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Goodbye Sludge: Cleaning Your Heating Oil Tank

by Sally Smith on Nov 16, 2014

For many people, heating oil is their primary way of staying warm during winter. Whether it's a 275-gallon heating oil tank, plastic fuel storage tanks or portable diesel fuel tanks now and then they need to be cleaned to maintain efficiency and keep the fuel inside them from becoming contaminated with dirt or grime. While some homeowners choose to hire professional contractors to do this job, the fact is it is a relatively simple job that can be accomplished yourself with only a few supplies. For just a few dollars spent on supplies, hundreds of dollars can be saved by doing it yourself.

What You Will Need

Before starting your cleaning job, you'll need some very specific supplies. This is not a job that requires simply soap and water, so make sure you're prepared before getting down and dirty with your oil tank. The major items needed for this job are:

  • Cleaning rags
  • Disposable containers
  • Water hose
  • Air hose
  • Portable air pump
  • TSP cleaner
  • Denatured alcohol

SallySmith

Draining the Tank

The first order of business is to drain any remaining oil from the tank. To do this, place a disposable container, preferably a plastic one such as a bucket or coffee container, under the tank's drain valve until it captures all the oil remnants. When you're finished, place a lid on the container and put it somewhere where it won't spill. Next, place another container under the drain valve and spray water into the tank until clear liquid drains out, then put the cap back on the valve.

Cleaning the Tank

Once the tank is empty, fill it up with water and trisodium phosphate cleaner, using one cup of cleaner for every five gallons of water. Then insert an air hose into the tank, turn on the air pump and let the solution work for 12 hours. Afterward, open the drain valve, drain the solution into a container and spray the inside of the tank down with water.

Drying the Tank

The final step in cleaning your heating oil tank involves drying the inside of the tank and getting rid of any excess moisture that might compromise the quality of the fuel. This is where the denatured alcohol comes into play, for it is excellent at absorbing moisture inside tanks or other containers. Using about three gallons of denatured alcohol, pour it into the tank at various angles to make sure it hits all the walls inside the tank. Then insert the air hose, turn on the pump and let the alcohol dry and absorb any moisture still inside. This generally takes less than one hour, unless there is an excessive amount of moisture inside the tank. When finished, you can then refill the tank with heating oil.

Whether you're cleaning plastic fuel storage tanks, portable diesel fuel tanks or other kinds of tanks, following these instructions should help to rid them of any sludge, dirt or other contaminants that may decrease the efficiency of your fuel. Take some time to prepare, get your supplies and the job should be an easy one to accomplish.

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