How To Prevent Rust From Destroying Your Water Heater

Rust on both the interior and exterior of your water heater can be problematic. Rust will slowly eat away at and deteriorate metal. And unfortunately, once it has damaged the metal, there is nothing that can be done to solve the problem. This can leave you having to purchase a new water heater. Luckily, rust doesn't have to destroy your water heater. Frequent inspections and cleanings can help you to remove any rust that may begin to form before it becomes an issue. Here are the ways to clean the interior and exterior of your water heater.

Cleaning the Exterior of Your Water Heater

As your water heater heats up water, it gets warm. When your warm water heater comes into contact with cold air, condensation begins to form. As condensation forms on metal, rust can begin to develop. Follow these steps to remove rust from the exterior of your water heater.

  1. Turn the water heater off and allow it to cool. Water heaters can be very hot to the touch and you do not want to burn yourself cleaning your unit.
  2. Dampen a soft cloth in cool water. Wipe down the water heater to remove dirt, dust and other residue. Dry the water heater with an old towel to remove excess moisture.
  3. Dip a soft cloth in white vinegar or a commercially-sold metal rust removing solvent. Dab at the rust spot until the entire area is coated in the white vinegar or rust removal product. Allow the vinegar or solvent to sit on the rust. Continue adding more every 15-30 minutes, keeping the area moist and coated until the rust is no longer visible.
  4. When rust is no longer visible, wipe the vinegar or solvent away with a water-dampened cloth. Dry the area to prevent rust from forming.

The frequency with which you need to clean your water heater varies based on many factors. As a general rule of thumb, start by cleaning the exterior of your water heater monthly. If you notice several rust spots, up your frequency to bi-weekly. If you rarely notice a rust spot, decrease your cleaning to bi-monthly. Generally speaking, a water heater needs to be cleaned more in winter due to condensation than in summer. Older water heaters are more susceptible to rust due to worn paint and sealers, so older models may need to be cleaned more frequently. Trial and error will help you determine how frequently you need to clean yours.

Cleaning the Interior of Your Water Heater

The water the flows into your water heater can contain elements, such iron (which causes rust), or sediment. These elements can build up in the tubing and lead to blockages. And unfortunately, rust can cause the metal parts inside of your heater to deteriorate. As such, it is recommended that you flush your water heater on remove the sediment and rust that can accumulate inside. Here is how.

  1. Turn your water heater off and allow it to completely cool before touching it to ensure you don't burn yourself. Disconnect it from it's power source. The steps to this vary based on whether you have an electric- or gas-based water heater. Consult your manufacturer's directions for instructions.
  2. Look on the top of your water heater and locate the cold water supply valve. Turn the valve to the off position. This prevents any new water from coming into the tank. If you fail to do this, the tank will attempt to automatically refill itself as you drain the water.
  3. Locate the drain valve toward the bottom of the water tank. The drain valve looks like an outdoor water spigot your hose is connected to. Attach a regular garden hose to this drain. Place the opposite end of the hose in a place where water can drain. This may be in your yard or down to the street.
  4. Go to any sink in your home and turn it on. This will allow any water currently in the line between your hot water heater and faucet to drain. Keep the water faucet turned on until you complete this task.
  5. Turn the drain valve on your hot water heater so that water begins flowing out the hose. You are now draining all of the water from your hot water tank. Continue this until no more water drains from the hose.
  6. Shut the drain valve and turn the cold water valve to the on position. Your tank will begin filling with water. Allow your tank to fill about the halfway point before turning off the cold water valve.
  7. Open up the drain valve and once again allow the water to drain. This time, as it drains, pay attention to the color. If your tank is clean, the water will be clear. If there is rust or sediment, the water will be red or brown. Continue filling and draining the tank until the water running from the tank is clear.
  8. After cleaning the tank, close the drain valve, remove the garden hose and turn the cold water valve to the on position. Connect your water heater to a power source and turn it on again.

It is recommended that you drain and clean a water heater on a yearly basis. Doing so will help to prolong the lifespan of your water heater.

Rust can shorten the lifespan of your water heater when it is not removed in a timely manner. Removing rust from both the interior and exterior of your water heater can help your water heater last as long as it is designed to, which can save you money. Luckily, this is something you can do yourself and doesn't cost you much money.

For more information about taking care of your water heater, contact a company like Wright Total Indoor Comfort.