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It was a cold and windy day in early January when I got a call from my wife. “The sink is backed up and water is shooting everywhere out of the washer,” she said in a frustrated tone. Being the wise husband that I am I left work early to go home to my wife’s rescue.
Upon my arrival at home an idea occurred to me that perhaps the problem was not that there was a clog but that the drainpipe exiting the house from the kitchen was frozen. This was entirely possible because the drainpipe was buried only a few inches beneath the ground. Old farmhouses have fun things like that. Before entering the house I circled around to the backyard and discovered the terrible truth.
Water from a downspout had run downhill and washed dirt away from the pipe completely exposing a three inch section of it to the frigid air on the north side of our house.
This was not a good situation. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping even further and with a frozen drain pipe we wouldn’t be able to use any water in the house until it thawed out. Not really knowing what to do I drove to Lowe’s hoping to find some answers. An employee showed me to the electrical pipe heaters that are meant to keep a pipe from freezing. These ranged from $20-30 but clearly written on each one was a warning to only use it indoors and not allow it to touch the ground. I tried soliciting ideas from Lowe’s employees to try and fix my problem but they were unable to offer me any solutions.
I was growing desperate at this point. It was dark out, cold, and windy. As I made my way towards the front of the store I spotted something that I thought just might work. It was a cardboard display of Hot Hands and Toasti Toes, the little bags of hand and feet warmers that people who work outside in the cold winter months sometime use. I read the packaging on each carefully. The Hot Hands actually get hotter than the Toasti Toes but the Toasti Toes don’t require oxygen to stay warm once you get them hot. For the idea that hatched in my head, there wasn’t going to be much oxygen available.
I purchased six packs of Toasti Toes, costing me about $8. When I got home I quickly went to work. I knew that that main problem was that the pipe was exposed to the cold winter air, so I needed to cover it with something. With the ground frozen I had little choice: I went to the barn and got some fresh horse manure. It was readily available and well, some of it was still warm.
Once I had removed the Toasti Toes from their packages and they got warm, I stuffed all 12 of them (there’s two in a pack) down around the pipe. Then I put a brick on top of it and dumped a wheelbarrow load of horse manure on top to seal in the heat. And then, I waited.
And waited some more. Hours passed and nothing happened. I was starting to think that I had just wasted my time and that it was a stupid idea to think that a product meant to keep feet warm could possibly unfreeze a metal pipe in early January. It was late at night and I was about to get into bed, disappointed that my MacGyver-like home repair had failed and not knowing what I would do to fix it the next day.
Suddenly, I heard a great whooshing sound coming from down stairs.
My wife was already in bed and asked what I had done. “It worked!”, I exclaimed and ran downstairs to confirm what I knew to be true. Sure, enough the pipes were empty. The drain pipe was unfrozen all thanks to Toasti Toes! Five hours, six packs of Toasti Toes, and a pile of horse manure were all that was needed to get me out of a bad situation.
Thanks Toasti Toes!