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Thread: How can I dissolve a clump of de-icing salt in the exit pipe for my clothes washer?

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    DIY Junior Member Veronica Austin's Avatar
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    Unhappy How can I dissolve a clump of de-icing salt in the exit pipe for my clothes washer?

    There was an ice jam in the trap, which can't be reached under the house because the clearance is so low nobody's crazy enough to crawl under there. When boiling water, vinegar and baking soda, and even anti-freeze didn't work on the ice jam, I tried de-icing salt, which formed an impenetrable clump on top of the ice jam. Right now it's had very caustic drain cleaner on top of the de-icing salt, which has done nothing to soften the rock ice clump in 2 days. I'm desperate because I can't find an answer and I can't afford a plumber!!

    I've had advice to wait another couple days to let the ice jam defrost itself and then siphon out the drain cleaner sitting on top of the de-icer salt jam before resuming attack with boiling water every 15 minutes. So the de-icer salt would have somewhere to dissolve and flow out, followed by lots more hot water to make sure it doesn't reassemble into a solid mass again in a worse place.

    IN CASE THAT DOESN'T WORK, however, does anyone have additional ideas? I'm pretty sure the salt jam doesn't extend all the way to floor level. If I can't get it unclogged, should I consider cutting off the pipe just below where I think the salt jam ends, throw away the plugged part, and attach a pipe extension to restore the pipe to its proper height? Should I try the new plumbers snake I already bought, or buy a really long auger to try to gradually drill through the salt jam? Even if I could plunge the jam further down, I don't want to because that would only make things worse. It needs to be broken up into tiny pieces first and then maybe flushed.

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Are you referring to a washing machine standpipe similar to this but with the bluish part below the floor? Attachment 14008

    If so, and if you are confident things have warmed up enough to have thawed the trap, then I would just keep the pipe topped off with tap water. A tiny trickle will dissolve away some salt. Once you have a little water through, adding more water for a while will get that salt all dissolved away.

    Another variation is to suck out the top water with a turkey baster and refill with water. Avoid contact with the contaminated water. A wet-dry vacuum cleaner with a piece of 1-inch PVC pipe taped to the end of the hose could plunge in farther to get more stuff. Wash out the vacuum cleaner's tub when done to avoid hurting the vacuum cleaner with salt and lye. Top off with water after sucking what you can.

    Adding some heat should help the melt, but don't start a fire.

    If you have a dirt crawl space, consider going under the house with a small shovel and removing some dirt. Two person job... one to fill a bucket with the shovel, and one to haul the bucket with the attached rope to empty the dirt. That may be impractical, but it has been done by a lot of people.

    I am not a pro.
    Last edited by Reach4; 01-10-2014 at 07:19 AM.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    If the pipe in the crawl space is frozen, it must be because there is a breeze there. Look for the venting around the foundation, and close them off. When you have stopped the icey cold breeze under your home, the pipes will warm up.
    That is something anybody can do.
    A bit of tape and cardbard will work.

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