The task of repairing an irrigation system that someone else installed has fallen on me. I have zero experience with this. I've studied the system for a couple of days, and I've been able to make some sense of it. Feeling more confident than I had any right to, I began the first phase of the re-jiggering with the "Patio Zone" this week.

The irrigation system is built with Rain Bird components:

  • There are two 8-port manifolds connected to underground PVC connected to the water supply.
  • 1/4" black plastic tubing carries water from the manifold to small, plastic sprinklers mounted on plastic stakes in the planters.
  • There are various small plastic tees and junctions in the network of tubing.

The planters have been moved, and the number of planters has been reduced, and so there is an excess of tubing and other components. As I began removal of some of the tubing, the first thing I discovered is that it was virtually impossible to remove the 1/4" tubing from any fitting. I spent 20 minutes trying to remove a single tube from a port on one of the manifolds; my twisting, prying and pulling finally broke off the flimsy plastic port from the manifold body!

The system was installed about 8 years ago, and I figured the tubing had become brittle. However, I soon discovered that the new tubing and fittings were no more easily removed than the old ones! I've spent the past couple of hours searching the Rain Bird website, and the Internet at large for THE TRICK to remove 1/4" hose from the plastic fittings. Oddly (it seems to me), there seems to be no mention of my difficulties at all.

This leads me to wonder if it's never mentioned because:

  1. It's SO obvious, nobody (except me) needs to ask the question, or

  2. These is no solution - you simply buy new parts & throw the old in the rubbish.

So this is my question: Is there a reasonably efficient method for removing 1/4" irrigation tubing from the plastic fittings and appliances used with it? How do people deal with this?

2 Answers 2


I learned this way too. You can re-use barbed fittings, but you lose a piece of pipe each time. There is a real risk of cutting yourself too. Carefully slice the pipe longitudinally from the end, then the pipe can be pulled off, and clipped shorter. secateurs are fine for cutting the pipe.

  • It's been a few days since I asked this question, and it seems I've gotten all the answers I'm going to get. I'm "accepting" this answer as it is probably the easiest (but certainly not very easy :) method of disengaging 1/4" tubing from the plastic fittings.
    – Seamus
    May 25, 2020 at 1:04

You can get a heat gun and soften the pipe quite easily - in fact, you can melt the pipe if you get it too hot (start at a lower heat setting and find the minimum heat level to accomplish the goal). Once the tubing is sufficiently soft it should just pull off, or at least be sufficiently pliable to work off, or make it easier to slice as described by @Polypipe Wrangler. Note that you'll still need to cut a bit off the end - the softening of the tubing tends to permanently deform/weaken the tubing. Discount hardware stores sell the heat guns for around $15. They are also useful for softening black poly pipe to make it easier to insert barbed fittings. Again, don't overdo it or you'll weaken the pipe.

I have also used the slice method described by @Polypipe Wrangler, and it works too. Do be careful, wear good gloves, and slice away from you. Also, be careful not to be too aggressive with the slicing depth - you don't want to slice the fitting too much or it may leak.

  • Appreciate answers from you & @PolypipeWrangler - thanks. This sounds more like vascular surgery than irrigation plumbing - lol. I was hoping for an easy-to-use hand tool, or some form of snake-oil applied when mating the pipe to the tubing. I don't like the idea of operating on a manifold with downward-facing ports, but I suppose the couplers, tees, etc provide alternatives to removing the tubing at all. Still wish it weren't so damn difficult!
    – Seamus
    May 21, 2020 at 3:15

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