Paul's Plumbing Tips

Tips for safely cleaning your hot water tank

Are you constantly struggling with high utility bills? Does your hot water supply run out or fluctuate often? The problem may be your hot water tank. Many homeowners forget that their hot water tank can accumulate grime, dirt and minerals over time. These contaminants not only clog the tank, but they also make it harder for hot water to flow freely throughout your home.

You can follow a series of simple steps to clean out your hot water system and reduce your utility bills. Here are 4 tips to get you started.

1. Make sure the power supply is turned off

As with any other device that receives electric power, make sure you switch off the main supply before working on the unit. Most circuit breakers in the home will have a clearly labelled switch that supplies the hot water tank. Make sure this switch is off. Next, prevent a vacuum lock from blocking your pipes by opening a hot water faucet in the home. This will allow a smooth flow of water to push out any vacuum spaces in the pipes.

2. Drain the tank until it's empty

Now you can attach a drainage hose to the tank so as to drain the water that's currently inside it. Your aim is to drain all surface water so you can get to the debris hidden below. Make sure you have a large enough drainage reservoir for your tank water.

3. Add an appropriate cleaning chemical to remove debris

With surface water out of the way, you can now begin cleaning the tank itself. There are many chemicals in the market that can help dislodge minerals and grime. Vinegar is one of the most popular options because it's powerful on dirt, yet safe for humans. Using vinegar is also an easy process. Simply add a few litres of vinegar solution and allow it to sit in the tank for a few hours (typically 4–6 hours). As a weak acid, vinegar will digest the minerals inside your tank and flush them out when you drain the unit.

In addition to vinegar, you can also use hydrogen peroxide or lye to clean your hot water tank. The same process applies to lye. A few litres of lye solution (pure lye mixed with water) will digest all foreign chemicals and flush them out during drainage.

4. Rinse the tank and re-seal it

After chemical treatment, thoroughly drain the tank and rinse it several times with fresh water. This will ensure that all remaining debris has been removed.