How to Remove Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler heads screw onto upright supply-line pipes, called risers, via a threaded connection. Although sprinkler heads occasionally loosen by hand, most sprinkler heads become clogged with dirt or build-up and require loosening with hand tools. Builders use a set of 2 wrenches or pliers to prevent damage to the portion of the riser that connects to the main supply line; 1 tool grips and stabilizes the riser while the other tool rotates and removes the sprinkler head.

Pop-up sprinklers' threaded heads are often buried within tufts of grass.
  1. Shut off the irrigation system's water supply. Manually open the sprinkler system's valve to allow water to drain from the sprinkler system's supply pipes.

  2. Dig around buried sprinklers, such as pop-up sprinklers, with a shovel or garden spade. Dig an access hole large enough to allow wrenches or pliers to grip the sprinkler and riser. Clean dirt from the riser and sprinkler head with a rag.

  3. Wrap a rag around the sprinkler head. If you are removing an impact sprinkler, wrap the rag around its hexagonal collar. If you are removing a pop-up sprinkler, wrap the rag around the its base. Twist the sprinkler counterclockwise to loosen it by hand. If the sprinkler sticks, remove the rag.

  4. Attach an adjustable wrench to the hexagonal collar of an impact sprinkler and a pipe wrench or pliers to the riser. If you are removing a pop-up sprinkler, attach pliers to the base of the sprinkler and a pipe wrench to the riser.

  5. Hold the pipe wrench in a stationary position to stabilize the riser. Twist the pliers or adjustable wrench counterclockwise to loosen the sprinkler head. Remove the sprinkler head from the riser by hand and allow water to drain from the riser.


  • Failure to stabilize the riser with a wrench might cause damage to the supply line or riser threads.