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How to Clean Hot Water Heater With Vinegar in 5 Easy Steps?

Writen by Ronald Brown

Fact checked by Natalie Bridges

how to clean hot water heater with vinegar

Cleaning water heater with vinegar is one of the most practical ways of providing immediate care for water heaters. Generally, vinegar’s acidity allows you to eliminate stubborn stains and dirt on your household interiors.

The same principle also applies to your water heater tank. Rather than getting it serviced, knowing how to clean hot water heater with vinegar can be an efficient yet inexpensive option for sediment problems.

All you have to do is pour the vinegar contents into the storage tank and prepare essential tools to help you complete the task. Don’t worry, as I have prepared a straightforward guide for you to follow! Let’s take a look?

Table of Contents

What Will You Need in This Tutorial


Most homeowners choose to clean water heaters with vinegar, among multiple cleaning products out there because it is a versatile solution. In truth, vinegar can help descale and drain the water heater effortlessly.

Below are the complete cleaning and DIY supplies you need to give your water heater a nice vinegar bath :

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (4 gallons) – The most common type of vinegar is white distilled vinegar.

Can we use it for cleaning your water heater?

Yes. Distilled vinegar is generally edible, but it contains less acetic acid (ranges from 5-8 %) than white/spirit vinegar (ranges from 5-20 %). Therefore, it would be less efficient for your water heater.

But if you’re thinking about switching to white vinegar, it can never get any better (unless it’s food-grade). It is still acidic, which means it’s not for everything. White vinegar can eat away at your water heater’s gaskets and other metal parts.

More importantly, please don’t confuse it with a cleaning vinegar that consists of 6% acidity. Although there’s only one percentage difference, cleaning vinegar is inedible and 20% stronger than white vinegar.

Excess amounts of cleaning vinegar are dangerous when ingested. That’s why you should not use this kind of vinegar in water heater. In addition to that, some brands may contain scents that you would not want to mix with your home water.

Primarily, experts advise using mildly acidic food-grade vinegar like apple cider vinegar. Despite being less acidic than white vinegar (ranges from 5-6 % of acidity), it can effectively remove notorious mineral buildup inside your water heater tank.

  • Socket Wrench/Socket Spanner – A socket wrench, sometimes called a socket spanner, is a helpful plumbing tool for loosening and tightening nuts, bolts, and other fasteners. You would need this to detach the anode rode of your water heater.
  • Garden Hose – Typically, a garden hose would suffice the whole process. Still, some people might need a water pump to remove water from areas with low gravity.
  • If your water heater is underground, you might consider buying one. Otherwise, if your water heater is above the ground, you only need a hose attached directly to the drain valve.
  • Funnel – Generally, a household funnel is used to transfer liquids or powders from one container to another. In this task, you would need a funnel to help you fill the vinegar in hot water heater.
  • Household Bucket/Container (Optional) – You can use a large utility bucket to catch the incoming water from the garden hose connected to the drain valve.

Step by Step Instruction


Flushing water heater with vinegar is easier than you think! Here are the five quick and easy procedures you can do all by yourself.

Stage 1: Preparing To Flush Your Water Heater System

  • Deactivate the electrical or gas power of your water heater

If you have an electric unit, locate your home’s main electrical panel box. Flip the circuit breaker’s switch to the “OFF” position to disconnect the power source from your water heater.

For the gas unit, you have to turn off the gas control valve. Look for the red or black temperature dial close to the thermostat and turn it in the opposite direction. This dial will disable the ignition of the burner.

Pro Tip: I suggest wearing insulated rubber gloves and non-conductive footwear when touching the circuit breaker. If you have a faulty thermostat, it could trip the breaker of your water heater.

  • Turn off the main water supply of your home

The main water shut-off valve is mostly located at your home’s ground level or basement. The main water line is usually linked to municipal service lines and connects to the water meter.

Follow the line from the water meter to your house. Then look for this valve with a wheel knob or knife-style lever and close it.

Stage 2: Draining The Storage Tank

  • Go to the nearest hot water faucet and open it to alleviate the pressure

Generally, the kitchen faucet is the closest fixture to your water heater. Opening a hot water tap is essential to help you drain your water heater quicker.

  • Attach the garden hose to the drain valve

At the bottom part of your water heater, locate the drain spigot valve and attach the garden hose. Run the hose into a large bucket to drain the incoming water from the tank.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a large bucket, you can just run the end of the hose in the floor drain (if you have it) or outside your home to avoid flooding the room containing your water heater.

  • Open the drain valve to gush out the water from the tank

This step may take a while so let it drain for a moment. Don’t turn off the hot water tap and the drain valve yet – not until the hose runs empty.

Stage 3: Removal Of The Anode Rod

  • After draining, you may now detach the anode rod of your water heater

You can find the anode rod on the top side of your water heater. Depending on your unit, you may see tubular foam insulation. Beneath this top cover is the anode rod (steel/metalcore wire).

Remove the insulation and unthread the anode rod using the socket wrench; Once it’s loose, take it out carefully.

Pro Tip: Some anode rods are linked with the hot water outlet above the tank. Hence, it’s wise to bring the user manual with you. There, you will find a diagram showing where the anode rod is.

Stage 4: Pouring and Flushing Vinegar

  • Put the funnel in the small hole left by the anode rod and pour the vinegar solution.

After securing the funnel, pour at least 4 gallons of apple cider vinegar inside the tank. Let the vinegar sit overnight.

  • Flush the vinegar-infused water inside the tank.

After soaking the vinegar for 24 hours, it is time to flush the vinegar-infused water. At this point, the stubborn sediment buildup is dissolved. Turn the drain valve on and let your water heater drain. In case, the water heater without drain valve, you can learn more this detailed guide.

Pro Tip: If there are many sediments and limescale inside the tank, it can clog the hose with mineral chunks. Hence, it is best to squeeze the hose until the entire deposits come out.

  • Close the drain valve and remove the garden hose

After closing the valve, disconnect the garden hose and clean up. If there is water leakage on the floor, you might want to scrub it using a cleaning cloth/towel.

Stage 5: Testing and Refilling The Water Heater

  • Switch on the main water supply and the power supply

Observe the water flow for several minutes until the tank is filled with enough water to stream through the faucet.

Once you get a decent water flow, close the faucet. Turn the circuit breaker switch back to the “ON” position. Lastly, relight the pilot light for the gas unit.


Before learning how to clean hot water heater with vinegar may seem like you need to be someone with technical expertise to pull it off. But the truth is that you don’t need to be one to accomplish this task.

We clean our water heater once or twice a year. Now that you know how simple it works, you can share these secret steps with your family and friends. Do you have any questions or suggestions? Don’t hesitate to spill it in the comment box below!

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