It’s the middle of winter, and you come home to find that your sink isn’t draining properly. Chances are, the freezing temperatures have made your water pipes freeze!
It can be a major inconvenience when pipes freeze and sometimes even dangerous. Here we will teach you how to unfreeze drain pipes using different methods. We will also give you some important tips on preventing this from happening again in the future.
How To Unfreeze Drain Pipes
Step One: Find the Frozen Drain Pipes
One of the biggest dangers of frozen drain pipes is that when water freezes, it expands. The built-up ice pressure can cause burst pipes, which can create a huge mess and serious damage to your plumbing system. If you let the frozen pipes thaw naturally, it can also lead to water damage from the resulting leaks.
The first step to thaw frozen drain pipes is to figure out which ones are frozen. The best way to do this is to check all of the faucets in your house and see if there is no water flowing through them. The pipe behind that particular faucet is likely frozen if there is no water flow.
Another way to tell if a pipe is frozen is to feel it. If the pipe is cold to the touch, it’s likely frozen.
Step Two: Shut Off the Water Supply
Once you’ve determined which pipes are frozen, you’ll need to turn off the water supply. This can be done by locating the main water shut-off valve for your house and turning it off. If you’re not sure where it is, check your home’s manual or contact your local water company.
If you can’t find the main water shut-off valve, or if it’s frozen, you’ll have to turn off the water at each fixture. To do this, open up the faucets and allow them to drain completely. Then, turn the knob on each fixture clockwise until it doesn’t turn anymore. This will shut off the water to that particular faucet.
Step Three: Thaw Frozen Drain Pipes
Now comes the fun part – unfreezing your pipes! You can safely thaw pipes using a few different methods, and we’ll go over them all below.
Method One: Heat
One of the most common ways to unfreeze pipes is to use heat. You can use direct or indirect heat.
You can apply direct heat with a small space heater, heating pad, heat lamp, hot towel, or hair dryer. Make sure to keep an eye on the pipe while you’re using direct heat, as it can be a fire hazard.
Electric heat tape is also an option, but you should only use it if you’re familiar with how to do so. If not, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Electric heat tape is a wrapper with heating elements inside. To use electric heat tape, wrap it around the frozen pipe and plug it in. The tape will heat up and thaw the ice inside.
Indirect heat can be applied by turning up the thermostat and pushing warm air through the home. Open the cabinets under the sink to help warm the pipes there faster.
Method Two: Pouring Boiling Water
Another way to unfreeze pipes is by pouring hot water into the pipes. This method is the most common for a shower or floor drain since the pipes are not exposed. Just boil a pot of water and slowly pour it down the frozen drain.
Afterward, you should run warm water for a few minutes to clear out any of the remaining ice.
Method Three: Salt
Salt is a great way to melt ice as it lowers the freezing point of the water, and you can use it on both frozen indoor and outdoor pipes.
For frozen indoor pipes, this method can be done in one of three ways:
- Pour a cup of salt down the drain.
- Make a salt/water solution by mixing one cup of salt with eight cups of warm water. Pour this mixture into the frozen water pipes.
- Add a half cup of baking soda to a half cup of vinegar and pour it into the frozen water pipe. Once this has stopped bubbling, pour boiling saltwater down the frozen drain pipe.
Once again, afterward, you should run warm water down the drain for a few minutes to clear out any of the remaining ice.
To thaw a frozen outdoor pipe:
- Pour a gallon of warm water mixed with one cup of salt over the frozen pipe.
- Pour a pot of boiling water over the frozen pipe.
Important Things to Know
You need to know a few things before you start trying to unfreeze your pipes. First of all, never use an open flame to thaw frozen pipes as that is a fire hazard.
Secondly, don’t try to unfreeze the pipe too quickly. Instead, you should gradually warm the drain pipe. If you apply too much heat at once, you could damage the pipe or even cause it to burst.
When to Call a Plumber
There are a few instances where you should call a plumber rather than fix the problem yourself. If the frozen pipe’s location is a difficult-to-reach place, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. The same is true if you can’t find the water shut-off valve.
Another time to call a plumber is when the frozen pipe has caused damage to your home. If water leaks or the pipe has burst, it’s best to call right away. When in doubt, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Prevention Tips for the Future
There are a few things you can do to prevent frozen pipes in the future. The most important is to keep them properly insulated. You can do this by adding insulation to the exterior walls of your house and around any exposed pipes.
Another thing you can do is to make sure there are no gaps or cracks around doors or windows. These gaps can let in cold air, which can cause the pipes to freeze.
You should keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re not home. This will help to keep the pipes from freezing, even if the power goes out.
If you have drains that are prone to freezing, properly drain them before the weather gets too cold. To do this, open up all of the faucets and allow them to run until they’re empty. Then, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.
You can also let the faucets drip on days with freezing weather. This will help to keep the water moving and stop it from freezing.
Keep bottled or filtered water on hand in case your pipes do freeze, as thawing frozen pipes may take a while.
No More Frozen Pipes
Hopefully, by following these tips, you’ll never have to deal with frozen pipes again! But if you do find yourself in this situation, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Just follow the steps above, and you’ll have your pipes thawed out in no time.