How to Fix a Frozen Toilet Tank
Living in a cold climate during the winter months is not for the faint of heart or weak of body.
Picture this: your alarm goes off. It’s still dark outside, and you’re already shivering as you pull yourself out of bed. You go through your normal morning routine, complete with scraping ice from your car’s windshield and shoveling snow from your driveway. You start every day this way, for months on end. It goes without saying that the last thing you need is a plumbing issue thrown into the mix.
For folks who brave rough winter mornings, the worst kind of surprise is a frozen toilet tank. Icy pipes can interrupt the flow of your routine and cause a major disruption to the most basic parts of your life. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent this unwelcome event from happening to begin with, and—if bad fortune does come your way—there are solutions to navigate the aftermath.
Dealing With a Frozen Toilet Tank
If you notice that your toilet tank may be frozen, don’t panic! While this is a major nuisance, there are ways you can handle the problem on your own.
In order to resolve the issue, it’s important to understand and identify the main source of the problem.
One of the common reasons that toilet tanks and pipes are prone to freezing is their position within the structure of a home. Often, the pipes run through exterior walls. While this makes routine maintenance easier, it also means these pipes aren’t as insulated and therefore can freeze more easily with a sudden drop of temperature.
Here are a few steps you can try in order to unfreeze toilet tanks and get flushing again!
Locate the Frozen Parts
While a toilet tank is obvious to locate, it can be trickier to find specific pipes. This can often be the hardest part of the process, depending on what type of building you live in. For example, if you own a house it may be easier to find exterior pipes than if you live in an apartment building. You can always seek help from your building’s maintenance team or landlord if need be.
If you want to locate the frozen pipe on your own, look for a few key signs. The frozen section may be coated in frost and feel icy cold to the touch. It also will have a solid ring to it if you tap it with a tool.
Pour Hot Water Into the Frozen Area
The easiest way to thaw out frozen toilet tanks or unfreeze pipes is with piping hot water. Simply boil water and pour it into the frozen tank, toilet, or drain. This can help loosen the ice from the inside.
While the simplest solution, internally applying heat isn’t always enough. For more serious cases, you’ll need to work from the outside in.
Use a Space Heater
Once you have located the frozen area, you can use a space heater to raise the temperature in the immediate vicinity. You will need to make sure that the heater is positioned at least a few feet from any flammable material for safety. By the same token, you can use a hairdryer to gradually thaw a pipe.
While this process takes time, the gradual thaw means the pipes are less likely to burst, which can be a far more expensive problem to remedy.
Apply Hot Cloth
Another technique is using a heating pad or hot wash clothes directly on the frozen surfaces. Wet towels with hot water and wrap around the pipe, replacing every so often when the towels lose heat. If opting for a heating pad, make sure the setting is on low to avoid a quick, drastic temperature change.
Never use fire as a means to thaw frozen toilet tanks or pipes. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but it can also increase the likelihood of burst pipes, which can, unfortunately, lead to upwards of $5,000 in repair costs.
Preventing Frozen Toilet Pipes
The best way to handle frozen toilet pipes and tanks? Prevent the freeze in the first place! While you can’t control the weather, you can take a few key steps to ensure your pipes don’t ever succumb to the cold.
There are inexpensive products available, such as insulation and heating tape, that can keep pipes nice and toasty during colder weather. If you have pipes that are exposed to cold, such as on the outside of your building, you’ll need to make sure they are thoroughly insulated or invest in rerouting them. An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
There are some basic seasonal precautions you can take every year. At the beginning of the season, close water taps to the exterior of the building. Make sure your home stays heated, especially in areas that are prone to freezing.
If you know a cold spell is coming, take necessary precautions. Leave water taps dripping overnight or when away from home. This keeps water moving which helps prevent a freeze.
Know When to Call an Expert
While many prevention measures and remedies can do the trick, harsh weather will sometimes win and, unfortunately, toilet systems sometimes freeze despite your best efforts.
When in doubt, it is always best to call in the experts. At All Dry USA, we have over 10 years of experience helping folks prepare their homes for incremental weather and are here to repair any damage that occurs. Reach out today for a quote.