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Safely Thaw a Frozen Pipe

Why Do This?

Even if you’ve taken precautions to prevent frozen pipes, it can still happen during single-digit nights. Frozen pipes can lead to expensive water damage, so you want to thaw them as soon as possible. However, hiring a plumber to do this for you can cost $200 or more, so you can save a lot of money by getting it done yourself!

Time: 60 minutes

What You'll Need

  • hairdryer
  • patience

How To:

Safety Note: NEVER use an open flame to thaw your pipe! This will permanently damage the pipe and may even start a fire. It’s also best to avoid “thawing machines,” which are expensive and can be dangerous when they’re not operated by a professional.

  1. 1

    Check the weather forecast. If your pipe froze because of a freak cold snap, but the weather has warmed up since then, the pipe may thaw on its own. If the foreseeable forecast is frosty, you’ll probably need to take action.

  2. 2

    Locate the main shut-off valve. Before you begin, locate your main shut-off valve to make sure you know how to turn off your water. Once your pipe thaws, leaks are common. So, it’s important to be ready!

  3. 3

    Turn your hot and cold faucet handles. Check to see if water will come out of your cold water faucet handle, and then do the same for your hot water. If your cold water pipe has frozen, but water is still flowing from your hot water pipe, you’re in luck! Turn on your hot water and let it run for 10-20 minutes. The heat will usually transfer to the frozen pipe and fix the problem.

  4. 4

    Grab a hairdryer. If that doesn’t work (or your hot water pipe is frozen, too), it’s time to break out the hairdryer. If you can see the frozen area, great. Set your hairdryer to high heat and blast away (holding the dryer a few inches from the pipe) until your water returns. If you can’t see the freeze because the pipe goes into a wall, just aim your hairdryer as close to the problem as possible. Pipes conduct heat extremely well, so even if the freeze is behind a wall, you can usually thaw it out. Just note that this can take 30-45 minutes (sometimes more) to work.

  5. 5

    Call a professional (optional). If you continue to have trouble, your best bet is to call a professional plumber. If you ask nicely, most of them are willing to talk you through other solutions at no charge.

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