Using and Maintaining HVAC Systems in Rental Properties

Cleaning Your Gas Furnace's Pilot Light When It Keeps Going Out

When the pilot light on your gas furnace keeps going out, the orifice could be partially clogged up. This could be preventing the gas from reaching the flame enough to keep it burning. If you feel this could be the problem, use the method below to clean the tip of the pilot light.

What You Will Need

Before you begin, gather the following items.

  • Small piece of 1,000-grit sandpaper
  • Firm bristle toothbrush
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Small bowl or bucket of water
  • Thin piece of wire

The 1,000-grit sandpaper will remove any rust or burnt-on grime. However, the small grit will not damage the metal around the pilot's orifice.

When selecting the cloth to use, make sure it has the least amount of lint possible so it does not fall into the orifice and clog it up any further. A cloth diaper or mechanic's cloth are examples of ones that can be used.


Once you have your supplies gathered together, follow the directions below.

  1. Turn off the gas line feeding the pilot light and the furnace.
  2. Dip the cloth in the water and wring out all of the excess water.
  3. Wipe the top of the pilot pipe with the cloth to clean off any loose soot, dust, or dirt.
  4. Wrap the sandpaper around your index finger and lightly rub the top of the pipe.
  5. Wipe away any dust caused from the sanding.
  6. Dip the toothbrush in the water and shake it once.
  7. Starting at the pilot's orifice, lightly scrub the surface with the toothbrush. Spiral outward until you reach the top edge of the pipe.
  8. Wipe the area with the cloth, using the same spiral motion. This will pull any debris away from the hole.
  9. Bend the wire so one side is one-inch long, leaving the rest as a handle.
  10. Firmly grasp your makeshift handle and slowly insert the shorter end into the pilot hole. 
  11. Rotate the wire as you pull the wire out. This will help the wire grab any residue and dirt inside the orifice that could be clogging it.
  12. Wipe the wire with the damp cloth and repeat the previous step.
  13. Turn on the furnace and gas valve.
  14. Light the pilot light to see if the cleaning helped its quality.
  15. If the pilot light goes out, repeat the above steps one more time to ensure all debris has been removed.

After following the directions above, your pilot light may still continue to go out or only burn halfway. If so, you may want to contact an HVAC contractor like one from Maryland Oil Company to inspect your furnace and discuss the solutions available.