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How to Clean Thermocouple on Water Heater?

How to Clean Thermocouple on Water Heater

Do you have colder showers than you would like, or is the water you use for dishwashing feel lukewarm? Knowing how to clean thermocouple on water heater can help you bring back more enjoyable showers, more efficient dishwashing, and others.

The thermocouple is an essential element of your gas water heater’s pilot light, ensuring more efficient water temperature management. Unfortunately, it can rust or wear out over time.

There is no need to replace your thermocouple when all you need are a bit of elbow grease, a few tools, and this step-by-step guide to breathing life back into your thermocouple.

Things You Need to Clean Your Water Heater’s Thermocouple

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Cleaning your gas water heater’s thermocouple is a pretty straightforward activity. However, there are a few preparations to get the job done.

1. An Adjustable Wrench

While open-end wrenches may suffice, you may have a whole bunch of these tools on hand if you do not know the size of the different nuts in your system. An adjustable wrench eliminates the need for several devices and makes your work more efficient.

2. Emery Cloth

Emery cloth is almost similar to a nail file which has an abrasive surface. The difference is that an emery cloth has a fabric backing, while an emery board or nail file has a wooden base. The function is similar, nevertheless. They sand or smoothen the thermocouple ends while also removing oxidized layers.

3. Lint-free Cloth

This type of cleaning cloth is ideal as a finishing touch to the thermocouple cleaning process. Its main advantage is that it will not leave any fluff on the surface. We recommend a microfiber cloth for cleaning the thermocouple.

4. Small Brush or Steel Wool

While not necessary, a small brush can help dust off particles from the thermocouple and the burner assembly. If the emery cloth cannot remove stubborn stains, you can use a steel pool.

Step-by-step Guide to Cleaning a Water Heater’s Thermocouple

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Step 1: Turn Off Your Water Heater’s Gas Supply

Always look after your safety when working with your gas water heater. Turn off the gas supply to your unit. If your unit has a power cord, it would also be best to unplug it.

Some gas water heaters have two gas supply valves: one going to the gas furnace and another to the water heater. It would be safer to turn both valves off.

Pro Tip: If your gas supply valve does not have a lever or a knob, you can use a pair of pliers or a vise grip to shut off the valve.

Step 2: Remove the Water Heater Burner Assembly

If your burner has an access cover, unthread the mounting screws first. Loosen and remove the screws or nuts that secure the burner plate. Loosen the nut that connects the burner supply line to the control center.

You will also disconnect the pilot light supply tube and the thermocouple. If your unit has any wires connected to the control center, you must disconnect these, too. Check your tank base if it has a vapor sensor. Detach the sensor if you have one.

To gain access to the thermocouple, slide the burner assembly out of the water heater.

Pro Tip: If this is your first time removing the burner assembly, it would be best to take a picture of it before disassembly. The image serves as a guide for you to reassemble the unit after cleaning the thermocouple.

Step 3: Clean the Water Heater Thermocouple

Sand the thermocouple ends using an emery cloth. Some plumbers recommend using steel wool to remove stubborn stains on the thermocouple. Ensure you do not see any dirt, soot, or residue after cleaning.

Check the area between the thermocouple terminal and the power wire for any sign of corrosion. Remove the rust if any.

Finish cleaning by wiping the thermocouple ends with a clean microfiber cloth or any other type of lint-free cloth.

Pro Tip: Avoid using so-called thermocouple cleaning solutions, regardless of how convenient they may seem. Some of these products may contain flammable chemicals that can pose a threat to your system and your home.

Step 4: Clean the Burner

Do not limit your cleaning duties to the thermocouple. Now is the best time to give the burner a thorough cleaning as well.

Get your steel wool or emery cloth sandpaper to scrape as much stain as possible from the burner’s top. Use a small brush to remove debris that might go into the burner ports or holes. Cleaning your burner will improve your gas water heater’s efficiency.

Step 5: Reassemble the Burner

Return the burner assembly into the water tank. Make sure to rest the burner tube on the bracket for security and stability. Secure the burner plate by threading and tightening the mounting screws or nuts.

If your unit has a vapor sensor, reattach it first before reconnecting the different wires to the water heater gas valve. Position the thermocouple to the gas valve and secure it. Reconnect the pilot light supply line and the burner gas supply tube to the control center or gas valve. Replace and secure the water heater burner access cover.

Step 6: Turn On Your Water Heater

Open your water heater’s gas supply line and plug the power cord of your unit if it has one. Turn on the pilot light and adjust the thermostat to your desired temperature. It would be best to dial in a temperature not higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check your water if it is in your desired temperature.

Conclusion

Do you think our simplified guide on how to clean thermocouple on water heater is simple and easy to follow? There can be many reasons why your water heater is not producing hot-enough water. A dirty thermocouple is one of them, but one that many people overlook.

Now that you know how to clean your gas water heater’s thermocouple, you may want to share this knowledge with your friends. They will thank you for saving them from costly repairs and replacements while letting them enjoy the benefits of a fully functioning water heater. Do share with us your thoughts, too.