideal conditions, it is a lot of work. Before starting the process, you should carefully read through all the steps and think about the effort involved. Once you pour cleaner into your hot water heater, you must be committed to flushing it completely as you'll have soapy water for a long time to come if you don't!

Mineral deposits in the tank, or problems caused by them, are the most common reasons to clean a tank. If you have a gas water heater the deposits form on the bottom of the tank and are usually stuck to the tank itself. Cleaning out the water heater will only remove a fraction of the deposits in there, if that's what you are attempting to do. Electric water heaters collect any mineral deposits on the heating elements and they usually fall to the bottom of the tank over time. Some of the deposits from an electric tank will flush in the cleaning process; however, many are too large to flush through the drain valve.

If there are a lot of deposits in the tank, you might have to go through the cleaning process more than once to achieve the desired results. In water heaters that are over seven years old this process may cause the water heater to leak so much you will have to replace it, consider this before starting.

Cleaning the tank:

1. Turn the water heater off.

2. Turn the cold water supply to the water heater off.

3. Hook a high quality garden hose to the drain valve.

4. Place the other end of the hose where hot water will not cause damage. The hose should be as straight as possible and all turns should be gradual.

5. Open the drain valve.

6. Disconnect the cold water inlet pipe on the top of the water heater. This step will let air into the water heater so it will drain.

7. When the water heater is empty, close the drain.

8. Pour a gallon of acidic tub and tile cleaner into the coldwater inlet pipe one cup at a time. CLR works best and can usually be found in an economical gallon size. Pause a few seconds after each cup of cleaner is poured into the tank, failing to do so will cause the tank to spew cleaner all over you.



9. Three to five hours later drain the cleaner out of the tank. By this time the cleaner will have either dissolved all of the mineral deposits or have been neutralized. To check if the cleaner is still working, gather the open end of a small plastic bag tightly around the open coldwater inlet pipe. If the bag gradually inflates, the cleaner is still working. If the bag does not inflate, the cleaner has stopped working.

10. Reconnect the cold water inlet pipe and turn the supply back on.

11. Open the cold water inlet valve and let the water heater flush for several minutes.

12. Close the drain valve and open the hot water faucet nearest to the tank and let the water heater fill.

13. When water starts to come out of that faucet, reopen the drain and let the water heater continue to rinse.

14. When the water seems clean and is free of bubbles, close the drain. Open all the hot water faucets in the house to remove all air from the water heater and hot water pipes.

15. After all the air is out of the water heater, turn it back on.

You may get a slight amount of soapsuds from the hot water faucets for a day or two after cleaning your water heater. By this time, the cleaner is so diluted that there is no harm in the small amount remaining. After all of this you may still have problems with your water heater such as rumbling, which means there is sentiment left in the tank. As stated before, this whole process is quite complicated. If you're still having troubles, it's back to step one!

If you did solve your problems, it's time to consider prevention so you don't have to go through this mess again. Every two to three months you should flush your water heater, as this is much less complicated than cleaning the tank. All you need to do is hook up a garden hose to the drain valve. The hose should be placed so it is as straight as possible with only the most gradual turns. Open the drain valve and let the water flush through the heater; the incoming water will agitate the deposits and some of it will flush out.

Also, installing a water softener is a good idea if you live in an area with hard water. A water softener will break down the minerals that accumulate and cause problems in your tank. Or, you can always replace your current water heater with a self-cleaning version made by State Industries. It's costly, but may be worth it if you're constantly battling with mineral deposits.

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