Toilet Won’t Flush Due to Frozen Pipes? 5 DIY Solutions

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 16, 2024

After a cold winter’s night, you climb out of bed, shake off the chill, and brave the morning. It’s not going very well because the toilet won’t flush. Frozen pipes are a bad way to start the day, and you haven’t even had your coffee yet.

How do you locate the problem and get those frozen toilet pipes running again?

This cold-weather headache doesn’t always happen in the morning. A sudden drop in temperatures can freeze bathroom plumbing while you’re at work or away for the weekend. Knowing how to handle it now helps you avoid water damage after the next hard freeze.

Dealing With a Frozen Toilet

Of all the pipes that can freeze in your home, frozen water lines to the toilet create the most inconvenience. A toilet won’t flush with frozen pipes. You can clear it once using water already stored in the tank, but you have to pour water in the bowl to flush again until you can thaw the toilet pipes.

Often, toilet plumbing runs through exterior walls. This layout makes sewer installation and maintenance easier, but it puts the pipes in areas that aren’t well insulated. The results can be a freeze that happens at the toilet line and feeder pipe juncture.

Locating the Frozen Pipe

Finding the frozen pipe can sometimes be the hardest part of thawing out a frozen toilet. If you have access to pipes in the basement or your home’s crawl space, try these DIY detection techniques.

toilet not flushing

• A light coat of frost or condensation on pipes can be a good visual clue.

• Run your hands along pipe lengths. Frozen pipes feel extremely cold to the touch.

• Lightly tap stretches of pipe with a screwdriver handle. A solid sound indicates frozen pipes.

It’s usually hard to reach frozen toilet pipes inside the wall without cutting through sheetrock. If you don’t have easy access to frozen lines, you may want to call in a plumber.

5 Ways to Thaw Frozen Toilet Pipes

Sometimes, rising temperatures outside thaw out a toilet pipe that’s frozen. You can help by opening bathroom cabinet and closet doors and turning up the furnace. If this strategy works, plan on upgrading the insulation around your home’s pipes as soon as possible.

If a warmer house doesn’t do the trick and the toilet’s not refilling, try one of these five ways to get frozen toilet pipes thawed and running again.

1. Apply a Heating Pad

Wrap a heating pad around the affected pipe, and turn it on to a low setting. This method takes time, but a slow thaw minimizes the risk of dealing with frozen burst pipes.

2. Drape Hot Towels

Soak several towels with hot water, drape them over the frozen toilet pipe, and replace them often. Lay plenty of dry towels or old newspapers under the area to catch drips.

3. Heat Up a Hair Dryer

Use a hair dryer on its lowest setting to thaw out frozen plumbing. Starting from a point nearest the toilet, direct warm air back and forth along the frozen pipe.

4. Wrap With Heat Tape

You can buy electrical heat tape at most home improvement centers. Wrap a single, spiral layer of tape around the frozen pipe, plug in to a secure outlet, and check the tape often.

5. Turn on a Space Heater

This technique works best in small areas, but be very careful. Point a space heater towards the frozen toilet pipe, and turn it on low. Make sure it’s positioned at least 3 feet away from all flammable materials.

Stay Away From Flames

We have to stress the serious dangers of trying to thaw pipes with an open flame. Don’t ever risk your personal safety by using any kind of hand torch. The extreme heat can damage pipes, scorch sheetrock and start a house fire.

If your DIY pipe thawing project doesn’t work, call in professionals who know how take care of the job quickly and safely. Even if frozen pipes in your house burst, most homeowners insurance policies cover the damage. Don’t take any chances that could put you, your family and your home in danger.

Dealing with Frozen Toilet Pipes in Chicago, IL? We Can Help

When you’re prepared for winter-time problems around the house, they’re a little easier to solve. We want you to be ready for everything from frozen toilets to ice dams on the roof

Stay warm, and keep an eye on the forecast. We’re always ready when you need burst pipe water damage repair, and we’re just a phone call away.

When you want Chicago’s best burst pipe cleanup services in a hurry, contact our teams here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba: 773-647-1985

How long does it take for toilet pipes to freeze?

It depends on where they’re located and how well they’re insulated. Most pipes begin to freeze once the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. After three or four hours, the water inside toilet pipes can freeze solid.

How long does it take to thaw frozen toilet pipes?

Using our recommended DIY techniques, you can thaw most frozen toilet pipes in about half an hour. If you don’t get results in 30 to 45 minutes, it’s best to call in professionals. Most full-service restoration businesses take care of the problem and handle burst pipe water damage cleanup as well.

Do frozen pipes damage the toilet?

Toilets are typically designed so that the bowl, base and tank can withstand the pressure of frozen pipes. However, don’t try to thaw things out by pouring hot water into the bowl. This can cause the porcelain to rapidly expand and crack.