When a water valve corrodes, it can fail to shut off water lines, resulting in potentially massive amounts of water damage. And while loosening a corroded water valve can be challenging, it’s not impossible, especially if you’re willing to exercise a little patience and persistence.
In this article, we’ll explore the steps you’ll need to take to loosen a corroded water valve, ensuring that your plumbing is in optimal condition and that you’re always able to shut off the water supply to different areas of your home.
There are several standard water valves found throughout your home. Typically, water shut-off valves are found behind significant appliances that use water, including toilets, dishwashers, and refrigerators.
However, there’s also a primary water supply valve located inside your home or near your home’s exterior. Before working on secondary water valves, you must locate the primary water supply shut-off valve and turn it to the ‘off’ position.
If you’re unsure where this main water shut-off valve is, try looking near your home’s entryway, utility room, or garage. The water main shut-off valve might also be somewhere along your home’s border. You can spot it by its protective plastic cover.
Once you’ve located the main water valve, you’ll want to twist or pull it toward the ‘off’ position. You may want to pull on a pair of durable work gloves before attempting this, especially if the valve is a little rusted or dirty. If you can’t get the main water valve to twist or turn, you may want to contact your local water utility company.
After all, most homes are connected to public water lines maintained by regional utility companies, and they’re responsible for keeping pipes and valves in excellent condition. Of course, if you’ve managed to shut off the primary water valve, you can move on to the next step: Draining the pipes.
Before you work on any water shut-off valves in your home, it’s crucial to drain any remaining water from the pipes. If you live in a single-level home, be sure to open the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom areas on either side of the house.
If you live in a multi-level home, you’ll want to open at least one faucet on each floor. Then, when the faucets stop draining, you can shut them and head back to the corroded water valve you’re looking to loosen.
Wipe away any dirt or calcium build-up around the valve. Use a bar towel or shop cloth to remove grime gently.
After a few minutes, you should have a much cleaner valve and valve handle, and you can attempt to turn the valve to either the ‘on’ or ‘off’ position.
If the handle doesn’t budge, try dampening a cloth with white vinegar, then scrubbing at the mineralization. Vinegar is exceptionally acidic (white distilled vinegar is just water mixed with acetic acid) and may help remove additional layers of calcium or line that’s corroding the valve.
Use an additional, unused cloth to dry the valve and valve handle before trying to turn it. If it’s still motionless, try the next method.
Penetrating oil is a substance that’s designed to dissolve rust and minerals, helping to keep metal components slick and in excellent condition. Be sure to choose a penetrating oil appropriate for your metal water valve.
One of the last things you want is wood penetrating oil instead of metal penetrating oil!
For example, the WD-40 Industrial Lubricant (Amazon.com) is a common type of penetrating oil used to keep metal parts lubricated and rust-free. This type of sprayable oil is exceptionally easy to use and includes a small straw for precise application. As a result, it’s an excellent choice for most metal plumbing components.
Once you’ve chosen and acquired a penetrating oil that’s suitable for the water valve you’re working on, spray or drop a few droplets of the oil onto the valve. Wait at least thirty seconds, then use a plumber’s wrench handle or a small rubber mallet to tap the valve.
Lightly tap the valve to encourage the penetrating oil to sink more deeply into the valve. Then, if necessary, apply a few more drops of oil to the valve and gentle tap again.
Remember, patience is crucial during this process. If you grow frustrated, take a moment to walk away and tend to something else. Tapping the valve too hard could damage it and the line of pipe running through it.
After giving the oil plenty of time to settle into the valve, try turning it once more. If the valve remains stuck, try heating it.
Penetrating oils can seep through set-on minerals and rust and lubricate your water valve, loosening it enough to open or close. But sometimes, the layers of mineralization are so thick that penetrating oils struggle to reach the metal beneath them.
Heating the water valve is a fantastic way to loosen corrosion, thus allowing the penetrating oils to reach their intended target. A hair dryer works great to focus heat on the small area of the water valve you’re looking to loosen.
For example, if you’d like to loosen the water valve handle, you’ll want to focus the hairdryer’s heat output near the metal portion of the handle. However, if you’re attempting to loosen the water valve from the plumbing line, you’ll want to aim the hairdryer at the connection between the valve and the pipe.
After heating the valve, use a plumber’s wrench to twist the valve. As with previous attempts, be sure to use gentle force. Hopefully, the valve should loosen, allowing you to rotate it to either an ‘on’ or ‘off’ position or remove it from the line of pipe you’re working with.
Still, the valve may be too corroded to save. If this is the case, it’s best to remove and replace the valve. Still, this can be a challenging feat if the current valve is corroded to the point of permanent adhesion.
There are a few more tips and tricks you can employ to part with an old water valve, but if it still refuses to budge, you’ll want to consider contacting a plumber for assistance. Remember, a plumber can help you replace your old water valve and install a new one, saving you a significant amount of time and energy.
If the valve doesn’t loosen after several attempts at turning it, you may want to consider replacing the valve. While surface corrosion is somewhat reversible, deep deterioration can result in a ruined valve that’s likely to leak and rot away.
Getting rid of a corroded water shut-off valve is a straightforward process, done in three steps:
Prepare the Space
If your home’s water main valve is still shut off, you should be able to replace the valve without getting drenched. That said, there may still be some water lingering in the pipes leading to and from your particular shut-off valve.
As such, it’s an excellent idea to make sure that all nearby electronics or appliances are unplugged and powered off. You might also want to keep a wet vac handy and lay down a few absorbent towels before attempting to remove the valve.
Remove the Valve
When you’ve prepared the area, you’ll want to use an adjustable plumber’s wrench to screw or pull it loose. But corroded metals and minerals may make it challenging to pull the valve off.
For that reason, it’s best to have a second person hold the pipes while you’re pulling or turning. That way, you won’t accidentally loosen or damage the pipes leading away from the valve.
If the valve’s corrosion prevents you from removing it, you can use a handheld torch to heat the rust and mineralization, burning it away. Naturally, you’ll need to wear heat-resistant safety gloves on both hands before attempting this trick.
Replace the Valve
After successfully removing the old valve, you’ll want to clean and prepare the pipe for a new valve. To do this, grab a clean cloth and wipe away any dirt, rust, or debris surrounding the line, particularly at the point where the pipe enters the valve.
Depending on the type of valve you’re using, you may need to solder the valve (solder connection), twist it (compression or threaded connection), or push it onto the pipe (push connection).
Still, you could avoid this somewhat challenging DIY project by hiring a professional plumber to remove and replace your current water shut-off valve. After all, older homes may have old-fashioned valves that are challenging to remove and replace.
To try and loosen a corroded water valve:
- Shut off the primary water supply
- Turn on all your faucets
- Wipe away dirt and grime
- Apply penetrating oil
- Use a hairdryer to heat the valve
- Twist using a wrench
- Replace the valve if necessary
If these methods fail to loosen your current corroded water valve, consider contacting a local plumbing expert for help.