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Thread: Cleaning 40 gallon water heater with vinegar?

  1. #1

    Default Cleaning 40 gallon water heater with vinegar?

    Is it safe to drain my 40 gallon water heater, fill with a few gallons of white vinegar, and then let it sit overnight? It is 8 years old (2004 model), and every day I hear explosions in it (scale breaking up?).

    I assume that this would help clean dissolve all of the sediment which doesn't seem to come out by draining the tank alone. Vinegar seems to work well for cleaning shower heads?


  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    If you have the amount of scale to cause the steam explosions you describe, I doubt if vinegar will break it up.

  3. #3


    The crazy thing is, when we started getting the explosions, we had the water tested by a local company. Result was 2 grains of hardness!!! The tester remarked this was very low amount of hardness. He was the president of the company, so I would assume he knew how to conduct the test.

    BTW Jimbo, are these explosions harmful? is it time for a new water heater?

  4. #4
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    THey send small shockwaves through the water system...anything weak, might get weaker, but normally, it's more of an annoyance than a danger. WH can last anywhere from a few years (unusual, but happens) to several decades - 8 years is in the middle of the average range of life. If you change the drain valve to a full-port ball valve, you can poke through it to dislodge crud, if it's there. Can't do that with the factory one.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #5
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Yakima WA


    As Jim DeBruycker says, a full-port ball valve is well worth the expense and effort to install. It would SOP on a new heater in my home. You should have several years of service left in your present heat, so that would be my recommendation. While you are at it, outfit the valve with a male hose adapter so you can drain the tank.

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