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  1. willworkforwood

    willworkforwood Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Messages:
    459
    Loc:
    Central Ma
    I've been having a big struggle with creasote in my boiler heat tubes. But, this was a self-inflicted wound - I knowingly used poorly seasoned wood, trying to make it through the Spring. My bad :down: . Had I known what what happening in the tubes, the boiler would have been shut down at the beginning of March. But, unfortunately it's not as easy with an Econoburn to get at the tubes as some others - the top and back plates have to come off in order to pull the turbs to get a look at the tubes,. And, the turb lever was working fine, and the boiler was heating well so I didn't suspect that creosote was forming on the tubes. Pilot error.
    Anyway, I've been trying a bunch of stuff, with no luck - this creosote would make great epoxy. Piker sent along what looks like a very effective grinding method developed by Gary Barker, but I've got a bit of elbow tendinitis right now, and can't handle the torque from the heavy-duty grinding. Lighter grinding using cut off washers works, but is REALLY slow. So yesterday I was poking around for other possibilities on the web, and came upon "how to remove creosote".
    It said, just mix wood ash with water, apply to the creosote, and brush or scrape off. Snake Oil, I said to myself. But, I filed it away - try it tomorrow and have a laugh. This evening I mixed up some of the Snake Oil, and applied it to the ledge of the top chamber. I waited a minute or so, scrubbed lightly with a wire brush, and then wiped with a rag. A quick Holy #@%! popped out when I saw the patches of bare metal (with very little effort). Then I applied some to the top section of an uncleaned tube, and spun a wire brush on a drill (the same wire brush that the creosote was laughing at last week). Voila! - it was coming off :lol:. Early next week I'll work out a delivery method to get the Snake Oil to the work area, (probably just loading a pile onto the back of the wire brush will work), and I'm fairly confident that this will finally get the job done.
    I wanted to share this information with others - I know that Reflex1957 was having this same problem, and I would guess there are others as well. I also wanted to post the url of the web page that I found this on as a thank you, but can't find the site - my web history gets cleared daily - I'll keep looking.

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  2. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2008
    Messages:
    1,436
    Loc:
    S/W MI
    Pioneers of this country used the same basic recipe to make the first element of lye soap (they put wood ash in a barrel and dripped water on it until the water would start to drip out of a small hole in the bottom and made lye). Wood ash and water will make lye which is very caustic. I think using the boiler after your suggested cleaning will neutralize the lye residue as the new creosote will interact with the lye and dilute it. The chemical cleaning solution is good to know though as there are other parts on my EKO that need cleaning from time to time. For cleaning my heat tubes I welded a large washer, that I trimmed to barely fit in the tubes, to a long metal rod so I can use my cordless drill to clean the tubes. My EKO has built in tube cleaners but will still leave an 1/8" of creostoe in the tubes. The tool I made is 1/16" smaller in diameter than the tubes and in theory only leaves 1/32" of creostoe on the tube walls but actually cleans the tubes real well real fast. Unit disassembly to facilitate cleaning takes much longer than the cleaning process. Using the ash and water would help in cleaning the "turbolator" scraping blades though as in the past I have had to use a putty knife to clean them up. Thanks for the tip.
  3. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    1,068
    Loc:
    SW Maine
    The old-fashioned brush on oven cleaners were some highly alkaline chemical (maybe lye) with some thickener to keep it from running off. I don't know if they even make the brush on stuff anymore. Seems sometimes like nothing is sold that isn't in a spray can.
    Gunk and Castrol used to make some liquid degreaser/cleaners that would really do a number on most nasty messes but I know at least Castrol took theirs off the market because people would put it in a sprayer and end up inhaling it and acting like they got Maced. Let's not go into how I know. The Castrol product was mostly lye.

    Wet wood ashes will also corrode some metals badly so I don't know if it should be left on boiler surfaces longer that necessary. But free and easy crud cleaner sounds like it's worth trying out.
  4. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    Messages:
    4,488
    Loc:
    Northern MN
    With my Tarm the problem of build-up in the hx tubes is solved by frequent brushing so that the build-up never occurs. I keep a calendar by my boiler and I circle dates on a two-week interval as a reminder to brush the tubes every two weeks. It's easy and quick. Occasionally I see a spot or two of build-up, but that seems to burn off between brushings or comes off on the next brushing. A side benefit is maintaining maximum efficiency in heat transfer.
  5. Birdman

    Birdman New Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    NH
    I am having the same issue of a hard creosote build up on the HX tubes. I thought i saw a post last year with some pics of a guy who made his own HX cleaning tool. It showed the drill with the thing on the end and it showed his HX tubes before and after. I can't find it now. Maybe this could be added to the new sticky gooserider? I guess I will try to use the snake oil method... as long as no one tells me not too? .. what are the chances of corrosive aspects for this method? If I use this method every year for 20 years... will that mean rusted out tubes? Any data on this snake oil method... or do we have any chemist type people who have an opinion on this before I go and do it?
  6. willworkforwood

    willworkforwood Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Messages:
    459
    Loc:
    Central Ma
    I've given careful consideration to the comments about corrosiveness from DaveBP and Cave2K, and here's how I'm going to do the tube cleanup job. I've placed a lipped cookie sheet at the back of the boiler under the tubes, that will catch the dregs; and also made a couple of rag holders out of 4 feet of #12 2-wire, looped at one end. The rag gets tied through the loop - one is wet to wipe off the Snake oil, and the other is dry to remove as much extra as possible. I'll be loading the stuff onto a wire bush, and then scrubbing. Followed by the wet/dry rags, this will hopefully keep the corrosive action to a minimum. After it's done, sending through a rag with WD40 might be a good finish.
    And to Jim - I've read your posts in the past, and you're definitely at the top of the heap of boiler efficiency. I would do the regular tube clean that you suggest; however the Econoburn doesn't allow top plate access to the tubes - the back plate needs to be removed to disassemble the turbulators, which requires removing panels and insulation as well. I'm giving some consideration to replacing the factory turbs with chain. Before buttoning up, I'm going to see if chain can be pulled, and dropped back in with just the top plate off. If so, maybe some other EBW owners will chip in some feedback on this, along with what the factory thinks about the idea. I've got plenty of seasoned wood this year, and don't expect the creosote issue again; but would still like to be able to get to the tubes easily to brush and make sure things are ok.
  7. Birdman

    Birdman New Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    NH
    If I use the snake oil method... with my Tarm.. which is a bit different set up.. ( I can/t put anything underneath the hx tubes to catch everthing that comes down) ... and some of this stuff drips down onto the bottom... can it rust out the metal down there? I am assuming there are some tile above the metal... but could some of it go down through the cracks and get to the metal?
  8. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    On the Tarm, there is ceramic above the metal and under the hx tubes. I never have had anything drip down my hx tubes. If you do have creosote dripping down, I don't know whether there are gaps for it to reach the metal, but I would assume so. OTOH, it gets really hot down there and I would think it would burn off.

    If you have creosote dripping down the hx tubes, that just again emphasizes the requirement to burn dry wood and, IMO, reach as fast as possible and maintain interior flue temp of at least 400-500F with turbulators, and 500-600F without turbulators through the bulk of the burn, the exception being at the end of burn when you are burning down to low coals.

    My Tarm purrs in the 400-600F range with turbulators, and usually hovers right around 450-500F.
  9. Birdman

    Birdman New Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    NH
    I do not have that much creosot. I was worried about the snake oil mixture dripping down and getting to the metal. I am hoping someone can direct me to the pics i was refering to in some of my last posts on this topic. The ones wher the guy had picks of his drill and cleaning of his tubes with his attachment on the end. That looked like the route i want to go. I think the gooserider should chirp in here.. since this is going to be a sticky..on how to clean tubes.
  10. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Misunderstood -- the drill idea sounds OK. Once you get the hx tubes clean, it might be best to try not to load them up again, and regular brushing should make sure that they stay clean.
  11. Birdman

    Birdman New Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    NH
    I am hoping to not load them up again. Last year was my first year with the Tarm Solo 40. I love it. Best investment i have ever made. Hopefully i can get 500 gall storage this year. I brushed the tubes every 2 weeks last year.... however... I think the problem came in the spring.. around March... April. I tried to keep using it.. and the temps were higher in the day but still cold at night ( LIke the current weather we are having now in Sept) . SO i had idling... to much of it. I was overloading before i went to work in am... and i would come home... and alot of wood was still in there.. and i think it was idling alot during the day... hence making to much creosute... and the build up on my tubes. I tried my best when i shut it down for summer... but the stuff was just too tough to get off completely. NOw.. i would like it off before i start the season. I have decided to not use the snake oil and find a way to get it off using the round spinning cleaner thing on the end of the drill. I bought a 3 inch one.. and put it on threaded rod... it didn't work... drills and threaded rod don't work well together. and the 3 inch thing was a little too small. I KNOW someone out there has done this before... help!
  12. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    If someone can find the link to the drill idea, I'd be happy to put it in the nuggets sticky (I've already put the "snake oil" idea there)

    My take on the chemical reaction question is that I'd be surprised if it did a lot of harm as long as one tried not to leave WET solution coating the metal for to long... After all, the stuff is made from the wood ashes that are already likely to be present, so you aren't putting any "new" material in the boiler. In addition, the ash solution is going to be basic while from what I've heard, creosote tends to be acidic, so the two should neutralize each other fairly well.

    At the same time, I'm not sure I'd want to use the stuff just before putting the boiler away for the summer - if I did I would definitely want to dry it out well and coat everything with oil. However I don't see any likelyhood of problems if one uses it during the season and follows up by building a fire to really dry things out.

    Gooserider
  13. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    That was the point of my caveat. Gooping it down with ash slurry and scrubbing during the season when you're going to be firing it up again directly shouldn't hurt anything. I just had visions of somebody soaking it down and leaving it there after the heating season in humid weather when it might keeping eating stuff for the duration of the summer.
    I've lost a couple galvanized ash buckets by leaving them full of ashes set down outside and getting distracted until after some heavy rain. By the time I picked them back up they drained very well and won't accumulate water like that again.

    I think the steel in boilers would take a lot of abuse but who wants to be the one to post the warning pics for others?
  14. willworkforwood

    willworkforwood Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Messages:
    459
    Loc:
    Central Ma
    Just wanted to follow up with the results of the ash/water mix for removing creosote from my boiler heat tubes. The stuff basically worked according to plan. Aside from taking longer than expected (what else is new), there were no surprises. The tough creosote did come off with just a wire brush and no grinding, resulting in clean heat tubes. If anyone else has this problem, and wants the details of the procedure, I can either post them or send a pm.
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