How to Clean a Filter on an Outside Oil Tank: Quickly and Easily

We’ve all been there – the biting cold of winter seeping into our homes, making every room feel like an icebox. You crank up the heating, but it just doesn’t seem to do the trick. After some investigation, you find the sneaky culprit: a grimy filter in your outside oil tank, silently sabotaging your comfort.

I too have faced those chilly nights, wrapped in blankets, wondering why my heating system was faltering. The realization that a simple, often overlooked component like the oil tank filter could wreak such havoc was both surprising and frustrating. The discomfort, the rising energy costs, and the looming threat of a complete system breakdown can be overwhelming.

But here’s the good news: you’re not alone, and there’s a solution at hand. This guide is tailored for individuals like you and me, seeking answers and effective solutions. Dive into this article, and you’ll not only discover the importance of a clean oil tank filter but also the step-by-step process to ensure it stays pristine. Imagine a winter where every corner of your home radiates warmth, where your energy bills don’t skyrocket, and where you have the peace of mind that your heating system is in top-notch condition. Ready to embark on this journey? Let’s get started.

How to Clean a Filter on an Outside Oil Tank

Understanding the Importance of a Clean Oil Tank Filter

The heart of any heating system is its oil tank, and the filter serves as its guardian. Just as our lungs need clean air to function optimally, the heating system requires uncontaminated oil to operate efficiently. Let’s delve deeper into why maintaining a pristine oil tank filter is paramount.

Role of the Filter:

The primary function of the oil tank filter is to sift out impurities and debris from the heating oil before it enters the furnace or boiler. This ensures that the oil burned is of the highest quality, leading to efficient combustion and optimal heat generation. Without a clean filter, these impurities can clog the system, causing it to work harder and reducing its lifespan.

Consequences of Neglect:

A neglected filter doesn’t just affect the efficiency of the heating system; it has a domino effect. As the filter becomes clogged, the oil pump has to exert more effort to push the oil through, leading to increased wear and tear. This not only results in reduced heating performance but also escalates energy consumption, translating to higher bills. Moreover, the strain on the system can lead to premature equipment failure, necessitating costly repairs or replacements.

Environmental Impact:

A clean filter also plays a role in environmental conservation. A system running on contaminated oil tends to produce more emissions, contributing to air pollution. By ensuring a clean filter, we not only safeguard our home’s warmth but also play a part in reducing our carbon footprint.

In essence, the oil tank filter is more than just a component; it’s the gatekeeper of your heating system’s health. Regular attention to it is not just a maintenance task; it’s an investment in prolonged system life, reduced expenses, and a warmer, cosier home.

Why Regular Cleaning of the Oil Tank Filter is Essential

Every machine, no matter how robust, requires regular maintenance to function at its peak. The same principle applies to our heating systems, with the oil tank filter being a pivotal component. Let’s explore why consistent cleaning of this filter is non-negotiable for every homeowner.

Optimal Heating Performance:

A clean filter ensures that the heating oil flowing into the system is free from impurities. This leads to efficient combustion, ensuring that your home heats up quickly and maintains a consistent temperature. No more waiting for ages to feel the warmth or dealing with cold spots in certain areas of the house.

Economic Benefits:

A clogged filter forces the heating system to work overtime, consuming more energy in the process. Regular cleaning can lead to noticeable savings on your energy bills. Additionally, by preventing undue strain on the system components, you reduce the risk of costly repairs or replacements in the future.

Extending System Lifespan:

Just as regular exercise and a balanced diet can add years to our lives, consistent filter cleaning can prolong the life of your heating system. By ensuring a smooth flow of clean oil, you prevent wear and tear on the oil pump and other integral components, ensuring that your system serves you efficiently for years to come.

Early Detection of Issues:

Regular cleaning sessions also provide an opportunity to inspect the filter and the surrounding components. This proactive approach can help detect potential issues early on, allowing for timely interventions and avoiding major malfunctions down the line.

Environmental Responsibility:

A well-maintained filter ensures cleaner combustion, reducing the emissions produced by your heating system. By regularly cleaning the oil tank filter, you’re not only ensuring a warm home but also doing your bit for the environment.

In conclusion, regular cleaning of the oil tank filter isn’t just a chore; it’s a proactive measure to ensure warmth, save money, and promote sustainability. It’s a small task with significant returns, making it an essential routine for every homeowner.

Safety Precautions Before Cleaning the Filter

Before diving into the cleaning process of your oil filter, it’s paramount to ensure safety first. The heating oil tank, especially if it’s a domestic oil tank, contains flammable heating oil, and any mishap can lead to dire consequences. Here are some safety measures to adhere to:

  1. Turn Off the Oil Supply: Before starting, ensure that the oil supply to the heating system is turned off. This prevents any accidental spills or leaks during the cleaning process.
  2. Ventilate the Area: If your heating oil tank is located in a confined space, ensure proper ventilation. This will help dissipate any fumes from the heating oil and reduce the risk of inhalation.
  3. Wear Protective Gear: Use gloves to protect your hands from oil sludge and any cleaning solution. Safety goggles are also essential to shield your eyes from any splashes.
  4. Avoid Smoking: Ensure there’s no open flame or smoking near the fuel tank. Heating oil fumes can be flammable.
  5. Prepare for Spills: Have a plastic container or tray beneath the filter housing to catch any existing oil or spills. This not only keeps the area clean but also prevents potential oil spills which can harm the environment.
  6. Handle Waste Properly: Any oil sludge, dirty filter, or hazardous waste should be disposed of responsibly. Check with local regulations on how to discard hazardous waste.
  7. Stay Alert for Leaks: Before starting, inspect the storage tank and surrounding area for any signs of leaks. Addressing these beforehand ensures a smoother cleaning process.

Tools and Materials Needed for Cleaning the Filter

To ensure your heating system runs smoothly and efficiently after the cleaning, having the right tools and materials is crucial. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Filter Wrench: This tool is essential for removing the filter cover and accessing the oil filters inside the filter housing.
  • Cleaning Solution: A degreasing cleaning solution will help in effectively removing oil sludge and any residues from the filter.
  • Brushes: Soft-bristled brushes can help in gently scrubbing away impurities from the filter without causing damage.
  • Rags or Towels: Useful for wiping away any residues and cleaning up spills.
  • Plastic Container: As mentioned, this will catch any oil spills during the cleaning process.
  • Drain Valve: If your heating oil tank has a drain valve, it can be useful in draining any existing oil before starting the cleaning.
  • Replacement Filters: In case the existing filter is too clogged or damaged, having replacement oil filters on hand ensures you can immediately replace it.
  • Sealants: After cleaning, ensuring the filter housing is sealed properly prevents leaks. Having sealants on hand can be useful.

By adhering to the safety precautions and equipping yourself with the right tools and materials, you’re setting the stage for a successful cleaning process, ensuring your heating system works efficiently throughout the heating season.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning the Filter

Cleaning the oil filter is a task that, when done correctly, ensures your heating system runs smoothly and efficiently. From my personal experience, I’ve found that a systematic approach not only simplifies the process but also ensures thorough cleaning. Here’s a detailed, actionable guide to help you through each step:

  1. Preparation: Before diving in, turn off your heating system and ensure the area is well-ventilated. This ensures safety and provides a conducive environment for the task.
  2. Locate the Isolation Valve: The isolation valve is typically located near the oil filter. Turn it off to stop the flow of oil during the cleaning process. This was a step I initially overlooked, leading to unnecessary messes.
  3. Disconnect the Fuel Line: Carefully disconnect the fuel line from the filter housing. Use a separate container to collect any residual oil that might spill out. This prevents contamination and ensures a clean workspace.
  4. Remove the Filter Cover: Using a filter wrench, carefully remove the filter cover. Remember, not all filters are created equal, so handle with care to avoid damage.
  5. Extract the Old Filter: Gently remove the filter from its housing. If you notice it’s a clogged oil filter, it’s a clear sign that this cleaning was much needed. Place the old filter in a separate container.
  6. Inspect the Filter: Before cleaning, inspect the filter for any damages. If it’s too worn out or damaged, it’s best to replace it. Remember, the goal is to ensure the heating system is running smoothly, and sometimes, a replacement is more efficient than cleaning.
  7. Clean the Filter: If the filter is in good condition, submerge it in a cleaning solution. Give it a thorough cleaning, ensuring all impurities and sludge are removed. If you’ve ever cleaned a water filter, the process is quite similar, though the residues might be different.
  8. Check the Oil Level: Before reinstalling the filter, check the oil level in the tank. This ensures that your system has an adequate supply for optimal performance.
  9. Reinstall the Filter: Carefully place the cleaned (or new) filter back into its housing. Ensure it’s properly aligned to avoid any leaks or malfunctions.
  10. Reconnect the Fuel Line: Once the filter is securely in place, reconnect the fuel line. Ensure all connections are tight to prevent any leaks.
  11. Turn On the Isolation Valve: Reopen the isolation valve, allowing oil to flow back into the system.
  12. Test the System: After everything is reassembled, turn on your heating system and monitor its performance. If you notice any irregularities, seek professional advice. Sometimes, an annual tune-up by a professional can spot issues we might overlook.
  13. Final Thoughts: Remember, while all filters serve the same basic function, not all are created equal. Always choose a quality filter that suits your system’s specifications. This small investment can prevent sludge build-up, avoid costly repairs, and ensure your heating system works efficiently for years to come.


Keeping your heating system running smoothly and efficiently is not just about immediate comfort; it’s about safeguarding the heart of your home against the unpredictable temperature changes that each season brings. The process of cleaning and maintaining the filter in your oil tank is the first step in this journey. It’s a simple task, but its impact on the longevity and performance of your heating system is profound.

As we’ve explored, regular attention to your tank’s filter can prevent unforeseen issues, saving you from costly repairs in the long run. However, while personal maintenance is crucial, it’s equally important to schedule an annual service with a qualified technician. They can provide a comprehensive check, ensuring every component, from tanks to seals, is in optimal condition. Remember, it’s the small details, like ensuring seals are tight and using clean water for cleaning, that make all the difference.

In essence, the health of your heating system is a testament to the care you invest in it. By following the guidelines shared, you’re not only ensuring warmth and comfort for your family but also peace of mind for yourself.