how to loosen stuck water valve

Water Shutoff Valve Stuck?  Here’s How To Loosen A Stuck Water Valve

I think you’ll agree with me that trying to turn off a stuck water valve can be more than just frustrating.  There’s usually a really good reason we’re trying to turn these valves off in the first place, and often times time is of the essence.  

In the event of an emergency, such as a broken water pipe or overflowing toilet, it’s absolutely crucial to be able to quickly shut off the water valve that supplies that particular plumbing fixture.

But before you try to use simple brute force to fix that stuck water valve, know that there are some tips you can try to unstick that valve.  And in the process, reduce damage and decrease frustration.

My Top Picks For Stuck Water Valves


In this post I’ll show you 3 different methods you can use to help open a stuck water valve.  If that’s what you’re here for, then keep reading, because it’s time to fix that stuck valve.

I can’t think of one scenario where I would have to work on some kind of plumbing in my house and not have to either locate and turn off a water shutoff valve.  These valves are located all over the inside and the outside of our houses wherever control of the flow of water is required.

  • Outdoor spigots
  • The main water supply to the house
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Showers and Tubs

Now if you take a moment to think about each of the above examples, the water supply to each of these is almost always a constant.  That’s to say, the valves to these household areas are almost always left in the on or open position.

And because of that, these water valves are vulnerable to the accumulation of mineral deposits which can ultimately cause them to ‘freeze’ shut, or become water valves that are stuck open.

If you’ve found that one or more of the water valves in your house have become stuck, here are some tips you can try to loosen a stuck water valve.


How To Loosen A Stuck Water Valve:

Method #1

  • First, make sure that you shut off the water that supplies the valve you’re going to be working on.  Otherwise, you’ll might find yourself dealing with a much larger problem that your initial one. 
  • If there’s buildup visible on the water valve, pour a little white vinegar on the valve and scrub the buildup away with a wire brush.
  • Grab a little penetrating oil, such as liquid wrench, from your garage or shop. If you don’t have any, it shouldn’t cost more than $5 or so at the local hardware store. Apply a few drops to the valve.  Let the penetrating oil work its way into the body of the valve.  Try gently tapping the water valve with a hammer to help the oil penetrate the valve.
  • Try to open the stuck valve now that the oils had a chance to work. If the valve moves at all, add a little more penetrating oil to it. Tap again with the hammer to help the oil work its way into the valve.  Try turning it again.
  • Repeat this as many times as necessary until the stuck water valve opens/closes all the way.

Method #2

After you’ve given the first method a chance to loosen the stuck valve, and you still need help getting it to move, then give this a shot.

  • Take a hair dryer, or even a blowtorch if you’re confident enough, and slowly warm up the body of the water valve.  The goal is that the heat will cause the body of the valve to expand just enough to allow the moving parts of the valve to move more freely.


Method #3

  • Finally, if the first two methods of fixing the stuck valve aren’t quite working, it might be time to grab a wrench.
  • Attach your wrench to the valve handle, and gently force open the valve.
  • If more torque is needed, extend the length of the handle by slipping a pipe or other long object over the handle of the wrench.
  • While you are using this extra leverage, you must hold the valve body tightly in position to stop any of the joints to and from it twisting


Additional Tips For Loosening Stuck Water Valves

  • If you’re going to use a wrench to force open the valve, do so very carefully.  Even though it doesn’t happen very often, the valves can break.
  • Open and close the water valves in your house once a month or so to prevent them from becoming stuck, or frozen on you.  Definitely do this with your main water shut off valve that controls the incoming water to your home.

Resources and Additional Reading

This Old House

SF Gate Home Guides



Do you know of any other methods of fixing a stuck water valve?  If so, leave a comment below and share it with the rest of us. We’d really appreciate the shared knowledge!

If you’re new to homeownership, knowing exactly where your main water shutoff valve is located is one of the most important things to make sure you know.  If you don’t know where it is, take a look at my article, How To Locate Your Main Water Shutoff Valve.

Here’s another look at the top penetrating oils I recommend.

About the Author

CTM - February 8, 2019

The hair dryer tip was awesome! It made the difference and now we can take the stuck valve off the list of things we thought we had to pay someone to fix. Thank you very much for this post!

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