PEX pipes are made from cross-linked polyethylene, a type of plastic that makes the pipes flexible but sturdy. One of the reasons it has become popular for plumbing is because of the ease of using crimps and clamps to connect the pipes.
Copper pipes require soldering and PVC requires adhesives; these methods can be expensive and difficult to apply and remove. With the right tools, removing PEX clamps is simple.
How To Remove PEX Clamps (Cutter Tool Method)
This method can remove both stainless steel and copper pinch clamps. Even though it requires a specific tool, this is still the easiest way to remove an old PEX clamp of any kind, including SharkBite and Apollo brand.
What You’ll Need
- PEX clamp removal tool (also called a PEX clamp cutter)
- Pipe cutter
- Cleaning cloth
- Safety gloves (such as leather or cut-resistant)
- Needle nose pliers (optional)
1. Shut Off Any Water Supply
Whether you’re removing PEX clamps or capping off a PEX pipe, you always need to shut off any water supply connected to that section of pipe.
Sometimes there will be a shutoff valve nearby for a specific appliance (like your dishwasher or washing machine). You can turn the valve clockwise to shut off the water for that specific area.
If there is no individual shutoff valve, you’ll have to turn off the main water supply. Look for a valve inside your utility areas (garage, laundry room, etc.) facing the street.
If you can’t find the valve inside your house, check outside near your outdoor faucet, or near your water meter. Water meters usually have an access panel buried underground near the street to house the water shutoff.
These meters may require a meter key which you can purchase at most hardware stores. There may also be two valves below the panel, one for the city and one for the homeowner.
Your valve should be on the side of the meter closest to the house. If there is only a city-use valve, you may have to contact your water utility company before you proceed further.
If accessible, turn the valve on your water supply clockwise until it won’t turn anymore.
2. Run Your Taps To Drain The Pipes
Turning off your water will only stop more water coming from the main supply. There will still be water sitting in the pipes that you will have to drain.
Find the sink or faucet that’s in the lowest level of your home and turn on both the hot and cold taps. This will allow the water from all the floors above to drain all the way down.
Run the sink until no more water comes out. Once you have drained your taps, you can safely access the pipes you need.
3. Wipe Down The Pipe And Clamp
You should always clean your workspace before beginning any project. Working in an area that’s clean can only improve your results. Using a clean cloth or rag, wipe down the PEX clamp and the pipe around it.
4. Cut The Clamp Away From The Pipe
Using your pipe cutter, cut the clamp away from the PEX pipe as close to the edges of the fitting as possible. This reduces the amount of pipe waste and makes it easier to release the clamp.
5. Cut And Remove The Clamp
Different brands of clamp cutters may have slightly different instructions for use. Follow all the manufacturer’s recommendations when using your specific clamp cutter. Wear leather or cut-resistant gloves as a safety precaution.
In general, you should be able to slide your PEX clamp cutter over the tab on the clamp ring. Squeeze the handles of your cutter together until the clamp snaps.
The clamp should now pull away from the pipe. You can also pull the clamp off with pliers if it doesn’t slide off with just your fingers.
Once you’ve finished any other work on your pipes, don’t forget to turn back on your water. Simply turn whichever valve you accessed at the start of your project counterclockwise.
Check to see everything is working correctly again by running a faucet; water should begin flowing after a few minutes. If you have any issues or questions, be sure to contact a professional plumber.
Can You Remove PEX Clamps Without A Removal Tool?
It is possible to remove a PEX clamp without a special tool. The best alternative method is to use a screwdriver, but you can also use a hacksaw to cut the clamp away.
You can even use a heat gun or small blowtorch to heat the pipe until it’s pliable and can be pulled away from the fitting.
These methods aren’t as efficient, but they can save you money, depending on what tools you already have. They’re also good in a pinch if you don’t have the right tool but need to adjust your pipes right away.
How To Remove A PEX Clamp With A Screwdriver?
This method requires a flathead screwdriver instead of a specific clamp removal tool. You should also wear a pair of protective gloves.
Follow the same steps listed above to shut off your water supply (if needed) and clean your work area.
Find the spot where the clamp wraps around itself and insert the head of the screwdriver.
Begin to wiggle the screwdriver back and forth, prying the clamp ring away from itself. Then unwrap the band from around the pipe.
How to Remove a PEX Clamp With Wire Cutters
A pair of wire cutters can be used in place of the PEX clamp cutter. Unlike the screwdriver method, you’re still cutting the PEX pipe and the clamp itself.
Don’t forget to turn off your water and clean your work area as needed. It’s also still a good idea to wear protective gloves since you’re handling sharp tools.
Place the wire cutters around the clamp tab like you would with the PEX tool and squeeze until the clamp is cut. Then, pry the clamp ring away from the pipe, or with a pair of pliers if it’s stubborn.
You may have to use more force with the wire cutters because they aren’t specifically designed for this task like the PEX clamp cutter is.
Advantages Of PEX Pipes
The biggest draw of PEX pipe is that it’s flexible, which offers several advantages over rigid metal pipes.
First, PEX can be shipped in spools instead of being cut to a specific length like metal. This also means that it can fit more easily into small or awkward places around your home.
It does take some effort to straighten PEX pipe into workable positions, but it’s still easier than measuring and cutting multiple pieces of copper pipe.
Because you aren’t cutting metal, you don’t have to be a professional plumber to work with PEX. It’s great for even amateur DIY projects. And once you finish the installation, PEX doesn’t bang around or rattle the way metal pipes do.
In addition to offering flexibility, PEX is much cheaper than traditional copper piping, even if you do need specialty tools and parts to work with it. The Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association also considers plastic piping to be a good sustainable choice.
The Difference Between PEX Clamps And PEX Crimps
Both PEX clamps (sometimes called cinches) and crimps connect PEX pipes together and create seals to prevent leaks. Each type is made of a different material and requires a slightly different method of applying, however.
Materials and Tools
Crimps are made of copper, and different sizes require different tools to apply. You may also need a copper crimp ring removal tool. All of this can make PEX crimps more expensive to use than clamps.
Clamps, on the other hand, are made of stainless steel and only require one tool for multiple sizes of clamps. You can use a PEX clamp tool on crimps as well, further eliminating the need for more tools.
Whichever ring type you use, it’s essential to use the appropriate tools to apply them. You can experience PEX cinch clamp failure or a loose crimp if you don’t close the rings properly.
Reliability And Usability
You can check a PEX crimp ring with a go/no-go gauge after it’s been closed. This means you can be confident in the seal of a crimp ring long after the project is complete.
You can only confirm the seal of a clamp as you’re closing it. It is easy to tell during the process, though, because the clamp tool will automatically stop once the ring is completely closed.
To seal a PEX clamp, you only need to put pressure on a small tab that sticks off from the ring. This requires less force and makes it easier to use the clamps in small spaces.
With crimps, you must apply force to the entire ring, which requires more effort. It also means it’s not as easy to fit the crimp tool into smaller spaces since it needs to enclose the entire ring.
PEX is a convenient and cost-effective material for your plumbing needs. Even the fittings used to connect the pipes are easy to work with if you use the proper tools.
If you ever need to adjust your pipe connections or remove the pipes entirely, you can be confident that removing any PEX clamps is easy with the right guidance.