The 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey showed that over 10% of households in the United States use heating oil or propane to heat with. If you are one of those households, you know how difficult it can be to clean your above-ground propane tank if cleaning has been neglected for a long time. The best thing would be regular cleaning, perhaps annually, to prevent any build up; however, below are a number of different ways to clean your tank, depending on whether you need a light cleaning or a total make-over.
The simplest and easiest way to clean your propane tank is using a garden hose and a brush. This method will clean light dirt and grime, but tree sap and mold and mildew will need more muscle.
The next easiest way is using a pressure washer. A pressure washer will give you more power to cut through tough stains and things that a simple garden hose is not equipped for. Using a pressure washer can be tricky though, because getting too close to the tank could take off paint. Most tanks will come clean this way, but some stains may remain behind.
The next step up would be to use a detergent. The tank can be cleaned with either a two-step soap methodology (more about this in a future blog entry) or it can be cleaned using a degreaser. When using a degreaser, be sure to pick one containing hydroxide–either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide–to cut through mold, mildew, and tree sap. When rinsing, use a pressure washer if available; otherwise use a garden hose. If a pressure washer is not an option, depending on how dirty the tank is, apply the degreaser to the tank and brush prior to rinsing with the garden hose. Some caution on using a degreaser; if applied and left on too long, the paint may become compromised and rinsing may remove paint.
The most expensive option is sand-blasting. If the propane tank is too far gone and you just want to repaint and start over, use a sand-blaster. There are sand-blasting additions you can get for a pressure washer, or a stand-alone sand blaster. This option will take off any mold or stain, but repainting afterward is required.
Whichever method you choose to clean your propane tank is determined by whether you want to repaint it or not. If you want to repaint it, get it sand-blasted. If you’re looking to clean it, the easiest and most thorough is to use a degreaser coupled with a pressure washer.
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