Water heaters do the job of heating household water for cooking, cleaning, and showering. They take in cold water we usually get from our taps, heat it, and pump it all around the household to be accessed at the various hot water points.
However, water that comes into our homes is full of sediments, minerals, and chemicals. These build up in water heater tanks in the inner surfaces, preventing the water from heating most effectively. Calcium and lime build-ups are notorious in in water heaters and can even lead to clogging of pipes if not treated in a timely manner.
Luckily, food-grade white vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used to clean a water heater. Vinegar contains acetic acid that happens to make it a very versatile liquid. From cooking to antiseptic, vinegar is a jack of all trades. In cleaning, the acetic acid in vinegar breaks down organic compounds such as grime and grease, making it an ultimate cleaning agent.
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What you will need to clean a hot-water heater with vinegar
Water heaters come in different versions. Some use gas burners to heat the water, and electric versions have electric heating rods within the tank. Tank or tankless, water gets heated instantly to the desired temperature rather than storing it in a tank first as it heads to the shower or sink. Both require cleaning at least once in a calendar year.
To use vinegar to clean a hot-water heater, you will need the following:
- 4 gallons of food-grade white vinegar
- A socket wrench
- A funnel
- A hosepipe
- A bucket
- Teflon tape
Cleaning your water heater with food-grade white vinegar
Before using food-grade white vinegar to clean your water heater, you’ll need to do some preparations. First, go through the manufacturer’s instructions related to cleaning, as may differ for different models. If you don’t have the instruction manual, you can probably find it online. Secondly, make sure you have all the supplies you will need on hand.
Turning it off and draining the tank
Follow these steps:
- Turn off the water heater. Switch off the gas burner or electricity switch if it is an electric model.
- Turn off the cold-water supply as well. It should be above the water heater. Close it off.
- Proceed to drain the tank. The drain valve location is most likely at a point on the bottom part of the water heater. Attach or fix the hosepipe to the drain valve and redirect the hosepipe to a suitable drainage location.
- Turn on the hot water at a hot water point like a sink inside the house. That prevents a vacuum from building up in the hot water system and makes the drain valve work well. It is an effect brought about by atmospheric pressure.
- Open the drain valve to allow the water heater to drain its contents. If you are wary about wasting water, you can drain it into a bucket and store it elsewhere.
Using vinegar in your water tank
- After it drains, close the drain valve and the open hot water point inside the house.
- Locate the anode rod on top of the water heater. Some models have lids covering the anode rod. In that case, remove the lid to access the anode rod. The anode rod is put in place to prevent rust build-up within the water heater. You will need a socket wrench to loosen the anode rod and a screwdriver if the lid is held in position by screws.
- After loosening the anode rod, remove it from the opening and put in its place a funnel.
- Pour in the four gallons of food-grade white vinegar.
- Once done, remove the funnel and put the anode rod back in place. You can put Teflon tape around the grooves of the anode rod for a good air-tight seal.
- Open the water supply valve and let it fill for five to ten minutes. That serves not to fill the tank, but to stir in the vinegar within the water heater.
Letting the vinegar work and reconnecting
- Allow the vinegar solution to sit in the water heater for twenty-four hours to work on the sediments and mineral deposits within the water heater.
- It’s now time to drain the water heater, after having let it sit for a day. First, open a hot water point or tap inside the house to prevent the vacuum build-up once more.
- Then open the drain valve to let out the solution. Broken down sediment may come out, which might clog the drain. Work the drain using your hands to ensure that does not happen.
- Once finished draining, close the drain valve and the open the hot water point or tap inside the house and turn back on the water supply to refill the water heater.
- Once filled, reconnect back the water heater to its heating source and turn on the water heater.
Frequently asked questions
How can you tell the water heater requires cleaning?
Regular cleaning is an advisable strategy to keep your water heater clean. However, there are some signs that will tell you it’s time. For starters, not getting hot water or the water not heating well enough is evidence of sediment build-up. Secondly, water smelling or tasting funny can tell you it’s time to get some cleaning done.
How frequently should you clean a water heater?
It is recommendable to maintain a regular water heater cleaning schedule. Cleaning water heaters at least once a year is good, however for better results, every 6 months is prudent. That will ensure confidence in the supply of cleaner sediment-free water.
Is cleaning a tank water heater the same as a tankless water heater?
As tankless water heaters heat water on demand, you may feel it is not affected by sediment deposits, unlike its counterpart. However, that is untrue. It still requires regular cleaning. The process is the same. In this case, though, you won’t need to let the food-grade white vinegar solution sit in for a day. You only need to flush it within for up to thirty minutes.
To wrap up
Cleaning a hot-water heater with vinegar may sound like a chore that needs technical expertise. However, that is not the case. It is simple once you have the right equipment and supplies. Sediment and mineral build-up can be inconvenient once water from the water heater stops heating well enough or smells funny. You may experience higher electric bills as the water heater consumes more power to heat the sediments. Vinegar is your savior here. With its use, you won’t have to go through all that.