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Cannot keep boiler water clean

James Lang
James Lang Member Posts: 1
Recently bought a 120 year old house with one pipe steam heat which lead me here after reading several of Dans books and making all necessary improvements including correct near boiler piping things seriously went astray. I have cleaned the boiler to manufactures specs 6 times no improvement so I cleaned it according to Dans specs 6 times no improvement so I went the TSP cleaning route twice no improvement so as a last resort I cleaned the whole system with TSP while letting all the condensate waste to the drain till it ran clear of soap flushed the boiler and presto the water is carrying over in the site glass worse than ever. What part of the process am I missing?


  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928

    Perhaps time to carefully use the old, drastic and potentially dangerous cleaning methods fully described in "The Lost Art of Steam Heating"?

    Have you opened your wet returns to see if they're hopelessly filthy?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,907

    > Perhaps time to _I_carefully_/I_ use the old,

    > drastic and potentially dangerous cleaning

    > methods fully described in "The Lost Art of Steam

    > Heating"?


    > Have you opened your wet returns to

    > see if they're hopelessly filthy?

    sometimes it's best to let sleeping dogs (that is, old old wet returns) just lay there and walk by quietly... very quietly. A possibility which strikes me is that the wet returns are (or were...) very grubby indeed, but that the velocities were so low the crud was just lying there not bothering anyone. May take a while, now you've started cleaining, to finish it...

    Just a thought
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • James Lang_2
    James Lang_2 Member Posts: 3

    "old, drastic and potentially dangerous cleaning methods"
    Thats a nice thought is there a better way?
  • Big Ed_3
    Big Ed_3 Member Posts: 170
    Skimming off the Oils

    You did not mention skimming ? Over the gauge glass means you have oil on the surface . Any time you add new pipe you add oil to the system . Draining from the boiler drain would not remove oil , only solids . Oil will float on the surface . You need to drain it off from the surface or water line .

    As mentioned in other posts about wet return lines ...... Either leave them alone or replace them . Most are paper thin and are held together from the crud . What do you expect from senior piping ..
  • James Lang_2
    James Lang_2 Member Posts: 3
    Cannot keep boiler water clean

    The first 6 cleanings were to manufactures specs keeping water at 180 to 200 degrees and skimming for 4 hours the next 6 cleanings were to Dans specs a cold skim for 4 hours then checking how the water boils on the stove making sure it does not foam. As for the wet returns while replacing the near boiler piping I relocated the main vents 15" back from end of the returns and the pipe was solid and clean save for some rust scale. One thing I forgot to mention that out of a 12 connected radiators 10 of them had to be re leveled to obtain proper pitch. I have a sick feeling while doing this I kicked a 100 years of crud into the mains and will just have to clean it weakly until its all out
  • Adam Buchsbaum
    Adam Buchsbaum Member Posts: 10
    how did you keep the temperature in range?

    Just curious, as I want to do a TSP cleaning myself. How did you maintain the temperature in this range without steaming?

  • James Lang_3
    James Lang_3 Member Posts: 3

    Maintaining the temp in this range is nearly impossible with a newer boiler very frustrating to say the least one does it by cycling the burner on and off. A cold skim with out firing the boiler is considered a better option many, catch the boiler after its been running and skim away. As for the
    TSP cleaning its a last ditch resort for extremely dirty systems a good skim 3 or 4 hours will usually clean up most situations
  • Our method

    is to shut off the boiler after it steams up and wait till the pressure is at 0 . The water will remain hot for at least 20 or 30 gallons of skimming and boiler refilling . We refire the boiler if it needs more skimming .

    James , you might have thrown some radiator crud into the mains after they were repitched . But nowhere near enough to be the root cause of cleaning the system for so long . To be clear , is there a shutoff and purge valve on the return ? You might try backflushing the returns - filling the returns with street pressure water ( hot if possible ) , and dumping it out repeatedly . But I think if you have so much spooge getting back to the boiler after hours of cleaning and skimming , it might be time for some new return piping .

  • James Lang_3
    James Lang_3 Member Posts: 3

    Yes there is a shut off and purge valve on the return I have often thought about flushing the mains in this manner but was concerned about the weight of all the water on the pipe hangers and where to start back flushing the mains? through the first riser pipe comes to mind but it seems it would just flush the crud back towards the boiler as for opening the mains at header risers its just not a option, no unions there would have to disassemble things at the header and go up.
  • You can backflush

    from the purge on the return . Close the shutoff valve and hook a hose from the heater to the drain valve on the purge . You can either remove a main vent and have someone watch till water gets close to the top , or do like
    I do and guess ...... 1 or 2 minutes of fillup time should do the trick .
  • James Lang_3
    James Lang_3 Member Posts: 3

    Thanks Ron Jr. I will give that a try
This discussion has been closed.