Cleaning a Heat Exchanger with Vinegar: Is it Effective?

Heat Exchangers are an essential appliance to have. However, just like any other equipment, it is important to regularly clean and maintain heat exchangers. Thinking of multipurpose cleaners, you cannot possibly ignore vinegar. Eco-friendly and non-toxic, it makes its way as a cleaning agent for kitchenware, washroom fixtures, and even appliances. Particularly, when it comes to cleaning your heat exchanger, you would find vinegar to be a safe cleaning agent.

Even established professionals like Clover Services recommend using vinegar for cleaning heat exchangers. In this article, you will get to know the effectiveness of vinegar for cleaning heat exchangers.

Why Is Vinegar A Good Cleansing Agent?

Here are a few reasons why vinegar can prove to be a good cleaning agent.


Vinegar contains acetic acid, which kills certain bacteria and pathogens. Considering the safety of your interiors, you would like to keep your heat exchangers free from such contaminants. Thus, vinegar happens to be a good cleansing agent for heat exchangers, given that these appliance parts accumulate a lot of grime and dirt.


People often look for the strongest cleaning agents for killing germs. However, direct exposure to strong disinfectants or cleaners might be harmful to both the appliance and your health. Some chemical cleaning agents may even lead to dizziness and breathing issues. However, vinegar is a natural cleanser, and you only need to pair it up with hot water for cleaning your heat exchangers. Occasionally, if you feel the necessity for a deep clean, you might call a professional.


You must be familiar with the pungent smell of vinegar. Well, it’s due to the presence of acetic acid. In this context, vinegar also serves as an ingredient in certain household cleaners that you purchase from the stores. Vinegar’s acidic nature is powerful enough to dissolve grease, dirt, and grime. This makes it an ideal agent for cleaning your heat exchangers. Besides, it is also effective in eliminating bacteria.

What Type Of Vinegar Is The Most Effective For Cleaning?

In general, you will come across four types of vinegar. These are:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White or red wine vinegar
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar

The acidity in pure distilled white vinegar is around 5%. This is similar to the acidic content in some of the other regular cleaning agents. This makes it ideal for cleaning your heat exchanger. Moreover, it comes devoid of any coloring agent, which prevents the surfaces from developing stains. However, the use of dark-colored vinegar can lead to the staining of surfaces.

How To Clean Heat Exchanger With Vinegar?

Cleaning your heat exchanger with vinegar is relatively simple. Have a look at the following steps to gain clarity over the process.

  • Heat the vinegar and pour it into a large heat-proof container.
  • If it’s sunny outside, soak the heat exchanger in the container and leave it outdoors for two days.
  • Remove the heat exchanger from the solution, it would definitely be a lot cleaner.

Rather than using various commercial cleaners available in the market, it would be wise to go for distilled vinegar. It is absolutely safe for your heating and cooling systems. Although some people use Barnacle Buster, the phosphoric acid content in this solution may prove to be hazardous. On the other hand, vinegar has a limited acidic content, which makes it safe for use. Most importantly, it does not corrode the cupronickel alloy, which is susceptible to stronger acids. Muriatic or hydrochloric acids are other alternatives, but it’s recommended to go gentle on your heat exchanger.

Alternatives To Cleaning Heat Exchanger

The design of heat exchangers enables it to optimize the transfer of heat from a liquid or gas to another. Often, aging or fouling results in the degradation of its performance. Failure to clean the heat exchanger on time may lead to unnecessary energy costs. Therefore, you would understand the value of timely maintenance and cleaning. Established companies recommend vinegar or other alternatives for effectively cleaning the appliance parts. In the process, you can ward off chances of long-term issues or emergency repairs.

Although vinegar continues to be an excellent cleaning agent, it has its limitations. We have also come up with a few viable alternatives of vinegar for cleaning heat exchangers.

Things to keep in mind while using Vinegar

  • Firstly, you need to be careful about the concentration of acid in vinegar. When it comes to all-purpose cleaning, it’s safer than ammonia or bleach. However, if it gets into your eyes, stomach, or esophagus, it might damage those parts. Unless you are experienced, it’s wise to call in the experts.
  • Carelessness on your part while working with vinegar may damage certain surfaces. Particularly, if you try cleaning the heat exchangers on surfaces like limestone, marble, or granite, a simple spill can etch or dull those surfaces. This explains why most households prefer collaborating with professionals.
  • People who generally use vinegar as a cleaning agent complain of the long-lingering odor, which might turn out to be unpleasant at times. It becomes difficult to keep your windows closed even after you clean the heat exchangers.

Viable alternatives of vinegar

Professionals incorporate advanced processes like scaling while cleaning heat exchangers. This process involves the removal of silicates, calcium sulfate, and calcium carbonate from the surfaces of the plates. Chlorine is one of the popular choices and serves as a growth inhibitor. It also mitigates corrosion in stainless steel.

Salt and baking soda are some of the other alternatives to vinegar as cleaning agents. However, you need to seek professional consultation regarding their application in heat exchangers.


Although you have a reliable cleaning solution with vinegar available at your home, make sure to hire professionals for routine maintenance. A dedicated effort from certified experts can work wonders. Nevertheless, vinegar comes cheap and is easily available. Timely maintenance can infuse a longer lifeline into your heating and cooling appliances.