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moth balls in hot water tank


Wrknrvr

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Customer just purchased a used fifth wheel and came south for a trip. The water heater had moth balls in it and he cannot get the smell out of it. It was winterized then they were put in there. After a lot of water and two doses of dish soap it still has a smell.

I just talked to him about it and looking what to do. Maybe pull the element to see if they have dissolved much. Just curious if anyone else had this situation and what they did.

 

 

 

safe Travels, Vern

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Moth balls used to be made of naphthalene but now are more likely made of para dichlorobenzene. Both are poorly soluble in water so removal with just water will be very difficult. Organic solvents will be required to dissolve the moth balls but such solvents carry many risks including flammability in many cases and toxicity. If the moth balls are not easily removed mechanically then replacing the heater might be the safest approach to the problem. Best wishes, Jay

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P&P, The dreaded aluminum eating moth, I think I remember hearing about them in a Japanese movie. :-)

 

Saving the heater is going to be a real problem, worse if the mothball stink has permeated the plumbing as just fixing the heater is not going to do the trick. Pulling the heater and flushing it, a vinegar soak to remove any buildup that will hold the mothball residue and finally a good cleaning with some solvent (no clue which) that will remove the mothballs while not leaving behind something worse. Cleaning the plumbing you'll also have to pick a solvent that is safe for the plastic and metal fittings.

 

Maybe just junk the heater and pray the plumbing is salvageable?

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Since mothballs are designed to kill bugs, I'd doubt that odor is the biggest part of the problem they create. I assume that you are certain that they really are mothballs and not just residue of the mineral buildup that happens if you don't flush the tank, along with some other sort of nasty odor?

 

Not only would I wonder why someone put them into the water heater, but did he poke them in through the drain somehow? That is certainly a new one to me!

 

Rereading your post, it sounds like they are not completely removed yet. One of the plastic flushing wands should be able to wash them out via the drain. Use water with a good pressure and flush well...

317o2m7o7AL._AA160_.jpg

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in any case , I'd be draining the tank , for sure .

There should be a heater tank drain low enough to evacuate the moth balls . Turn the heating element off first , bypass the water heater water feed and undo the drain plug . Careful , watch for water spray when the plug is about to come out . If some balls remain after a complete empty , simply return the water feed to the tank and plug the drain hole with your hand for a few seconds and release . You may have to repeat .

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Yes this is different as I never seen this done before. I told the customer to wait a few minutes and I would post on the forum. The DW was not dressed so I went in to the computer and when I went out he was not outside. Never did see him later in the campground.

I had three refrigerator's to work on yesterday and then be cooking at 4:30 pm for guest.

If I do see him again I will post as to what happens.

Thanks for all the help.

 

 

Never a dull moment, Vern

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How did he determine the water heater had moth balls in it? What brand water heater is it?

 

The only reasonable way to put moth balls in a water heater is to remove the drain plug (anode on a Suburban) and stuff them in. If he removes the drain plug and then turns the water on to the trailer, most everything in the water heater will flush out after a while. You can also use one of the flushing wands to speed up the process.

 

I don't see how the moth balls could have contaminated the piping, since as someone pointed out the moth balls don't dissolve in water very well. I would give the water heater a good flushing and then use the system. Maybe not drink from it for a few months. I certainly wouldn't replace the water heater based on this.

 

Incidentally, I flush my water heater twice a year and it needs it. The mineral deposits which come out of there are pretty impressive in quantity and consistency. It may be that the gunk (mineral deposits) in the water heater is what holds the stink of the moth balls and a good flushing will remove both the moth ball residue and the odor.

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As someone else mentioned, I wonder if it could be just an abundance of residue in the tank rather than mothballs. Check out these photos of my 20 year old hot water tank that I cut open upon removal.

jor

 

DSCF3817_zpsry7vyvs1.jpgDSCF3820_zpsn5sjangj.jpg

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As someone else mentioned, I wonder if it could be just an abundance of residue in the tank rather than mothballs. Check out these photos of my 20 year old hot water tank that I cut open upon removal.

Good pictures! I can't recall having seen one cut open before, but have flushed that sort of thing out of more than one water heaters.

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It is my experience that mothballs and flakes have a distintictive odor. I wouldn't necessarily put the stuff that flushed out right up to my nose and take a big whiff but I might try and get it a foot or so away and maybe do a gentle sniff. I don't recommend that to anyone else but I might do it that way although in my experience you can smell that stuff from at least 5-6 ft away.

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I found the person that has the mothball problem.

Lets just say someone had to do it just so we could talk about it.

 

 

I will follow up on what he is doing as he is suppose to be in the park for a few weeks yet. He has put some dish washing aid and soap in the hot water heater to try and clean it out.

 

 

Thanks, Vern

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Those pictures are show the reason water heaters should be flushed thoroughly every year. Every year when I drain my house water heater there is about a cup of mineral flakes on the ground at the end of the hose; and I have a whole-house water softener.

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