Boiler Tube Cleaning and Boiler Tube Cleaner Machine

In this article, we will guide you on how to choose the right boiler tube cleaning head for your boiler tube machine.

The reason we have taken the time to write this article is because of the challenge that plant managers face when it comes to choosing these pieces of equipment. The challenge lies in the fact that there are so many of these boiler tube cleaning heads and brushes to pick from. Hence, even a seasoned professional might find it overwhelming.

Whether you are a new professional or a seasoned professional in the field of plant management, knowing just the 3 things below will help you choose the best cleaning head that is just right.

Things to Consider When Choosing Boiler Tube Cleaning Heads

The following are the things you should consider when choosing this piece of equipment:

1. The Size of the Tube

The first factor you need to consider is the ID (inner diameter) of the tube. Inner diameter refers to the distance between opposite sides within the tube’s interior wall. To get the internal diameter of the tube you want to clean, all you need is to get either a digital micrometer or mechanical hole gauge to measure the inner diameter.

If you don’t have any of the devices we just mentioned, then you can still calculate the inner diameter provided you know what the OD (outer diameter) and the wall gauge of the tube are. You just need to find a smart chart online that allows you to calculate the ID of the duct. Visit to learn how to calculate the internal diameter.

The Size of the Tube

The difference between OD and ID is that the former includes the entire diameter of the duct including the wall thickness, while the latter is limited to the diameter within the conduit. As a result, the ID is smaller than the OD.

Most boiler tubes have a diameter range of 1-1/2 to 4+ inches while heat exchangers are smaller with a diameter range of ¼ to 1-1/2 inches.

2. The Type of the Tube

Size is not the only factor you must know about, you should also know the conduit type. You should know whether they are curved or straight.

Straight pipes usually go through the main pressure vessel and exit at the other end. You can find this type commonly in fire tube boilers and shell & tube heat exchangers.

Curved tubes also known as U-tubes curve returns to the conduit’s front sheet. Hence, to clean this type of duct, you need a head that is flexible enough to work through the pipe’s bend. You can find this type in water tube boilers as well as U-tube exchangers.

There are some ducts known as internally enhanced tubes, especially, in heat exchangers that have twisting ridges that are similar to rifling. Read this article to learn what rifling is. The shape of the conduit enables the flow of liquid through the conduit to be more efficient and smooth with minimal turbulence.

The best head for these pipes is dual diameter brushes because their design enables them to reach both low and high areas of the conduits.

The Type of the Tube

Another thing you should know is the metal tube type that has been fit into the vessel you intend to clean. The metal used for the duct and the brush should always be the same. This way, you can guarantee minimal or no damage that could lead to a reduction in the conduit’s service life, especially for those manufactured with soft metals.

For instance, metals that have no iron content such as brass, aluminum, and copper are usually softer. Therefore, cleaning such a vessel with a steel head that is harder will definitely scratch the pipe’s internal surface. Such will, in turn, lead to untimely corrosion which will cause leaks in the future.

Hence, the softer heads made of bronze, brass, or copper should be used in such a case. You can use stainless steel with tubes made of copper-nickel alloy and titanium. Brushes with plastic nylon are perfect for any type of metal.

3. The Type of Debris

The type of debris that has built up in the tube also influences the type of brush or head that will be used for cleaning the pressure vessel.

There are 4 main categories of debris that you might encounter. We will look at them below:

The Type of Debris

1. Light and Medium

This debris is found in systems that undergo frequently schedule maintenance. To get rid of this kind of debris, you need spiral brushes. When combined with the water supplied through the shaft of the drive unit, the flushing will help to clean the vessel. When you discover that the water coming out from the back is clean, it shows that the conduit is now clean.

2. Soft Powdery

Moderate deposits at times might require something stronger than a spiral brush. Hence, when you encounter chemical, scale, and rust precipitates, you should get an expanding brush that has replaceable bristles. While the head on your machine’s unit shaft is spinning, the bristle cartridges will increase in size to fill the space of the tube’s interior circumference thanks to centripetal force.

These brushes have a longer life when compared to spiral brushes. When the bristles on the brush wear down, in order to reach the walls of the pipe, the cartridge will rise somewhat further. When the bristle cartridges become so worn out, you can change them. You can get them in nylon, bronze, stainless steel, and steel. Click to find out the difference between steel and stainless steel.

3. Soft, Wet & Gummy

To get rid of this kind of sludgy debris, you need an expanding scraper. This head can also expand and be replaced in the same manner as the expanding brush. However, they are different in the sense that the blades of the scraper are less prone to accumulating the sludgy deposits, unlike the brush bristles.

One good thing about this head is that with the aid of a flexible holder, you can use it for curved tubes.

4. Hard or Brittle Scale

For pipes that have a buildup of calcium or limescale, you need a buffing tool after you have used an expanding scraper or brush first. After that, you can get a cutter which can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.


Cleaning your boiler tube machine or heat exchanger is also possible if you have the right cleaning head. Therefore, in the article above, we have provided you with a guide that will make the selection of these pieces of equipment a walk in the park.