TikTok's Dangerous Frozen Pipe Hack You Should Avoid At All Costs

Frozen pipes can be a stressful thing for any homeowner. When the water freezes, it naturally expands, which can lead to cracks and leaks. This, in turn, can lead to flooded basements and expensive repair bills. In order to prevent frozen pipes, folks are diligent at insulating or monitoring their plumbing during the winter. But mistakes happen, and those who discover a frozen tube will want to quickly jump into action to thaw it, which can lead to poor mistakes. For example, social media platforms like TikTok have loads of videos of people defrosting their pipes with a blow torch. While that might seem like a good idea on paper, it should be avoided at all costs because it can lead to dangerous house fires.

At first glance, the blow torch hack might seem like a smart idea. If you warm up your pipes quickly, you will not only get water back in your bathroom or kitchen, but the ice won't have enough time to expand, keeping your plumbing intact and you narrowly missing a burst pipe situation. However, it's never a good idea to wave an open flame around your house — you never know what might catch. There are far less risky methods you can try, so retire the blow torch or heat gun. Not convinced? Here is a deeper look into why.

Why you shouldn't use a blow torch on frozen pipes

People resort to this dangerous hack not only because they want to minimize their risk of a frozen pipe, but also because they're desperate. Sometimes when pipes freeze, they stop water from reaching the rest of the house. That means there is no water to take a shower, wash the dishes, or flush the toilet. This can create very uncomfortable circumstances, so people think that putting an open flame to the ice will help reverse their situation quickly. While they're not wrong, it's too dangerous of a risk to take. That's because the flame can lick surrounding materials like drywall, causing a fire and doubling your problems. 

Don't believe it? There are plenty of instances reported on the news over the years. For example, in 2022, a fire was reported in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, after someone tried to thaw the frozen pipes in their second-floor bathroom. In 2019, a fire was started in Pennsylvania when someone tried to defrost their pipes with a blowtorch, and it took a whopping four hours to extinguish. And in 2018, a Nashville home was torched when a man tried to warm his pipes with a torch, but the drywall and insulation caught fire. Open flames are hard to control and predict, so it's best to avoid this TikTok hack. 

What to do instead

Rather than using an open flame, find safer ways to warm the frozen pipe. For example, you can use heat tape to gradually warm the frozen water inside. However, make sure the tape doesn't overlap, since that can be a fire hazard. That's because the tape isn't actually an adhesive but an electrical wire that transfers thermal heat to your plumbing. If you don't have time to run to the hardware store to get the tape, you can also use a hair dryer. To do so, turn on the faucet to relieve some of the pressure in the frozen pipe. Then, starting at the end closest to the faucet, slowly move the blow dryer back and forth over the pipe, allowing it to warm gradually. Avoid blasting the heat in one concentrated spot at a time, as this can damage the pipe. You can also have someone else hold up a cookie sheet behind the pipe to help bounce around the heat, making the process more efficient. Slowly begin to move the dryer to the coldest part, allowing the water to dethaw gradually. 

You can also use a space heater to heat the pipe, but make sure to monitor it the entire time. You want to avoid pointing it at the pipe and then leaving the room as it works its magic. That's because space heaters also pose major fire risks and should be under constant supervision. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters create 1/3 of all winter fires. Keeping that in mind, make sure to stay put until the pipe is dethawed and you no longer need to keep the gadget running.