How to Unclog a Toilet
Clogged toilet? No problem. With a little practice and a plunger or a toilet snake, even a home repair rookie can get most clogged toilets back up and running in minutes, without flooding the bathroom and making the situation worse. In this article we’ll show you how to avert a morning household disaster by clearing a clogged toilet fast.
Toilet not flushing all the way? Test for a clog when your toilet won’t flush
Ever uttered the words my toilet won’t flush? A poor flush means that your toilet drain is either partially or completely plugged. If your toilet won’t flush – a no-drainer – is obvious. The toilet bowl will fill to the brim with flush water and perhaps overflow. Give the water level 10 minutes or so to drop, then attack the problem with a toilet plunger to begin unclogging a toilet.
However, most clogged toilets are slow drainers. That is, flush water partially fills the bowl but doesn’t rush out and clean away the waste. The water level remains high, then usually drains down to normal height within a minute or two. You might not know the toilet is clogged until you flush it. So if you suspect a problem, test the drainage first. If it doesn’t drain, don’t flush it. Reach for the toilet plunger.
How to fix a toilet that won’t flush:
Remove the tank lid and lift the flapper valve slightly to let a cup or two of water into the bowl to see if the water goes down before trying to unclog the toilet. Flushing a clogged toilet may flood your floor!
Lift the Flapper to release a bit of water
Lift the flapper slightly to release a little water. That’s how to make a toilet flush. However, if there is a clog, the water won’t flush.
Unclog a Toilet: Begin with a plunger
For about 90 percent of clogged toilets, you only need one special tool—a toilet plunger. Buy a toilet plunger with an extension flange on the rubber bell-shaped end. A toilet plunger with an extension flange is designed to fit toilets better, so you can deliver more “oomph” to the plunge. You could pull a woodchuck from a hole with a toilet plunger with an extension flange. The toilet plunger will unplug sink and tub drains, too, if you simply fold the flange back into the bell.
Here’s how to use a plunger:
The first step in how to unclog a toilet with a plunger is to plunge the toilet with the rubber flange pulled out to get a better seal. Push in and out vigorously, keeping enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger. Keep towels handy to wipe up water that splashes out. If this doesn’t fix the issue, keep reading on how to plunge a toilet.
Plunging Tips: How to Use a Plunger
A toilet plunger fits over and seals the toilet drain. Wear rubber glove—things can get messy—and follow these plunging tips:
- Make your first plunge a gentle one. Initially the bell is full of air. A hard thrust will force the air back around the seal and blow water all over the bathroom and you!
- Once you force out the air, plunge vigorously in and out, maintaining the seal. You’ll be forcing water both directions in the drain, which will effectively loosen most clogs. Stick with it, plunging 15 to 20 times if necessary.
- Be patient. Try alternating between steady strokes and occasional monster heaves.
- Keep enough water in the bowl so the toilet plunger stays covered. Trying to force air through the toilet trap won’t generate much pressure.
Most of the time, this is all it takes to clear the clog. But for tougher clogs, try using a toilet snake. (Note: If you have repeated clogging, it might be a toilet performance issue.
No Plunger Needed: 7 Easier Ways to Clear a Clog
It’s never an ideal situation: A quick trip to the bathroom followed by a single flush and, boom, you’re dealing with a clogged drain or—much worse—a nearly overflowing toilet. If you find yourself without a plunger, or if it fails you, consider your options before hiring a plumber. There are a plethora of alternative ways to take care of business, many of which require nothing more than the items you have in your bathroom or kitchen cabinets. Here are 7 method…
- Heat Wave
When you notice a nasty clog, your best bet is to fill a pan with hot water. Heat it up on the stove or use the tap, but don’t let the water get to boiling point. Pour it down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes to see if it loosens the clog. You’ll know if your efforts were successful if you see the water start to drain. Then, give the toilet a flush or two. In many cases, the hot water is enough to break up whatever is causing the backup.
- Dish Duty
If you need to kick things up a notch, borrow some dish soap from the kitchen and squeeze a generous amount, about a 1/4 cup should do, into the toilet bowl. Let the soap sit for 5-10 minutes so it has time to move down the drain and reach the clog. Then, add hot water (again, not boiling) to the bowl and give it some time to sit. In most cases, the soap will act as a lubricant and grease the clog in the toilet drain to get everything moving again.
- Fizzy Fix
It’s time to channel what you learned in elementary school science! If your toilet bowl is already filled to the brim, either empty out some of the water or be prepared for a little overflow. Next, pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar down the toilet drain. When the vinegar and baking soda combine, the natural chemical reaction will bubble up and loosen the clog. After about thirty minutes, follow up with some hot water and see if it drains. If it does, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, repeat the process once more.
- Brush Battle
This may seem a little unpleasant, but if you’re really in a bind and there’s no plunger in sight, grab a toilet brush and angle the bristles down the drain. Pumping up and down a few times should be enough to loosen things up so the clog clears in no time.
- Helping Hanger
If you don’t have access to a plumbing snake, you can fashion your own using a wire coat hanger from your closet. Simply unwind the hanger so that it’s completely straight with the exception of the hook. Then, wrap a small rag around the hook to help prevent any scratches or damage to the porcelain and, while wearing rubber gloves, gently angle the hanger down the drain until you find the clog. When the water starts to drain, flush the toilet a few times to clear it out.
- Bathroom Bomb
Don’t run out to buy Draino, create your own DIY de-clogger instead by mixing together the following ingredients: 2 cups baking soda, 1/4 cup Epsom salt, and 8-10 tablespoons of dish detergent (add one tablespoon at a time). Pour the combination into individual muffin liners, then let them dry and harden overnight. The next morning, drop one into the toilet bowl, add four cups of water, and let it sit for a few hours to see results.
- Vacuum Valve
Last resort: Rent a wet/dry vacuum from your local hardware store—do not, we repeat, do not try this with a regular vacuum. First, use it to empty the water from the bowl. Next, wrap the hose in an old rag to create a seal, then stick the vacuum a few inches down the drain. When you turn on the vacuum, it should suck out the clog. Again, don’t forget the rubber gloves!
The One Surefire Way To Unclog a Toilet
These tips will get the water flowing.
Clogged the toilet? Don’t panic. A toilet clogged with human waste is disgusting and can be embarrassing, but it’s easy to fix. I’ve unclogged countless stoppages for my family and friends, and during volunteer work. What I write here isn’t theory. It works
The lower portion of the toilet is called the stool. If the stool is filled with water and getting close to overflowing the rim, shut off the stop valve that supplies water to the toilet. The valve typically is located to your left as you stand and look at the toilet. In rare cases, when the toilet isn’t close to a corner, it may be on the right.
Make a Toilet-Clearing Tool From a Wire Hanger
Take a coat hanger and a pair of linesman pliers (or anything that can cut wire). Cut the hook off the coat hanger. Bend the hanger into a straight rod and use the pliers to bend a small one-inch-long hook into the wire’s end. Hook into the waste and break it up. Yes, this process is gross and may make you gag, but do you want to clear the clog or not?
Don’t get too aggressive here or you’ll scuff up the stool and spend the next couple of hours polishing out the scratches with powdered cleanser.
Hooking into the waste and breaking it up will create a water passage that will lower the water in the stool. Next, take a cup plunger such as this and place it over the drain hole in the bottom of the stool. Gently rotate the plunger’s handle like you were stirring a pot, while keeping the plunger’s cup firmly over the drain. This rotation seats the plunger’s cup and permits a powerful plunging action.
Pump the plunger handle straight down, aiming directly into the drain opening. You should feel and even hear the suction. If not, you didn’t seat the cup over the drain hole. No problem—just repeat Step 3 and plunge again.
The toilet will drain (I’ve never seen one not drain and I’ve cleared some whoppers). Flush the toilet somewhere between two and four times to move the waste out of the house’s drain and into the sewer or septic tank.
If Poo Wasn’t Your Problem
In rare instances, a toilet will swallow an oddly shaped solid like a toy or a piece of clothing. In these cases, you can unclog the toilet only to have the obstruction lodge downstream, especially if there’s hair or preexisting clogged material. When that happens, your best bet is to call a plumber and have him power auger the home’s drains. They probably needed it anyway.
How to Unclog a Toilet Like a Plumber
It’s every man’s worst fear. You’re at someone’s house, you finish doing your business and flush the toilet, but instead of going down, the water comes up along with whatever you just deposited in the bowl. Would you be paralyzed with panic in that moment? Or do you know what to do?
Thankfully, unclogging a toilet isn’t hard at all. Even the most gnarliest of clogs can be taken care of with ease.
- Stop the Toilet Bowl From Filling Up.
If it looks like the water might overflow out of the toilet, Rod suggests taking the lid off the tank as quickly as possible and closing the toilet flapper. The flapper releases water from the tank and into the bowl. It looks like, well, a flapper. If you’re worried that your flush has a good chance of turning into a flood, take off the top before you pull the trigger. Then you can keep one hand close to the flapper while the other hands pushes the flusher. The minute it appears the water is rising, you’re ready to stop the deluge
- Get the Right Plunger
Once disaster has been averted, it’s time to unsheathe your plunger. To effectively use a plunger, you need a good seal between it and the toilet bowl. Funnel-cup plungers are the best plungers for this. They’re the ones with a flange, or added piece, extending off the bottom of the rubber cup.
- Warm Up Your Plunger
Stiff, hard plungers don’t work as well as soft and pliant ones. Run your plunger under some hot water before you use it. This will soften up the rubber, which will help you get a better seal on the toilet bowl.
- Plunge Correctly
Stick the plunger in the bowl and use it to form a solid seal over the exit hole. Rod said that most people only focus on the downward push when plunging. But the pullback is just as important. Give a few good up and down strokes with the plunger and flush the toilet. If the water clears from the toilet, then you’ve successfully unclogged it. If the toilet starts overflowing again, just close the flapper to stop water from entering the bowl. Repeat the plunge and flush sequence until your clog is gone.
- Secret Plumber Trick: Add Hot Water and Dishwasher Detergent.
Add a few cups of hot water to the toilet bowl before you start plunging. After you pour the hot water in, let it sit for a few minutes. To put it mildly, the heat helps break the, um, stuff up. This will make unclogging the toilet with the plunger much, much easier. The heat from the hot water can sometimes break up the clog without plunging, so this could be a good tactic to use if you a clog a toilet at a friends house and you don’t want to face the embarrassment of asking for a plunger. Also, try adding some dishwasher detergent to the mix. The soap can help break the clog up, as well.
- Another Secret Plumber Trick: Use Baking Soda and Vinegar
Another trick to unclog toilets comes from your elementary science fair project. Pour one cup of baking soda into the clogged toilet and then slowly pour one cup of vinegar into the bowl. The chemical reaction and fiz can help break down the clog.
For Harder Clogs, Use an Auger
If the plunger doesn’t work, Rod says it’s time to bust out a toilet auger. An auger is a cable-like device that you snake through the toilet hole to help loosen up a clog. You can find augers at most hardware stores.
To use an auger, you simply snake the cable down the hole. Start turning the crank on the end you’re holding until it stops. This means you’ve reached your clog. The auger will either break up the clog or hook on to it. If it feels like you’ve hooked the clog, pull it out. Discard any waste on the end of the auger. Give the toilet a few good plunges to clear up any left over blockage. Flush. Shazam! Cleared toilet. You might want to put some gloves on for this job in case you need to clean off some… matter from the plumbing snake.
4 Signs Your Main Sewer Line Is Clogged
The sooner you recognize the warning signs of a main sewer line blockage, the better. A clog in the main sewer line that goes ignored or unnoticed can lead to costly repairs but can also expose your family to contaminated water.
To help keep your family and home safe, we’ve covered 4 warning signs that your home’s main sewer line is clogged.
Sign #1: Multiple backed-up drains
Check the following water fixtures:
If more than one drain is slow moving, gurgling, smells bad or has water backing up, you most likely have a main sewer clog
You see, your home’s drain lines carry wastewater away from your home and are designed like a tree—the “trunk” is the main sewer line while the “branches” are smaller, secondary drain lines that connect to each water fixture (all secondary lines feed into your main sewer line).
And because every water fixture’s drain eventually connects to the main sewer line, a blockage in that main line will affect various drains in your home.
Sign #2: Drainage in sewer clean out
If you see sewage standing in (or draining out of) your home’s sewer cleanout, you have a main sewer clog.
So what exactly is a “sewer cleanout” and how can you find yours?
Well, a “sewer cleanout” is a pipe that connects directly to your home’s main sewer line and gives plumbers direct access to clear any blockages. In most Colorado homes, the sewer cleanout is usually located just outside your home or in the basement and is marked by a round or rectangular cap (sometimes titled “sewage” or “cleanout”).
Sign #3: Sewage in floor drain
If your main sewer line is clogged, all the sewage and waste water sitting in the pipes have nowhere to escape. Which means, eventually, the sewage will force its way into a secondary drain.
And when this happens, you’ll soon be able to see (and smell) sewage coming up from floor drains.
Sign #4: Water backs up in shower when toilet flushes
If you notice that water backs up in random places as you’re using water fixtures, you likely have a blockage in the main sewer line
Two common examples of this include:
- When you flush your toilet, water backs up into the bathtub/shower.
- When you run your washing machine, sinks or toilets start to overflow.
You see, a clog in the main sewer line means all the wastewater that is trying to leave your home now has nowhere to go and is eventually forced back up other drain lines.