With the foul smell and dirty toilet water spilling over, having a blocked toilet is never pleasant. Clogged toilets are not only disgusting — they can also be a health hazard.
If you find yourself with a clogged toilet, you don’t have to call the plumber immediately. The first thing you need to do is turn off the toilet’s water supply. This will stop the toilet from overflowing. If you cannot find the valve, take off the top of the toilet cistern and lift the float cup or ball high enough to keep the water from running.
The first method you could try to clear a blocked toilet is plunging. Here, we’ll show you how to plunge a toilet and use other home remedies on these clogged drains. Then, we’ll talk about how to prevent toilet clogs from happening in the first place.
How to Plunge a Toilet
There are a wide range of plungers for different kinds of plunging fixtures. The most common type is the sink plunger or cup plunger (pictured above) that has a dome-shaped rubber cup. This kind is ideal for tubs and sinks.
The plunger best suited for toilets is called a flange plunger. It has a cup similar to that on a sink plunger as well as a sleeve-like extension (the flange) at the bottom of the cup. With this design, it fits well into the hole in your toilet bowl and results in superior suction power. You can find different kinds of flange plungers at your local hardware store.
Here is what you need to plunge your toilet:
- Rubber gloves
- Toilet plunger
- Water to fill the toilet bowl
Here are the steps:
- Plunging a toilet can be a messy affair. To minimize cleanup, place old towels or dirty rags around the base of the toilet. Any water or dirt that splashes out during plunging will land on these fabrics.
- Wear your gloves.
- If the toilet bowl is full, remove half of the fluid with a cup, bowl, or other container. If the bowl doesn’t have enough water, pour in water until it is half full. The idea is to ensure the head of the plunger is submerged.
- Lower the plunger into the toilet bowl at an angle, and fit the rubber cup over the toilet’s drain hole.
- Grip the plunger handle with both hands. With a forceful motion, move the cup up and down without breaking the cup’s seal around the hole. Repeat this action for about 10 to 20 seconds and then remove the plunger.
- Flush the toilet. If it flushes normally, you have succeeded. If the toilet is still clogged, repeat the process.
- If the problem persists, you might want to try a toilet auger.
- If you plan to reuse them, wash your gloves, towels, and the container used to move water in or out of the toilet.
While a regular plunger can take time to clear a blockage, the ToiletShroom plunger ($17.99) can unclog your toilet in seconds. Insert the Shroom head at an angle and push in and out several times. This dredge tool doubles as a squeegee that will clean the insides of your toilet.
Other Methods for Clearing a Toilet Clog
While we think everyone should know how to plunge a toilet, there may be times when a plunger isn’t available. In these cases, there are other methods you can apply to deal with a clogged toilet:
Soap and Hot Water
For this, you need rubber gloves, liquid dish soap, a gallon of water and a plastic cup.
- Heat a gallon of water until it is very hot but not boiling. If it's too hot, it might crack your toilet bowl.
- Wear your gloves.
- Create room in the bowl by manually removing some water using a plastic cup. This will ensure that there is space for adding a gallon of water.
- Sprinkle some soap around the inside of the toilet.
- Pour the hot water into the bowl and leave it for 30 minutes.
- Try flushing the toilet. If it doesn’t work, you can try another method.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
The combination of baking soda and vinegar can be very effective in unblocking clogged toilets. Here are the steps in this DIY method:
- Make sure the toilet bowl is at least halfway full of water before you start the unclogging process.
- Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the bowl, followed immediately by 2 cups of vinegar.
- Let it sit for about 30 minutes as the chemical reaction breaks up the clog.
- Flush the toilet
- If the bowl doesn’t drain, repeat the process two or three times
Here are the different kinds of drain snakes in the market:
- Drain or cable augers: These snakes have a flexible cable with a corkscrew attached to the end. The corkscrew is turned manually using a handle on the auger. When the handle is turned, the cable rotates inside the pipe and grabs whatever is blocking the drain. The clog can then be pulled out, thus restoring normal water flow.
- Flat tape augers: As the name suggests, this kind of auger comes with a flat cable. The flat tape auger is ideal for pipes that are less than 2 inches in diameter. Instead of removing blockages, this kind of auger pushes obstructions through the pipe.
- Power augers: These kinds of augers are attached to a power drill or come with their own built-in motors. Power augers spin the cable much faster compared to hand-cranked augers, thus removing tough pipe blockages more effectively.
- Rocket nozzle augers: This kind of auger is normally used by professional plumbers or in commercial applications. A tube is inserted into the drain pipe and highly pressurized water shot through it to remove the clog. Rocket nozzle augers can be quite costly, but they can unclog pipes up to 10 inches in diameter.
- Toilet closet augers: These are augers specifically designed to unblock toilet bowls. Toilet closet augers could be powered or manual. They come with a flexible cable that can easily navigate and maneuver the toilet’s plumbing.
How to Unblock a Toilet With an Auger
- Visit your local hardware store and buy a toilet auger (just save rocket nozzle augers for the pros). You could even rent one for as little as $10 per day.
- Wear your rubber gloves.
- Insert the toilet snake into the drain opening.
- Turn the handle clockwise to push the cable further into the drain. When the cable won’t go any further, you have reached the clog.
- Turn the handle anticlockwise to pull the clog out of the drain.
- Dump the material into a container for disposal, and repeat the process severally to ensure that the clog is totally removed.
- Flush the toilet. If it flushes well, it means the blockage cleared successfully. If water fills the bowl and remains stagnant, you might have to repeat the process several times.
How to Prevent Toilet Clogs
Clogged toilets can indeed be a great nuisance. The good news is you can take steps to prevent your toilet from clogging.
Here are some tips for avoiding toilet clogs:
- Check what you flush: Avoid flushing things like paper towels, facial tissues, napkins, wet wipes, floss, feminine products, hair, diapers, medications, cotton balls, grease and oils. As these materials sit in your pipes, they block whatever you flush down later until the build-up creates a clog.
- Double-flush: It is interesting to note that one of the causes of toilet clogs is toilet paper. Quite often, toilet paper doesn’t dissolve immediately when put in water. Therefore, you can flush the toilet twice to ensure the toilet paper doesn’t create a clog.
- Maintain your main sewer line: Tree roots can also damage your sewer line, thus allowing soil and blockage-causing debris to impact your plumbing system. To avoid this, hire a professional plumber to check your sewer lines at least twice every year. This way, you can identify potential problems before they escalate.
- Keep items away from the toilet bowl: Many people have shelves over the toilet where they place things like soaps, combs, brushes, ornaments and extra toilet paper. Such items can easily get knocked into the bowl and go down the drain. Be sure to keep the area around the toilet bowl clear from items that might accidentally fall in.
Clearing a Blocked Toilet Is Easy With the Right Tools
When it comes to a toilet that won’t flush, the first course of action should be to learn how to plunge a toilet. For best results, use the ToiletShroom plunger. Made of high-grade materials like natural ABS plastics and rust-proof stainless steel, ToiletShroom will stand the test of time. When not in use, you can store it in the accompanying caddy holder.
If you can’t access a plunger, you can try other DIY methods like soap and hot water, baking soda and vinegar, or a toilet auger.
However, prevention is always better than cure. Avoid flushing down anything that is likely to block your pipes. And have your sewer line checked at least twice a year to identify any potential problems.