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Thread: De-mineralizing a hot water heater - a success story!

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  1. #1

    Default De-mineralizing a hot water heater - a success story!

    I have very hard well water (iron, calcium, etc), and have never flushed my 8 year old water heater (40-gal, natural gas). Needless to say, there was audible snap, crackle, pop, and occasionally boom sounds.

    Rather than shell out $$ for a new unit, I performed the following procedure last month with the help of an adventurous plumber:

    1. drain tank

    2. add two gallons of white vinegar

    3. wait 12 hours (at about the 6 hour mark, I ignited the burner for a minute or so)

    4. flush tank

    5. repeat steps 1-4

    It's been one month now, and still no noise!

    Just thought I'd share...


    Paul, Illinois

  2. #2
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default heater

    Call us again when the heater starts leaking and let us know how soon it happens.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member
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    Default water heater "maintenance"?

    So, the basic advice re. water heaters is occasionally flush some water out the bottom, otherwise let sleeping dogs lie?

    I also saw the "This Old House" story where Richard the plumber changes out the anode rod thing, started wondering if I should do that, too.

    My gas fired 40 gallon unit is going strong after 14 years ... I guess I'd better keep the floor drain clear! Great info on this board ... Phil

  4. #4
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Phil, you can't flush much hard water scale out of a water heater tank; especially gas or oil fired types. Those snap crackle pop sounds are little steam explosions and have more than likely broken the 'glass' lining in the tank and that allows the water up against the raw mild steel of the tank. Vinegar is acidic, so it attacks steel. The water and acid causes rust and rust causes holes that leak.

    The best way to protect a water heater is to prevent hard water scale build up in it, and the only way to do that is with a water softener.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member SteveW's Avatar
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    Check out a site all about WH maintenance: waterheaterrescue.com .

    They sell a book which claims you can keep a WH going for many, many years by inspecting (and eventually replacing) the anode rod, flushing the tank, and watching the dip tube.

    Make sure to check out the "fun stuff" pics -- esp. "Scary as ABC..."

  6. #6
    Plumber plumber1's Avatar
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    I say good for you.....
    You can do a lot of things with that water heater and I don't believe your going to accomplish anything.
    Forget it and keep on using it.

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser
    Phil, you can't flush much hard water scale out of a water heater tank; especially gas or oil fired types. Those snap crackle pop sounds are little steam explosions and have more than likely broken the 'glass' lining in the tank and that allows the water up against the raw mild steel of the tank.
    Gary, I agree with your first sentence - regularly draining/flushing a water heater may only modestly help prolong tank life, as it will only rid the unit of suspended minerals, not minerals that have settled and bonded to the tank floor.

    However, prior to embarking on this project, I consulted with several plumbers, as well as Bradford White, and they all agreed that "snap, crackle, pop" is due to little steam explosions in the accumulated layer of mineral sediment on the tank floor. Had the noise been due to breaks in the glass lining, then vinegar wouldn't have any effect - in fact, it might make matters worse. Instead, what I witnessed was lots of dirty "apple cider" flowing out of my tank after the vinegar flush, and no more "snap, crackle, pop". Thus, I have to conclude that the noises were due to a layer of sediment buildup, that the vinegar successfully dissolved.

    Maybe northern Illinois well water has mineral composition that is susceptible to vinegar? The trap & jets in my newer American Standard toilet clog every six months or so, and an overnite vinegar bath (in the bowl) restores it to like-new condition. (Why didn't American fully glaze them in the first place??)

    Why not get a water softener? Because it is probably more maintenance, and anyway, my natual mineral water is cheaper and better tasting than bottled or softened water!! (Of course, that could be due to the leaking landfill about a mile from here...)

  8. #8
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking when will it leak??

    now that you have basically cleaned out all
    the lime and sediment from the inside of
    the tank , and the bottom of the tank
    is clean as a whistle, I wonder how long it will be before
    the unit starts to leak???



    usually by de-limeing the heater,
    you expose to the elements any hair line cracks , poor welds ect
    that the sediment has sort of protected for a long while..

    so it will be interesting to see how much life you
    actually squeeze out of this puppy.....

    and how much time and money was invested in doing this??
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 03-11-2006 at 05:44 PM.

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