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Hot water tank contamination

jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
So....I cam home the other day to my hot water leaking water all over the basement floor. I took off the supply hoses and found that the cold water inlet nipple was badly deteriorated around the threads and was no longer able to make a seal with the gasket in the supply hose.

I decided at 7pm to start some emergency plumbing work, since I value hot showers in the morning. I went to the big box (orange one) and they only had 3" dielectric nipples, so in a pinch, I decided I would use 6" galvanized steel nipples until I can get my hands on the proper 5" dielectric nipples.

So far so good.....that is until I put a pipe wrench to the 15+ yr old water heaters nipples. Even with my largest wrench and almost tipping the water heater over from torque, nothing was budging. The nipple itself started to deform and collapse on me.

This is a common occurrence when I'm working on cars suspensions here in the N.East due to all the salt. Everything is rust-welded stuck. So the mechanic in me said, oh, this is no problem. Let me do what I always do --> PB Blaster and torch. I sprayed the nipples with PB Blaster and hit it with the MAPP torch for about 30-60 seconds each. Then they came loose like butter. No issues there.

Installed the new temporary nipples. Hooked up the hoses. Leak tested. Everything great! Job well done....but wait...

My hot water has smelled so strongly of PB blaster for days, it's unbelievable. That stuff is some kind of unholy concoction. I thought to myself, 2 or 3 sprays a nipple and after a hot shower or two, the stuff will be gone. Wrong....

It doesn't seem to be fading even in the least. I assume its floating like a slick on top of the water in the heater, but I had thought the first few gallons of flower through it would take it all with it right off the top. It didn't happen the way I thought.

Any thoughts on how to get rid of this unholy hellish stuff out of my water heater? Now every time I run the dishwasher, do the laundry, take a shower, I'm infusing everything with some small amount of PB blaster. Enough that I can still smell it very strongly.

Do I think it will kill me? No. Am I happy about the way it turned out? Not really.

Any tips, tricks, or suggestions? My only thought it to open up the hot water outlet hose and put a few drops of Dawn liquid dishwashing soap in. My hope is that the soap will help to break up and emulsify the PB blaster penetrating oil slick on top and disperse it, such that it actually flushes as I use hot water over the next few days.



  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,706
    Hi, Your story is precisely why I avoid using any chemicals on domestic water plumbing. It IS a good story though! I have not tested this idea, but how about using something non-toxic, like baking soda? It's known for it's ability to absorb stuff. I'd put a lot into the tank, maybe turn it up hotter and then after a bit, run hot water in the tub, for good flow. That's just a guess, so please do let us know what you did and how it worked. B)

    Yours, Larry
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    I wonder if I could drain the entire tank, put in an appropriate amount of TSP powder, fill the tank, let it sit there for awhile, then drain it again. Then flush the hot water at the bathtub for flow.

    Good thing this stuff floats and can't backflow into my cold water lines !!! This crap is a nightmare !!

  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,706
    Hi, Here's the MSDS for TSP: Looks pretty nasty! I'd start with something milder. How about using the procedure you outlined with baking soda or soap?

    Yours, Larry
  • HomerJSmithHomerJSmith Member Posts: 831
    edited November 2019
    "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" or in modern talk, The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.
  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,706
    Hi, I had a look at the MSDS for PB Blaster and there was nothing useful about cleanup. Maybe for Thanksgiving, you can drain the heater, add soap and or baking soda, refill and turn it up as high as it will go. Then run this hot water to flush all lines. Repeat as much as needed between bites of pumpkin pie! ;)

    Yours, Larry
  • Jolly BodgerJolly Bodger Member Posts: 209
    15 year old water heater? Call it a lesson learned and change it out.

    I would run some tests in a dish with different detergents before adding anything to the domestic water system. Last thing you want to do is introduce something else to have to rinse out until you know it will clean up the PB.

    Love PB. That stuff works!
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,327
    I wonder... PB Blaster is a hydrocarbon. Therefore... is there a way you could arrange to skim that tank?
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    PB Blaster seems like one of those things, in my experience, that I can smell on the ppm level. I'm sure many a mechanic accidentally got a mouthful of the stuff wrenching under a car. It's not healthy, I'm sure, but I'm really not too concerned about it to be honest. Everything will kill you these days - why not add a little blaster to the mix?

    I flushed the entire tank via the 2nd floor bath tub fixture until water came out cold. Afterwards the PB Blaster smell is reduced significantly. I'd say by about 75%. The plan is simply to do this again for the next few nights (and watch my electric bill skyrocket this month).

    I believe after repeated flushing the smell will go away and most of it will be gone. Eventually it will work it's way out of the system, as it floats on top of the tank water. Every time I flush the tank it becomes less and less and less.

    I learned my lesson and will never make that mistake again.

    Larry, I've had so much pumpkin pie already, I'm in no shape for doing any plumbing work tonight!

    It's probably time for a new water heater anyway. Eventually, I'd like to get an indirect on a priority zone off the oversized boiler for the house.
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    Jamie I also was thinking, as you said, that when I have the galvanized nipples off to replace w/ proper di-electric nipples, I might try and put some absorbent material down the hot water outlet and soak up the top layer a few times and hopefully wick off whatever is left.

    Either way, between that and flushing it via the bath tub at a higher rate of flow, I feel that I will be out of the woods here in a few days.

    I've read of copper piping systems being commissioned for use by circulating a TSP mixture and bleach or something along those lines to disinfect and rinse out flux resides. I don't know if anybody actually does this in the real world. But, some kind of procedure of the sort should take care of the issue as well. But again, I don't feel it will be necessary given how much of a reduction I've seen after 1 good flushing.

    Thank you all for your input and tips. Again, PB blaster is some *awesome* stuff - just don't get it anywhere near your potable water !! DOH
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    The TSP commissioning of pipes that I read about is most probably not approved for potable water systems. Probably for mechanical piping only.

    I'm sure I read about using bleach to disinfect potable water systems before use.

    Either way - I'm just going to flush flush flush at the bathtub until I can't smell it anymore and not worry about it anymore.

    Thanks everyone again.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 12,893
    I think I would also think about a tank replacement if it is 15 years old?
    Old tanks generally have a lot of sediment in the bottom that could be capturing some of that fluid, it may be tough too get it completely odor free. The smelly appear every time the temperature increases.

    Efficiency drops as tanks fill with scaling minerals also.

    Peroxide and iodine are other disinfecting chemicals that are sometimes used with bad or smelly water. But you might get an opinion from a water treatment specialist.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,706
    Hi @jfice13, Being a water heater preservationist nerd, might I ask you to do one thing? If you can get the anode out of the heater, it will tell you what the condition of the tank is. If there is much anode left and it isn't coated over with a hard coating, the tank probably has life left in it. If you find a bare wire or less, start shopping for a new tank, and add a second magnesium anode!
    Yours, Larry
    ps, No need to use PB Blaster to get that old anode out :D
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,028
    the pbblasater will do little that the heat didn't, however dhw tanks typically have plastic parts you don't want to heat.

    I'd suggest the tsp and flush it out a couple times, tsp was the detergent in household automatic dishwasher detergent until it was removed about 5 years ago.
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    @Larry Weingarten somehow we must have good water here at this house. My father never maintained anything around here as well as he should have, sadly. A few years back I pulled the anode rod on the unit after it had been in service for about 10+ year with zero service. The anode rod was completely gone....

    I put in a magnesium one at that time and I just changed it out again last month. After 2 years, the new rod that I had put in was also almost completely gone. I put an aluminum one in this time (I prefer Mg), but that's all big box had at the time.

    My plan is to check it annually from now on.

    It's a miracle the tank isn't leaking yet.

    @mattmia2 I agree with you on the heat. Good thing it didn't damage the dip tube on the cold inlet.

    I'm going to get this water heater to last another 15 years. It will be the oldest heater on the record books in the Northeast :#
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,028
    If you want to find the record, find one that belongs to people who think bathing once a week is enough.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 9,523
    Drain down, and add a dab of dawn dish soap. Refill let it get to temp, and flush.
  • jfice13jfice13 Member Posts: 20
    Hey @Gordy , I did that last night when I swapped out for the new dielectric nipples. Seemed to work!
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 9,523
    They wash ducks covered in crude oil with that stuff :D
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