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How Do You Clean Sediment Out of a Water Heater?

Technician Repairing Gas boiler

When was the last time you changed the oil in your car? You might not remember the exact date, but you probably remember the month, and even if you don’t, you can likely access that information quickly and conveniently.

After all, you know very well that changing a car’s oil as scheduled is one of the keys to reliability, longevity, and good performance. A car is an expensive investment, so it’s something you want to get the most out of as you possibly can.

So when was the last time you cleaned the sediment out of your home’s water heater? A lot of people won’t know the answer to that question.
Like a car, a water heater plays an important role. Also, like a car, a water heater isn’t cheap, so you want it to function well for years.

Over time, sediments from the minerals and particulates in your water build up inside your water heater’s tank. If they accumulate too much, they can affect performance, and water heater repairs can get expensive. You might even need a new water heater in a worst-case scenario.

Fortunately, there are some ways you can help keep your water heater clear of excessive sediments on your own. Of course, there’s always the option of calling a professional plumber for peace of mind and guaranteed results. It pays to take advantage of these options. After all, no one wants to find out the hard way (the cold way) that a water heater isn’t working when getting into the shower on a winter morning. If you have a clogged drain near Asheville, North Carolina, that needs repair, do not hesitate to call our experts.

For seasons van in backyard

Signs of Sediment Buildup in a Water Heater

To tell whether too much sediment might be building up inside your water heater, you can look for particular signs, some pretty obvious and others more subtle. Following are some of those signs, and spotting them can help you fix a minor problem before it can become a major one.
Water temperature fluctuates, going back and forth between hot and cold.

  • The water is taking longer than average to heat up.
  • There is no hot water at all.
  • You hear popping or rumbling noises from the water heater’s tank.
  • You have noticed small leaks near the water heater drain valve.
  • When water comes out, it has a rusty look to it, and/or it smells bad.

Even if you do not see any of these signs but still want to do a performance check on your water heater, there’s an easy way to do that.
Go to your kitchen, turn on the faucet to its hottest setting, and wait for it to get hot. Next, take a basic kitchen thermometer and measure the water’s temperature from the faucet.

You want the temperature to be at least 120 degrees F. Anything under that is an indicator that the water heater isn’t performing as well as it should be. Before you call a plumber or resort to DIY approaches, though, check your water heater’s temperature setting to make sure it hadn’t been set too low and was just in need of being adjusted upward.

Removing Sediment from a Water Heater

Removing Sediment from a Water Heater step by step infographic


Once you’ve recognized that your water heater has a sediment problem, there are some different things you can do to set things right again.

  • Flush the unit. This will prevent sediment from building up inside the water heater. For maximum effectiveness, do this at least twice a year. First, ensure you protect yourself by shutting off the water heater’s power supply (most likely electricity or gas). After that, cut off the water supply so that new cold water doesn’t get in during the flushing process. Now, begin draining the unit to remove floating particles and other sediments by connecting a hose to the drainage valve. Be careful to make certain that the water being flushed, which will be very hot, goes somewhere safe. Outside is best; buckets are a reasonable alternative. Drain the tank and flush it with the cold water valve open until the water coming out is transparent, meaning the sediments have been removed. Finally, power everything back up.
  • Perform a vinegar soak. Vinegar is part of clearing and cleaning a clogged drain, and it’s also helpful in removing sediment from water heaters. After you’ve drained your hot water tank, you can pour a gallon or so of vinegar through it. To ensure the tank gets a thorough soak (try for 6 hours), close the drain valve before introducing the vinegar. Before you restore power to the unit, flush all the vinegar out.
  • Keep it at the right temperature. 120 isn’t the recommended temperature, only out of scaling concerns. At higher temperatures, sediment buildup is actually easier to occur, so keeping it at 120 reduces the deposition of solid minerals.
  • Install a water softener. Water softening systems reduce water hardness by removing the ions that contribute to it. These systems do require careful installation and maintenance, but their long-term benefits outweigh the short-term hassles.
  • Call a professional plumber. Not everybody has the time or inclination to perform sediment removal independently, and others worry that they may not do it right. Hiring a pro plumber is an excellent solution to those concerns, and it lets you focus on things you’d instead do.

Water Heater Services by Four Seasons Plumbing

If you require water heater services in Asheville or surrounding communities, Four Seasons Plumbing is a company you can count on for anything you might need. We’re fully licensed and insured, and all of our technicians have the training, know-how, and equipment for the job. You’ll also always get fair, upfront pricing, and we stand behind the work we do. Professionalism and courtesy are among our core values, and you can trust and rely upon us for all your water heater and other plumbing needs.

For an estimate or to schedule a service, call us today or use our easy online contact form!

Max Rose - Owner of Four Seasons Plumbing


Max Rose

Max Rose is the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing, a plumbing company in Asheville, North Carolina.