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Mike 11-04-2008 01:28 PM

What is all that gunk inside my water heater?
Hi all,
Don't know if anyone else has ever dealt with this. We purchased our '02 RT a few months ago. Yesterday, I pulled the drain plug out of the water heater to inspect and pre-winterize if you will. I discovered the anode on the plug was almost completely covered in the whitish calcium buildup and promptly fell off of the plug. No big deal, I can get another plug/anode somewhere. However, I can see a fair amount of additional calcium gunk inside the heater, and am assuming the previous owners either never used the heater, or never bothered to open the drain to winterize it or flush it out.
Any suggestions as to the best way to clean the thing out? I'm not going to use CLR or anything harsher than vinegar, but am trying to figure out the best way to attack the problem. There is a bypass with upper and lower 2 way valves, and the weather is going to be warm for a few more days here in Ontario. I was thinking of blasting a stream of water with my garden hose into the heater through the external drain plug hole, with the inside bypass valves in the bypass position, but I'm not sure if that might damage any internal parts. I was also thinking of running street water through the system and keeping the hot water bypass closed, with the plug out to allow water to run in through the cold in, and then out through the drain hole. Or, I might try adding vinegar to the fresh water tanks and trying to pump it through the system to the heater and out the drain with the bypass valves set as in the previous scenario. Should I try leaving some vinegar and water in the thing for a few days?

If anyone has any comments or warnings or ideas or suggestions, I'm listening. I'd like to try whatever I do no later than tomorrow, as the warm weather is only here until Friday, and I'd like to "dry out" the plumbing system as soon as possible thereafter.

Thanks for any help,

Mike 11-04-2008 01:50 PM

Re: What is all that gunk inside my water heater?
Hi all (again),
I just found (funny I searched earlier, but must have missed the posting :? ) Marco's 1 1/16" wrench thread with pictures of the tank saver sprayer attachment tool. I guess I'll try a modified spray out of the inside of the heater and see how that goes. I'm still thinking vinegar somehow, but just not sure how yet. There appeared to be a lot of gunk in the heater, so we'll see what happens. I'd also like to try to avoid having it all through the hot water pipes, which I'm sure would be a much bigger hassle, if they were to get plugged up.

Sorry (Mark), my search skills are clearly lacking, :oops:

p.s. This definitely a warm weather project, so it may have to wait until Spring.

markopolo 11-04-2008 06:35 PM

Re: What is all that gunk inside my water heater?
1 Attachment(s)
It's a good topic to bring to the forefront Mike.

Here's the link Mike referred to re: the tank saver sprayer tool:


I think your idea to use vinegar is a good one. I'm not sure about its use in Suburban water heaters. I'd remove the anode rod and plug the hole some how in a Suburban water heater prior to filling it with vinegar.

I have an Atwood water heater in my RV. It does not have an anode rod. In documents available on their website, Atwood suggests using Vinegar to flush their tanks. It is suggested for odor control but I'm sure it'll help disolve calcium and lime deposits.


For flush use ó four parts vinegar mixed to two parts water
I've seen both white vinegar and white wine vinegar recommended for this purpose on most sites.

I think Iíll remove the pressure relief valve and fill the water heater tank with the water & vinegar solution through that hole when I do this. Iíll let it sit for a while and then flush it all out a few times.

I've attached the file from Atwood's site.

Mike 01-28-2009 08:24 PM

Re: What is all that gunk inside my water heater?
I'm thinking vinegar as well but the window of opportunity has passed. This is still a warm weather project.
Stand by everyone.
Updates to follow.


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