You’ve just flushed your toilet and the water doesn’t drain. After a quick check around the house, you realize that you don’t have a plunger. Drat! What to do now?
Relax. Plunging a toilet isn’t the only way to clear a clog unclog (sigh of relief).
Before we look at how to unclog a toilet without a plunger, let’s examine some of the reasons behind clogged toilets.
Common Causes of Clogged Toilets
There are many possible causes for a toilet blockage. Here are some of the most common ones:
Flushing Non-Flushable Items
The only things that should go down your drain are human waste and toilet paper. Paper towels, dental floss, hair, napkins, wipes, cotton swabs, diapers, and medications should never be flushed down the toilet. Such items are likely to get stuck in your pipes and accumulate, thus forming a clog.
Using a Low-Flow Toilet
The kind of toilet you have could be causing problems. Some older low-flow toilets simply don’t have enough pressure to push waste through the drain. Due to the low flushing pressure, materials end up getting stuck in your pipes.
Blocked Toilet Vent
Your home’s toilet is connected to a vent that exits your house, usually through the roof. The purpose of the toilet vent is to allow fresh air into the plumbing system, which in turn increases the pressure of flushes.
However, the vent could get clogged by sticks, leaves or bird nests. When the vent is clogged, the toilet loses flushing pressure, thus increasing the chances of clogs forming.
Main Sewer Line Problems
At times, waste leaves your drains, only to get stuck in your home’s main sewer line. The clog could be caused by sewer line breaks, which allow dirt to get in. It could also be caused by tree root infiltration.
DIY Methods for Unclogging a Toilet Without a Plunger
Wondering how to unclog a toilet without a plunger? Try the following DIY methods for getting rid of clogs in your toilet. Once you’re done, you’ll want to scrub the bowl with a toilet brush:
Baking Soda and Vinegar
The combination of baking soda and vinegar is very effective in unclogging toilets and other drains. Here are the steps:
- Check the water level in the bowl. Before beginning the unclogging process, the bowl should be about halfway full. If the level is too high, use a small container to scoop a little out to avoid spillage (be sure to wear rubber gloves). If the water level is too low, add some water until it is half full.
- Pour one cup of baking soda into the bowl.
- Slowly pour one cup of vinegar into the bowl. If you do this too fast, the chemical reaction could cause a huge mess on your floor. Use your judgment; if one cup is causing too much fizz, use less.
- Allow the mixture to sit for about 20 minutes.
- Check to see if this worked.
When the clog has been broken, you should see the water level recede. In addition, there might be bubbles as the pressure changes. These signs will show you that it is safe to flush the toilet.
However, if the water level doesn’t go down, repeat the process from step 1 several times. For especially stubborn clogs, you could allow the mixture to sit overnight.
If the toilet won’t unclog after using baking soda and vinegar, try a drain snake.
A drain snake is a long, retractable metal cable with a coiled hook at one end. As the name suggests, this tool snakes its way beyond a toilet’s p-trap to grab or break up the material causing the clog. Also referred to as a closet snake or toilet auger, a toilet snake has a rubber coating that protects your toilet bowl from being damaged or scratched.
Wait! Don’t rush to buy a toilet snake from Amazon yet. For as little as $10 per day, you can rent a plumbing snake from your local hardware store. However, you will have to pay more for an electric auger that can be attached to a power drill.
Here are the steps for unclogging a toilet using a toilet auger:
- Put on rubber gloves.
- Place several old towels around the base of the toilet. You don’t want any mess to end up on your floor.
- Put an empty bucket next to the toilet. This is where you will dump any materials pulled out.
- Place the end of the auger in the toilet bowl.
- Turn the handle clockwise to push the cable into the drain.
- Keep turning the handle until you feel some resistance. This means that you have reached the clog.
- Turn the handle anticlockwise to grab the clog and pull it out.
- When the auger is fully retracted, dump the nasty mess into your bucket.
- Repeat the process until the clog is completely broken up. Flush the toilet to see if the problem has been sorted out.
- Dump all the waste collected in the bucket.
- Clean the auger and bucket with very hot water and vinegar or bleach before putting them back in the store.
You’ve got a clogged toilet but no time (or money) to hire a closet auger or order one from the store. What do you do? The other option for how to unclog a toilet without a plunger is a wire hanger. The hanger will act as a makeshift toilet auger, enabling you to reach further into your drain than your hands would.
Note: While using a wire hanger is economical, it is not recommended. The wire could scratch the ceramic or porcelain material and damage your pipes. Plus, if the rag wrapped around the wire comes off, it could get stuck in the toilet and cause even bigger problems.
However, if this is your only option, gather these supplies:
- Wire hanger
- Gloves (and goggles if you wish)
- Work clothes
- Disinfectant or diluted bleach
These are the steps for using a wire hanger safely and effectively:
- Unwind the hanger from the top (you might have to use pliers if the hanger is tightly wound). The idea is to end up with one long piece of wire. However, don’t straighten the hooked section.
- Wrap the hooked section of the hanger with a small rag. This way, it won’t scratch your toilet bowl.
- Secure the rug tightly using duct tape.
- Wear your rubber gloves, goggles, and work clothes.
- Push the hooked end into the toilet drain until you feel some resistance. That could be your clog.
- Twist the hanger around to dislodge the clog. You could also push the hanger back and forth. When the water begins draining out of your toilet bowl, you will know the clog has been dislodged. Try flushing.
- If the water doesn’t drain, you might have to repeat the process a few more times.
How to Prevent Toilet Clogs
Clearly, unclogging a toilet is not fun. It can be messy, time-consuming, and costly. It could even damage the toilet bowl or pipes. To avoid the trouble, try to prevent the clogs from happening in the first place.
Here are some ways to avoid toilet clogs:
Don’t Flush Non-Flushable Items
Place a pedal bin next to your toilet for non-flushable items. Educate your household on what should and shouldn’t be flushed.
Replace Your Low-Flow Toilet
Check the back of your toilet for a stamped date. If it was made in the mid-’90s, you might need to upgrade to a more modern design. An up-to-date toilet will save water and is more likely to flush efficiently.
Unblock the Toilet Vent
Signs of a blocked plumbing vent include sewer odor indoors and gurgling noises from the toilet. When you see such signs, take action immediately.
- Use a ladder to safely climb to your home’s roof.
- Remove the vent cover and check for any debris that may have entered.
- Reach into the vent and pull out any debris you can reach.
- Insert a toilet snake (at least 20 feet long) into the vent to break up any obstruction.
- Use a garden hose to send water down the vent. The force of the water will help clear debris.
Maintain the Main Sewer Line
At least twice a year, check your main sewer line. Hire a professional plumber (they’ll have the needed equipment) to fix any breakages and get rid of infiltrating tree roots.
How to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger
Whether caused by flushing the wrong items, having a low-flow toilet, a blocked vent, or main sewer line problems, a clogged toilet can be stressful. If you don’t have a plunger, you can solve the problem using baking soda and vinegar, a toilet auger, or a wire hanger. Better still, you can avoid clogs by not flushing down non-flushables, upgrading your toilet, unblocking the vent, and maintaining the main sewer line.
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