How To Flush And Clean A Water Heater

needing to clean a water heater and flush it in basement

Why You Need To Clean a Water Heater

Why do you need to clean a water heater? Well, if you’re wondering why you’re not getting enough hot water when you take a shower, the answer is probably because your water heater is clogged with sediment build-up. Flushing and cleaning a water heater is essential to remove sediment that accumulates over time at the bottom of the tank. The more sediment build-up, the less efficient your water heater. And the reason you are stuck with cold showers.

If you take proper care of your water heater, your water heater takes care of you. To learn more, here’s a general guide on when and how to flush and clean a water heater:

  • How much do you really know about your water heater?
  • How often do you need to clean a water heater?
  • Materials needed to clean a water heater
  • Steps to flush and clean a water heater
  • When to call a plumber

How Much Do You Really Know About Your Water Heater?

We at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing are always thinking about heating your bathing and drinking water, as well as a range of issues related to making you and your family comfortable. That’s our job. It’s not something the average homeowner tends to think about much. But, the more you know, the more prepared you are to head off potential problems, as well as run your plumbing as efficiently as possible. So before we get into exactly how to flush and clean a water heater, take this little fun quiz to test your water heater knowledge.

Take your time and come back when you’ve finished. Or, keep reading for specific details on how to flush and clean a water heater.

How Often Do You Need To Clean a Water Heater?

How often you need to clean a water heater depends on the mineral content of your water and on your household water usage. But in any case, it doesn’t take a lot of time (about two hours) and it’s not a lot of work to clean a water heater, so once a year is a good rule of thumb. Include it in your regular fall or spring household maintenance routine. A yearly flush at the minimum helps not only to clean a water heater and keep it in good working order, but it also helps extend the useful life of the appliance.

Materials Needed To Clean a Water Heater

No special tools or skills are needed to clean a water heater. What you’ll need are the following:

  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe wrench
  • Towels or rags

Steps To Flush and Clean a Water Heater

These steps apply to just about any water heater. However, always check the manufacturer’s instructions that are specific to your water heater model.

  1. First things first. You need to know if your water heater is gas or electric.  turn Off Power:
    • For electric water heaters, turn off the power at the circuit breaker.
    • For gas water heaters, shut off the valve on the gas pipe connected to the water heater; to be extra safe, locate the thermostat and set it to “Pilot.”
  2. Locate the cold water inlet valve at the top of the water heater; turn off the water supply to the heater by closing this valve.
  3. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the water heater. Place the other end of the hose in a floor drain, bucket, or outside.
  4. Open a hot water faucet in the house to allow air into the system.
  5. Use a screwdriver or a wrench to open the water heater’s drain valve. Let the water drain out completely. Note: this may take some time, depending on the gallon size of the water heater; even if the water is clear, some sediment may remain, so it’s best to let it continue draining for a few more minutes.
  6. Once the water is completely drained, turn on the cold water supply for a few minutes while the drain valve is still open; this helps flush out any remaining sediment.
  7. Once the water runs clean without sediment, close the drain valve tightly.
  8. Turn on the cold water supply and let the tank fill up. Keep the hot water faucet open until water flows smoothly, which indicates that air is purged from the system.
  9. Restore power:
    • For electric water heaters, switch the circuit breaker back on.
    • For gas water heaters, turn the gas valve back on and set the gas control back to the desired temperature.

Wait about 20 minutes or so for the water to heat up. Then turn on a hot water spigot to check that you have hot water service.

When To Call a Plumber

Regular maintenance is essential to prevent unexpected and highly inconvenient breakdowns, maintain water heater warranties, and extend the useful life of the water heater. However, if you’re uncomfortable performing these steps to clean a water heater, or if you encounter any issues, call a professional plumber.

Also, if after you flush and clean a water heater you are still experiencing problems related to getting hot water, sufficient water pressure, and/or the quality of your drinking water, there are larger issues to investigate. Worn-out parts, corrosion, malfunctioning thermostats, and electrical connections might all contribute to these issues. Correcting such issues are not DIY projects.

An additional advantage to the maintenance services offered by the folks here at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing is that we do more than just flush and clean a water heater. Our maintenance services include a complete home plumbing inspection, as well as perks such as discounts and priority scheduling.

And if your water heater is old and reaching the end of efficient and reliable performance, we can help you decide on the right water heater for your family. We’ll install the new appliance and make all related plumbing and electrical upgrades.

The Benjamin Franklin team of licensed plumbers here in Kansas City is experienced and knowledgeable in handling all types of water heater systems and related water issues. We stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the industry to provide you with the best possible service.

Contact us at (800) 259-7705. When you choose Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, you can trust that your water heater is in capable hands. Nothing is ever too hot for us to handle.