How to Thaw Your Frozen Pipes

Frozen water coming out of a hose.
  • 1-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 75-250
What You'll Need
Hair dryer
Space heater
Bath towels
Electric heating tape
What You'll Need
Hair dryer
Space heater
Bath towels
Electric heating tape

As Old Man Winter blows across the country, he brings with him a plentitude of freezing temperatures and gusting winds. These cold weather scenarios set the perfect stage for freezing pipe problems. There are many situations within a home that can lead to frozen water in pipes. Poor insulation, extremely low outdoor temperatures and faulty thermostats are just a few of the issues that can cause problems. Unfortunately, frozen pipes can lead to unwanted and costly repairs, but there's no need for stress if you've found yourself needing to thaw out a pipe. Before you follow one of our methods listed below, go through the following steps to control your water flow.

Step 1 - Locate the Frozen Pipe

Locate the frozen section of your pipes by starting at the closest faucet. Feel the pipes in the area and look for sections that are especially cold. More than likely, the frozen section will be located in an area that does not get as much heat as other parts of your home. Check the garage, crawlspace, basement and exterior walls as these areas generally maintain lower temperature levels.

Step 2 - Check for Damage

Make sure that the frozen pipe has no leaks or cracks in it. As water freezes, it expands. The expanded volume can cause your pipe to crack. Note that if your pipe indeed has cracked, you will need to call a repair professional immediately to have the damage fixed.

Step 3 - Turn Off the Water

Find the valve that controls the water flow to that section of the pipe. Turn off the valve. You may need to shut off the main valve in your home.

Step 4 - Open the Faucets

Open the faucets that control the water from that section of the pipe. This will enable the excess water to flow out of the pipes and away from the problem area.

Method 1: Warm Towels

Here's where you thaw the pipe. There are several methods that you can use. For the first, turn on a hot water tap from another area in the house. Place a bath towel in the sink and soak it in hot water. Squeeze out any excess water and then wrap the warm towel over the pipe. Leave the towel on the pipe long enough for it to thaw.

Method 2: Hair Dryer

If the warm towel does not provide enough heat to thaw the pipe, try this second method of using a hair dryer. Plug the hair dryer into a nearby outlet. Turn the dryer on and point the blowing warm air toward the frozen area of the pipe. Begin applying the heat at the section of the pipe that is nearest to the faucet so that the water will run through it and reduce built up pressure.

Method 3: Space Heater

In the event that the hair dryer does not fix the problem, place a space heater near the frozen pipe. Be sure that the heater you are using meets electrical standards. Place it in a safe spot where there are no items nearby that could cause a fire hazard. Turn on the heater and allow it to warm the space for about an hour. After an hour, check to see where there has been any progress in thawing the pipe. If it does seem that the pipe is thawing, turn on the water and check to see where it will flow properly. In the event that the water is trickling through the pipes, leave the heater on for another half hour.

Method 4: Heating Tape

Wrap the frozen section of the pipe in heating tape. If you do not have any at home, visit your local hardware store and speak with a representative about your problem. Be sure to read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer before you install it around your pipes. Apply the tape in single layers around the pipe. Plug the end of the tape into a nearby outlet.

Consider Steps in Prevention

Prevent the possibility of further frozen pipe problems by ensuring that problem areas are well insulated. Visit your local hardware store and speak with a professional about pipe sponge, which wraps around the problem areas to keep them warm. Check your garage, crawlspace and exterior walls for any spots where cold air may be leaking through to the interior of your home. Install covers on your exterior faucets to protect the pipes leading to them from freezing. During periods of extreme exterior cold, consider leaving your faucets open to allow a small trickle to flow through the pipes and reduce the chances of freezing water.