Home Improvement


Heating oil tanks accumulate thick, gel-like substances, also known as sludge. Every year as the sludge grows, you might find yourself unsure of what to do. Is it a big issue? Do you need to clean it? Is it so bad that your fuel tank needs replacement?

Don’t let heating oil sludge cause your stress this season.

Be proactive by cleaning your furnace tank or call a professional HVAC maintenance company to clean that sludge for you and provide guidance on whether you should replace your furnace tank or not.

Today, let’s learn how you can clean sludge from your oil heating system!

What Is Heating Oil Sludge?

The heating oil sludge is usually found at the bottom of your oil tank. This dark, gooey substance builds up over time. It consists of dirt and grime, excess moisture, rust flakes from the inside of the tank, microbes that feed on your oil, and other fuel byproducts.

Sludge is usually made when petroleum is left in storage for extended periods, especially in a mostly-empty tank. Most homeowners typically find sludge in their oil tanks in mid-autumn or early winter – whenever it’s finally time to turn up the furnace. A fuel oil delivery technician is mostly the first to notice sludge buildup in your fuel tank when it comes to fill-up.

How To Clean Your Heating Oil System

Sludge in your tank is mostly inevitable. Most owners need to clean their oil tanks every three years to maintain them for the next five years. Those who refill their tanks often need to clean the tank more frequently.

If you want to remove sludge, prepare to get messy. We recommend gloves and an old outfit you don’t mind getting grease on. You will also need some supplies to begin cleaning:

  • Cleaning rags
  • Disposable containers/plastic buckets
  • A portable air pump
  • A water hose
  • An air hose
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) cleaner

Step 1: Drain The Fuel Oil Tank

First, you must drain all the oil from your tank and loosen the sludge from heating system. Position one of your disposable vessels under the drain valve, open the cap and wait until all the oil is gone.

Next, place another container under the valve. Use a hose to spray clean water into the tank and keep spraying it until the water soaking from the valve is completely clear.

Step 2: Scrub The Additional Sludge

Once all the water soaks out, use your cleaning rags to wipe off any stubborn grime and sludge around the drain. While you are at it, use the rags to clean the oil tank’s outside lightly. While the outside of the tank doesn’t add to sediment production, it is always a good idea to clear off any leftover and caked-on dirt.

Step 3: Add Cleaner

Now, you can let your cleanser do all the hard work. Trisodium phosphate is frequently the recommended cleaner for oil tanks because it’s tough on grease, soot, and dirt – marvelous for heavy-duty cleaning applications. TSP is a dry, white powder that you must mix with water to use.

After adding the cleaner, feed your air hose into the fuel tank and start the air pump. The air will stir your cleaning solution and help release the sludge from the sides of the tank. Leave the pump on for 12 hours. When the time is up, place another basket under the drain valve, and let your cleaning solution and remaining sludge drained out.

Note: You can use an alternative chemical-free phosphate as many states have restrictions on cleaners containing phosphates.

Step 5: Dry The Tank And Refill The Heating Oil

After spraying down your fuel tank, you need to eliminate the excess water because water is the one that contributes to building up the sludge in the first place, and it can rust out your tank from the inside.

After drying up the tank, pour entirely about 3 gallons in and splash it around from various angles to make sure you coat all the tank’s internal walls as alcohol can absorb the excess moisture from your tank.

Where To Find Fuel Oil Delivery Company?

If you are searching for fuel oil delivery services, you may contact Bob’s Climate Control for high-quality services at affordable prices.

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