|Written by Kristie Raburn|
Caution...thawing a frozen pipe too quickly can cause the pipe to burst.
Important Safety Warnings:
*Never use a propane torch on a PVC or plastic pipe.
*When clearing an ice blockage in plastic or PVC pipe, gently heat any frozen section of pipe as PVC tends to crack and split in extreme temperatures.
*Never heat a frozen section of pipe past the point where it is too hot to touch comfortably.
*Always start treatments at the ice blockage nearest the faucet, with the faucet in the open position.
*The faucet must remain open to let the thawing water and steam escape from the pipe.
To prevent pipes from freezing in the first place, insulate any pipe exposed to frigid air or left exposed in a garage, unused room or passing through the crawl space under the house. Before attempting to thaw any frozen section of pipe, close the water shutoff valve of the pipe or close the main water valve. Then open the faucet nearest the frozen section to allowing the melting ice to run out of the faucet, and let steam pressure escape as the pipe is heated. Always remember to thaw a pipe from the faucet connection, going backwards toward the source end of the pipe.
Simple, InexpensiveÂ Ways to Thaw a Frozen Pipe
1) Use a hair dryer or heat lamp to thaw the ice inside the pipe. SLOW HEAT WORKS BEST.
Working from the faucet end of the frozen section of pipe, plug in a hair dryer or heat lamp and carefully heat the surface of the pipe. Focus the hot air on the pipe, keeping the hair dryer moving at all times. Do not let the surface of the pipe get too hot. It must remain cool enough that you can still touch it but warm enough to allow the ice inside to melt.
If the pipe gets too hot, the water inside the pipe might begin to boil and expand, which will burst the pipe. Keep the heat-source moving while keeping the pipe cool enough to touch. Take your time â€“ with patience, your pipe will be clear of ice. Always start thawing treatments at the edge of the ice blockage nearest the faucet, with the faucet in the open position. The faucet must remain open to let the thawing water and steam escape from the pipe.
Â 2) Tie warm rags around the pipe and pour hot water over the rags. DO NOT POUR BOILING WATER ON A PIPE.
Â Another method to clear ice from a metal pipe is to wrap the frozen section of pipe in warm towels and tie the towels around the pipe. Towels right out of the dryer will work to gently warm the pipes. Once the towels are cool, you can either put them back in the dryer or carefully pour boiling water over the towels, letting the hot water soak into the towels and gently heat the pipe. Repeat with more hot water as the towels cool.
Do not pour boiling water directly on the frozen pipes. Never allow the pipes to get so hot that you cannot comfortably hold the pipe in your hands. If the ice blockage is small, the heat from the warm towels may be all you need to get the ice melting. Always start treatments at the ice blockage nearest the faucet, with the faucet in the open position. The faucet must remain open to let the thawing water and steam escape from the pipe.
3) Wrap a waterproof heating pad or electric heat tape around the frozen pipe. DO NOT LET THE PIPE GET HOT.
Working nearest the faucet and with the faucet in the open position, wrap an electric heating pad around the frozen section of pipe and set the temperature to warm. Do not let the heating pad get too hot and do not allow the pipe to get too warm to the touch. It does not take much heat to start to thaw ice inside a pipe, especially if you have insulated other sections of the pipe in preparation of cold weather.
Once the frozen block begins thawing, keep an eye on the faucet to watch your success. If a full stream of water comes out, your blockage is clear. Before it gets cold again, take the time to insulate the pipes and your problem should not return. Always start treatments at the ice blockage nearest the faucet, with the faucet in the open position. The faucet must remain open to let the thawing water and steam escape from the pipe.
Some ice blocks are so solid in a pipe, the home owner will decide to use a propane torch to heat the pipe. This method requires a great deal of caution as the pipe can quickly overheat and steam pressure can build in the pipe. If this happens, the pipe may burst, creating an even bigger problem. Slow and steady is the way to go. It took a while for the water to freeze in the pipe so to prevent damages or leaks, allow the ice to thaw slowly.