hot water heater debris

We bought our 5 yr. old home about 3 months ago. Recently, my dh wanted to caulk the area where the tubs meet the tile. I learned on this ng that we should fill the tubs before caulking. We have 3 tubs and 2 hot water heaters. One of the tubs runs off of one hot water heater and the other two off of the other. The problem is that when we drained the water (he used hot water to fill the tubs) there was a very fine brown powder in the entire bottom of two bathtubs (on the same water heater). At first we thought it could be something in the water until we realized that the third tub did not have the powder.
The water heaters are 5 yrs. old and are located in the attic. What is this powder and what should we do about it? We lived in our other house for 13 yrs. and have never had this happen.
Thanks!
Sloan
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iradi8 wrote:

Chances are it is just the build up from years of use (it came from the water) and you have succeeded in partly cleaning one hot water heater. I suggest you try and clean both. That means draining water from the bottom of the heater. This should be done from time to time, depending on the local water conditions. Some people do it and others don't. The build up can reduce the efficiency of the heater and shorten its life. It can cause it to make noise when it is heating water. Some people chose not to because the drain valve at the bottom of the tank is usually poor quality and if it has not been used for a number of years, you may find that it opens but does not close again.
Draining them could be interesting as you will need to connect a hose to move the water away from the attic. Depending on the access, I might vote to leave sleeping dogs lie.
Good Luck
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Joseph Meehan

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Yes, I think it would be best to not flood the attic;) So, do you think if I just run all of the hot water out of it into the bathtubs it would clean them out? Or is this something that is only done by connecting a hose to it?
Sloan
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iradi8 wrote:

You don't need to run it all out. Just try to run enough to get things moving inside. Generally I believe the recommendation is "a few gallons."
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Joseph Meehan

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Irad,
The crud is near the bottom of the tank. Opening the valve at the bottom of the tank will help to flush the crud out. Running the hot water will not help to clean the tank. But, as Joe pointed out, be ready to replace the drain valve since it may not close fully after you flush the tank. Commonly you hook up a garden hose, open the valve, watch the run off, and when no longer full of crud close the valve. Be careful with the hot water. Check the valve for drips after you have closed it. If it is dripping they are usually cheap and easy to replace.
Dave M.
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Thanks, everyone, for your help!
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You probably did everything that is necessary just now. Twice a year give them a good flush out to keep sediment from building up.
It could be rust that is carried in from the water mains, plus minerals in the water that has settled over time. At 5 years, it is doubtful that the tank is rusting but it can happen.
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