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3-Step Guide To Flushing And Cleaning Your Old Electric Hot Water Heater Using Vinegar

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After noticing that your hot water has lost its warmth or the stream is slow, you may be thinking it is time to replace your electric water heater. However, it may only need to be flushed and cleaned. Before you spend the money on a new one, use the following three-step guide to flushing and cleaning your hot water heater with vinegar.

Step 1: Drain The Water Heater's Tank

The first step involves draining the water heater's tank and flushing out the excess sediment. You will need a garden hose and bucket for this part of the project.

After cutting off the circuit breaker to the heater, shut off the cold water valve found on top of the tank. Then, find the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and attach the garden hose. It will look like an outdoor water spigot. Once the hose is attached and the other end is in the bucket, open the drain valve and turn on one faucet. This will keep the pressure from getting too high within your tank. 

As the tank drains, you should start to see sediment mixed in with the water, especially as it reaches the bottom. If the hose becomes clogged, milk it with your hands until it breaks loose. The sediment should look like sand. However, if you see large amounts of flaked, rusty metal, do not continue with your project. The inside of the tank is most likely deteriorating and the vinegar used in step two will make it worse. If you see this, contact a water heater repair service professional so they can assess the extent of the problem.

Once the draining water slows down, close the drain. Slowly turn the cold water valve on for one minute to add a small amount of water to the tank. Then, proceed with the next step.

Step 2: Add Vinegar To The Tank To Clean It

Step two in the process uses a cup of white distilled vinegar to break up any sediment remaining on the bottom and sides of the tank. You also need a small crescent or socket wrench and a funnel. Because the vinegar must stay in the tank for 6 hours and the water heater will be unusable, you may want to do this step before you go to bed or leave for work. 

To gain access to the tank, locate the anode rod on top of the tank. It will be the only horizontal bolt that you see. Use the wrench to loosen the bolt and pull out the rod, leaving an access hole. Place the funnel into the hole and pour the vinegar through it. Replace the rod and let the vinegar sit for six hours. Then, go on to the final step.

Step 3: Flush Out The Tank

To rinse out the tank, start by repeating the directions for draining the tank as described in step one. Initially, you may see more sediment than you did before. This is a sign that the vinegar did its job.

After the water has drained out, turn on the cold water valve to flush water through the tank into the garden hose for five minutes or until the water is clear. Once it is clear, turn off the cold water and drain valves. Remove the garden hose and turn the water valve back on to refill the tank. Once it has filled, turn the breaker back on to heat your water.

If you do not see any improvement in the amount or quality of your hot water, there could be another problem. You may want to contact a repair service to have someone inspect your tank and give you options for either repairing or replacing your hot water heater.