Pilots and burner orifice maintenance & repair
Natural gas, they tell us, is clean burning. Well, it makes good ad copy, but it’s not 100 percent true. There are trace impurities in gas, and when they burn they become ash. And over a long long period of time this ash can build up and clog tiny gas orifices, like pilot orifices. The symptoms may be that the pilot will not stay lit, or blows out too easily.
There is also a little “cup” around the pilot light in a surface burner to regulate air for proper combustion of the pilot flame. These can get covered with ash or clogged up with spillage from the burner (see below.) Make sure you clean the pilot area thoroughly.
You can usually clean them out with an old toothbrush and some compressed air, but pilot orifices are generally so inexpensive that it’s cheaper and safer to replace them. If you choose to clean them out, use a soft-bristle brush like a toothbrush, and not a wire brush. A wire brush might damage the orifice. Be careful not to push the ash into the orifice and impact it.
The surface burner jets are a different animal. The problem is, that pot that boils over can leave some pretty crusty stuff on the burners. The challenge is to get that crusty stuff off without enlarging the gas holes. Sometimes the crusty stuff is not crusty but gummy, and this can be even more fun to get off the burner.
There’s no magic way to do this. Depending on what’s clogging the gas holes, you may be able burn it off, or at least char it so it can be scraped or knocked off. Use a propane torch or one of the other stove burners if you can get it into the correct position.
You may also be able to use alcohol or some other non-petroleum solvent to knock it loose. If you do, make sure the solvent is completely gone before you put the burner back into service. (Petroleum-based solvents might leave a residue)
Try poking it out with a straight pin if possible. You can use a welding tip cleaner, or a small twist drill, to poke into the holes but only if it fits in the hole with plenty of clearance. Do not use a drill motor with a twist drill; just push it in and out by hand. Use it as if it was a file. Use a twist drill or tip cleaner that is MUCH smaller than the diameter of the hole. Do not use anything with a remote chance of enlarging the hole. Remember, the objective is to take off the crusty stuff without taking off any of the metal. Sometimes a gas stove burner is just too badly clogged, or the holes are too small, and the burner must be replaced.