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Water Heater Won’t Drain

The drain valve at the bottom of a water heater, which looks like a small outdoor faucet, is used for flushing mineral deposits from the water heater or emptying water from the tank for replacement or repairs.

Attach a hose to the water heater's drain valve and empty the tank.

A working drain valve at the base of the tank empties a water heater.

To drain a water heater using this valve, see How to Drain or Flush a Water Heater. Remember that the water is hot!

Water Heater Drain Valve Problems

Sometimes the water heater’s drain valve won’t work or barely dribbles when you try to use it. Sometimes the drain valve is defective, but most of the time it’s clogged. Mineral deposits, which accumulate over time, consist of lime scale, calcium, and iron in the water.  If excessive deposits are allowed to build up inside the tank, they can clog the drain valve when you try to use it.


Water Heater Drain Valve

Water Heater Drain Valve

First Steps in Breaking a Drain Valve Clog

1Depending upon whether the water heater is gas or electric, turn off the gas valve or circuit breaker that powers it.

2Connect a hose to the drain valve and run it outside, placing the end of the hose below the level of the water heater. Turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in the house or open the water heater’s pressure-relief valve to break the vacuum inside the tank.

3Then open the drain valve. If the water runs freely, the valve works. If it doesn’t, it’s probably clogged.

4If you suspect that the drain valve is clogged, you can try repeatedly stepping on the hose a couple of feet away from the tank to squirt water and air bubbles back into the tank. Hopefully this will break loose the clog. If it doesn’t, please see How to Back-Flush a Water Heater.

Call for free estimates from local pros now:
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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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