It's the dead of winter, and you turn on your faucet – only to find that no water comes out! Your pipes have frozen. Now, what do you do? It's important to take action and thaw the pipes quickly, since leaving them be increases the chances that they will burst and flood your home. Leave the tap open, as this helps promote thawing, and then employ one of these three methods to thaw your pipes.
Use a heating pad.
If you have an electric heating pad, this provides the easiest method of thawing your pipe. Plug the heating pad in, using an extension cord if needed, and then turn it on the highest setting. Wrap it around the frozen section of pipe, making sure you leave the tap open. Wait a few minutes; the flow of water through the tap should slowly increase.
If a longer section of pipe has frozen, you may need to leave the heating pad on a certain area for about 20 minutes, and then move it further up the pipe a foot or so to keep thawing additional sections of the pipe. As you warm the water in part of the pipe, it will help thaw the pipe further down as it comes into contact with the ice.
Use a blow dryer.
If you have a blow dryer on hand, you can simply aim it at the pipe, moving it back and forth, and end up thawing the pipe within a few minutes. Make sure to turn the temperature to the highest setting for best results. Do this only with a hair dryer – don't use a heat gun or any other more powerful heating instrument, as this may pose a fire hazard.
Use warm rags.
This option is not the most efficient, but it's a good choice if you happen to not own a hair dryer or heating pad. As long as your warm water works (which is generally the case), you can soak rags in hot water and then wrap them around the frozen pipe to thaw it. You'll need to remove the rags, re-warm them, and then replace them every couple of minutes. This method works best with thin pipes. It will work with thicker pipes, but you'll need to be very patient and replace the warm rags several times before you see the desired effect.
Once your pipes are thawed, make sure you take measures to keep them from freezing again. Keep your thermostat turned up, and apply an extra layer of insulation to your pipes. If you're unable to access the frozen pipes because they're behind a wall, contact a plumber. He or she can ensure the pipes are thawed safely, so you don't end up flooding your home.