Which Way to Turn To Loosen Plumbing Fittings

Plumbing repairs can be tricky, and although you may start with confidence, it can quickly peter out when the plumbing fittings are unwilling to cooperate. If plumbing repairs are on your to-do list, here is a quick guide to help you quickly loosen plumbing fittings.

Tips To Remember

Before you go to town on your plumbing repair projects, there are a few things you should remember that’ll help the process go smoother.

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosey. Although it sounds like a playground rhyme, it holds true, especially with plumbing fittings. Whether you are rotating a screw, adjusting a plumbing fitting, opening a jar, or operating a faucet, remember this basic principle.

Plumber Tightening a Nut

By turning the fitting to the left, you loosen it, and turning to the right tightens it. Or, if it makes more sense this way: counterclockwise to loosen, clockwise to tighten.

Don’t Strip The Fitting

Generally, plumbing fittings resemble oversized bolts. Within each of these bolts, you’ll find threads that fit onto the screw to create a secure seal. If you overtighten the fitting, you may strip the threads within the fitting or on the pipe. Once you’ve stripped the thread, it can be a nightmare to remove, and it is nearly impossible to tighten the fitting on the pipe.

Stripped fittings are much more likely to leak and increase the chances of a burst or cracked pipe under high water pressure or extreme weather.

Shut Off The Water Supply

Although it seems common sense, it’s relatively easy to forget to shut off the water supply. Then, when you’re partway through your project and all is going well, you suddenly have a gigantic mess on your hands. So, if you’re working on a plumbing project that involves removing or tinkering with piping, it’s usually best to shut off the water supply.

If you’re working underneath a sink or on one particular faucet, it may have an isolated water shut-off valve. Otherwise, you may have to shut off the water to the whole house. If that’s the case, make sure you inform the rest of the house so you don’t leave anyone stranded in the shower.

Tips For Removing Stuck Plumbing Fittings

While some plumbing fittings easily unscrew from their place, not all of them will cooperate. If you are having issues removing plumbing fittings, give these methods a try.

Removing Stuck Plumbing Fittings

Use Heat

With difficult plumbing fittings, you may have to resort to alternative methods to remove them. Many plumbing fittings are made of plastic, so you can use heat to help remove them. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Hairdryer
  • Slip-joint pliers

Using the hairdryer on the hottest setting, apply heat to the plastic fitting. Once it warms up, use the slip-joint pliers to pull away the fitting carefully.

Note: If you used any type of lubricant or other flammable product on the area in an attempt to loosen the faucet fitting, ensure that you wipe all of it away. Follow with a water-based degreaser to ensure all of the lubricants are gone before you use heat.

Use A Penetrating Lubricant

Over time, plumbing fittings may develop mineral deposits. If that is the case, you can try to dislodge the deposits by turning the nut in the opposite direction to break the seal. Alternatively, you can try to tap the fixture with a hard rubber mallet to break the bond.

Plumber Fixing Pipe

If neither of those options work, try a penetrating lubricant. For this method, you’ll need:

  • Wire brush
  • Cloth
  • Slip-joint pliers
  • Penetrating lubricant

Using the wire brush, scrub off the deposits. Apply the penetrating lubricant, then allow it to soak for at least two hours. After it has absorbed, attempt to turn it with slip-joint pliers. If it doesn’t move, you may have to repeat the process.

Never use penetrating lubricant in tandem with heat, as some lubricants are flammable. So, if this method didn’t work, and you will try to use heat, ensure that you thoroughly clean off any lubricant before applying heat.

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