What Should You Do About Flushing the Toilet with Frozen Pipes?


Frozen pipes are one of the most common plumbing problems homeowners and commercial businesses face during winter. A frozen water pipe can burst when left unresolved, causing significant plumbing damage. One of the first indicators of frozen pipes is a toilet that won’t flush. If this happens, it’s time to get to work. According to Hunker, pipes draining water and supplying water to your toilet are different. If the latter freezes, you only have one time to flush it since water won’t fill up the storage tank again. Meanwhile, you can still flush the toilet by filling the storage tank with water from a nearby source or sink. However, if a draining pipe freezes, it is advisable not to flush the toilet since the water will back up to the bowl, and chances are, you are risking an overflow.

Why is your toilet pipe frozen?

While cold weather might lead to frozen pipes, not all homeowners experience it. According to Peppers Home and Garden, the location of the pipes influences their proneness to freeze in cold weather. Anytime temperatures go below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, thinly insulated pipes will freeze. So, where are pipes located?

  • Pipes in walls: Pipes in insulated walls are less likely to freeze. Thinly insulated walls might perpetuate the freezing.
  • Pipes in crawl spaces: Pipes in spaces between ground and first floor spaces are likely to get frozen in cold weather

How to thaw your frozen pipes

After establishing why your pipes are frozen, raising temperatures around the affected ones is the best bet you have in solving the problem. However, you may want to tread carefully with the thawing to prevent plumbing problems such as burst pipes. Here are some helpful DIY tips for thawing a frozen pipe:

1. Blow warm air using a hair dryer

According to Service Master by Zaba, a hairdryer is also an excellent thawing appliance for your frozen toilet pipe. Start by blowing warm air from the point nearest to the toilet back and forth until the pipe feels warm. You should see water filling the toilet tank immediately.

2. Use heat pads

Wrap a heating pad around the frozen pipe. Ensure you turn it on to a “low” setting to prevent the pipe from bursting.

3. Soak towels in hot water and drape them over the affected pipe

Using towels after soaking in water to thaw your pipe can be a perfect alternative to heat pads. Be patient with this method as it can take more than 20 minutes. Keep replacing the cold towels until you see water running into the toilet tank.

4. Make your bathroom warm

Some homes have toilets and bathrooms in one room, while others separate. However, the pipes run almost in the same direction. Consequently, heating your bathroom using a space heater can come in handy in small areas and if you don’t have an automated heating or insulation cable. Remember, space heaters are prone to fires, so tread carefully. Direct the space heater to the frozen pipe while ensuring it’s at least three feet away from any flammable.

5. Wrap the frozen pipe with heat tape

Another safe method for thawing your frozen pipe is wrapping it up with a heat tape, also called the heating cable. You can get one from a home improvement store near you. Wrap it up evenly on the affected pipe before plugging it into a secure outlet. Monitor the tape often to verify if it’s warmed the pipe until the water flow is restored. Key reminder: Thawing pipes should not go beyond 30 to 45 minutes. Also, the time it takes to unfreeze a pipe depends on the weather, how long it’s been frozen, and where it is located. Also, never use naked fire to raise temperatures around the frozen pipes. If your DIY thawing method doesn’t work after 45 minutes or your pipe accidentally bursts, call a certified and licensed plumbing service to establish the root cause and tailor a good restoration plan for your pipes.

Preventative measures for frozen pipes

After successfully thawing your pipes, you want to ensure they don’t get frozen in the future. Having to repeat these processes each day comes at a cost. You’re likely to feel drained after doing all these, only to encounter the same problem the following day. Here are some helpful tips to prevent such future occurrences:

Invest in and install self-regulating heating cable for water pipes

A self-regulating heating cable keeps pipes warm, preventing them from being blocked by ice. Run it along the line and secure it using tape. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using this cable. The best part about these cables is they can thaw pipes faster. If your pipes are in crawl spaces or attics, you will need this gadget as your pipes are more susceptible to freezing. You will find climbing the attic or under the house to place the heating cables more pragmatic than poking a hole in your wall.

Invest and install insulation cables for frozen pipes

Insulating cables’ most significant advantage over other methods is that they help pipes retain their average temperatures. You won’t have to worry about heat escaping once you permanently install them alongside your pipes. Also, they are designed to accommodate lines of all sizes. Besides saving time, these cables can help you save energy costs more than manual heating.

Antifreeze your toilet

If you’re planning to be away from your house for some days in winter, consider getting high-quality antifreeze designed for plumbing. The antifreeze you use in your car might do a lot of damage to your toilet, so avoid it at all costs. Before using this product, turn off the line supplying your toilet with water. Now take out the toilet tank’s lid and flush your toilet. Ensure the tank has no water if you want the product to work effectively. Directly pour the antifreeze into the toilet tank before flushing the toilet the second time. Whether you’re leaving for a few days or weeks, the antifreeze liquid prevents water from freezing from the tap, bowl, and cistern. The liquid will go down the toilet’s system when you use the toilet after coming back. The method only applies to a toilet that won’t be used for some time.


You don’t have to endure frequent toilet blockages and frozen pipes with these insightful tips at your fingertips. Remember, your chosen method depends on the pipe’s location, how long it’s been frozen, and the weather. Choose a method that won’t compromise your pipe’s structure so you avoid hefty plumbing costs.

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