Trouble in household plumbing tends to happen around the valves. Valves are installed wherever control of the water flow is necessary, like in outdoor spigots, as stops for the water main, and in the pipes upstream of individual sinks, toilets, showers, and tubs. Because these valves are left open all the time, they’re subject to accumulation of mineral deposits which can cause them to freeze.
Before you try to loosen a stuck valve with brute force, consider following these three simple steps.
Clean And Prep
It’s a good idea to shut off the water supply before you try to bully a valve into submission. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself dealing with a gusher if the valve cracks or the pipe breaks. Once the supply is closed off, scrub away any crusty residue on the outside of the valve and anywhere you can safely dig in. White vinegar and a wire brush will help. Gently tap at the pipe to crack any residue between threads.
Oil And Wait
Home improvement stores offer a variety of inexpensive penetrating oils to help unstick old plumbing parts. Drip or spray this oil where it can reach the threads and other moveable pieces. Let the oil sit for at least fifteen minutes before wiggling the valve to see if it loosens. If the valve is still stuck, apply the oil several times over the course of a day to give the grease time to do its best work.
Bring In The Heat
If all else fails, break out the handy hair dryer. Metal expands when heated. That expansion may be enough to crack the calcium and magnesium hard water deposits that are causing the trouble. The heat may also be able to melt or dissolve any sticky residue, at least enough to get the valve moving.
If you still can’t move the valve by hand, then it’s time to pick up a wrench. Plumbing valves vary, so check out this tutorial on how to loosen jammed valves and taps safely.
The best cure for stuck plumbing fixtures is prevention. Twice a year give your plumbing valves a good twist to keep them loose and functioning.