What Causes a Water Heater to Rust?

Does your water heater have rust on it? If you’re like many homeowners, then the answer is yes. Rusting in a water heater doesn’t mean that there’s an issue with the appliance itself and can be caused by a variety of reasons. Read to learn more about what causes a water heater to rust and how to fix this problem at home!

What are the reasons for a Water Heater to Rust?

The answer to this question is actually pretty simple: corrosion. It’s iron and oxygen combining in an electrochemical reaction that produces the beautiful red color we know and love as rust. Oxygen, which we breathe all day long, is one of the few elements that can corrode metal like iron. This process happens much faster when exposed to moisture, making it more common for outdoor water heaters than indoor ones.

Rusting will happen at a slower pace in dry climates where there’s less humidity but it won’t be prevented altogether if you have copper pipes leaking into your tank. If you want extra protection against rusting, consider investing in an anti-rust coating or painting your water heater with high-temperature paint that contains lead or zinc.

Why is rust on Water Heater so bad?

With the exception of when it’s used to ward off vampires, rust is generally considered a bad thing in most cases. It will eat away at your metal until nothing’s left and can cause problems inside and outside of your tank as well. There are some places where rust is actually beneficial to the water heater. This will only be a problem if you have a tank that’s not made of cast iron and can happen on both gas and electric models.

Rust in these areas can help prevent galvanic corrosion, which happens when two different metals touch each other in an electrolyte solution, such as the water inside your tank. The reaction between the iron and the other element, in this case stainless steel, will cause corrosion to occur even if these metals aren’t exposed to oxygen.

Rust on a water heater can also create scaling, which is when there’s so much rust that it forms a big clump inside of your tank. This can cause issues with the performance of your water heater because it will make it harder to heat up, not to mention that it could clog small passages if the rust is allowed to settle out toward the bottom.

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How do I prevent my Water Heater to rust?

Rust can be prevented by keeping your water heater covered and dry, so consider installing a cover that’s specifically designed for outdoor use. You should also replace any missing or damaged insulation around your tank to make it less susceptible to the elements and make sure that the screen is clean for maximum efficiency.

If you do end up with rust, don’t panic! We’ll go over a few ways to remove it below which will prevent it from spreading and eliminate odors in the process.

Can you fix a rusty water heater?

For minor rusting that is confined to the outside of your water heater, you can use a wire brush and sandpaper to remove it. Be careful not to damage any parts or components since this may result in leaks which could cause damage in your home as well.

If the rust was caused by moisture leaking into your hot water tank from inside the wall of your house, then it’s time to call a professional. If you don’t properly fix this problem right away, the moisture could cause corrosion on other parts of your tank as well.

Is it safe to use a rusty heater ?

Many water heaters are still perfectly functional after rusting, so as long as the problem doesn’t extend to the inside of your tank you should be able to continue using your heater without fear. If rust is present on or around the burner assembly and it’s hard to tell how deep this corrosion has set in, a professional should check out your heater before you use it to ensure that your water is safe.

If rusting has made it into the tubes of your heater, then you may want to replace it because using this appliance could result in a loss of hot water and severe damage to your home.

How do I remove rust from my water heater?

Before you get started, it’s a good idea to talk with your Plumber since they may have some techniques that work better than what we’ll go over here.

  • See if the rust has spread on your water heater:

If you already have a rust stain or find that there is some now, then be sure to stop using the tank immediately and insulate it from the elements so that no more moisture can get in.

  • Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove the rust:

Start at the outermost part of the stained area and work your way inward. If there’s a lot of rust, make sure you have something to collect it in because you’ll probably end up with quite a bit that will need to be discarded when you’re done. You may want to keep small brushes around so that you can work on small areas and then clean the brush off in between.

  • Remove the odor with an enzyme cleaner :

Enzyme cleaners like Bioclean can break down the organic material that makes up the smell inside of your water tank. You’ll want to make a mixture according to instructions and start by pouring it around the outside of your tank, then work you way towards the center while making sure not to get the cleaner near any electrical components.

Enzyme cleaners aren’t toxic, but you should always follow the instructions on the label and use this method in a well-ventilated area so that you don’t inhale any of the fumes. You may want to wear gloves as well just to be safe!

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry too much about rust in your water heater as long as the damage isn’t extensive. It might be a good idea to have someone take a look at it for you if you think there’s any chance that it could cause problems, but many people will just continue using their tank without issue even after rust has set in. In any case, your water heater should last you a long time provided that you use it properly, so don’t panic if your tank develops a little rust.

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