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How to Clean Hot Water Heater With Vinegar in 7 Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to clean hot water heater with vinegar

Have you ever wondered how to clean hot water heater with vinegar?

Draining and cleaning the water heater at least every six months is essential if you want to ensure its optimum functionality. Debris, sediments, and other particles can accumulate in the water heater over time, reducing the appliance’s water heating capabilities. That is why cleaning it periodically is crucial.

While a specially formulated cleanser also works, using vinegar is more practical.

Here’s how you can clean and flush the water heater with vinegar.

Table of Contents

Things You Need for This Tutorial


The most crucial material you will need for this tutorial is apple cider vinegar or a manufacturer-recommended water heater cleaning solution.

Most people use apple cider vinegar (ACV) because it is slightly alkaline compared to distilled white vinegar. It is still acidic but will not eat away at metal as aggressively as other vinegar types. Moreover, you will love the taste and smell ACV has in your water. It will dissipate after several hours, however.

You will also need a socket wrench, a funnel, a step ladder or step stool, and a garden hose.

Steps to Cleaning Hot Water Heater With Vinegar

Step 1. Turn off the water heater’s power or gas supply


Switch off the water heater’s power supply at the circuit breaker panel if you have an electric water heater. If your unit relies on gas for heating the water, close the gas shutoff valve.

Cleaning the water heater requires draining the water and removing the anode rod. You do not want any accidents happening during the process.

Step 2. Close the main water supply line

Follow your water distribution line from the front of the house, and look for a water fixture – the water shutoff valve – with a control knob. Grab the handle and turn it into the OFF position.

It would be wise to remember that cleaning the water heater requires emptying it of water. It will be impossible to do this with the main water line open.

Step 3. Drain the hot water tank

Check the hot water faucet nearest the hot water tank and turn it on to aid in the draining process.

Return to the hot water tank and look for the spigot-like drain valve at the tank’s bottom. Get a garden hose and secure one end to the drain valve spigot. Run the tubing from the tank to a floor drain, sink, or outside the home. Ensure to straighten the hose.

Open the drain valve carefully to empty the tank. Ask someone to look at the hose’s other end, and ensure the water comes out steadily. Wait for several minutes to drain the hot water tank before closing the drain valve and hot water faucet.

Step 4. Remove the water heater’s anode rod

Check your owner’s manual for specific information about the water heater’s anode rod, including its location.

Look for a lid at the top of the hot water tank and remove it. Most water heaters have an insulating material to protect the anode rod. You must remove this material to access the anode rod head.

Use a socket wrench or Allen wrench to loosen the anode rod and slide it out of its chamber.

Rheem has an educational video on how to remove and replace the anode rod.

Pro Tip: Use a chair, step ladder, or step stool to access the top of the hot water tank if it is too tall for you.

Step 5. Fill the anode rod chamber with vinegar

Get a funnel and place it into the anode rod chamber to initiate the process of flushing the water heater with vinegar. Get three to four gallons of vinegar and pour them into the compartment.

Remove the funnel and reinsert the anode rod. If you think the anode rod is heavily corroded, now is the chance to replace it.

Secure the anode rod in the hot water tank, insert an insulating material, and replace the plastic cover.

Open the main water valve and let the water run into the hot water tank for five to ten minutes. Avoid using the water heater for at least six hours to allow the vinegar to work its mineral deposit-removal capabilities.

Pro Tip: Let everyone in the household know about this activity, so they won’t use hot water for at least six hours.

Step 6. Flush the water heater

You are ready to resume cleaning the water heater with vinegar after letting the vinegar break down the various mineral deposits for at least six hours.

Connect a garden hose to the drain valve, and empty the tank.

It would be best to observe the water flow because loose mineral deposits from the tank can clog the garden hose. If you notice reduced drain flow, try massaging the tubing to break up the clumped mineral deposits. You can also try milking the hose from the hot water tank to the opposite end.

Ensure complete tank emptying before refilling the hot water tank. Remove the garden hose from the drain spigot and close the drain valve.

Step 7. Refill and restart the water heater


Open the main water supply and a hot water faucet nearest the hot water tank. Wait for several minutes until you see a steady flow of water in the open water faucet.

There is no need to rinse the apple cider vinegar in hot water heater because it is safe.

Close the faucet once you see a steady stream of water. Power on the water heater at the circuit breaker panel or turn on the gas supply line.

I found the video from Kevin9c1 showing the whole process of flushing and cleaning a water heater with vinegar worth checking.


Learning how to clean hot water heater with vinegar is a cinch. You only need to drain the tank, remove the anode rod, fill the tank with vinegar, let it sit, and flush. You can expect your water heater to function like new within the day.

If you find this guide beneficial in making you confident about cleaning your water heater, your social contacts will find it educational, too. Would you share this tutorial with them? Moreover, I will appreciate any comments, questions, or feedback you might have.

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