How to unclog a toilet

How To Unclog A Shower Drain

Are you currently experiencing a clogged toilet and have no plunger or a snake to help come save the day? Whether you just moved into a new place or haven’t made it down to you nearest Lowe’s yet, fear not. Believe it or not, there are actually multiple ways to unclog your toilet with common household items without having to get your hands dirty.

Option 1: A Wire Coat Hanger

The first method you should try is the Wire Coat Hanger approach. For this you’re going to need to grab your nearest wire coat hanger and a rag. To unclog your toilet this way you’re first going to need to completely unwind the hanger until it is completely straight with the exception of the hook at the end. Next, completely wrap a rag around the hook end of the wire to prevent any scratching or minor damages to your commode. Finally, you will insert the hanger in toilet and gently rattle the hanger until you feel the obstruction has been moved.

Option 2: Dish Soap And Half A Bucket Of Hot Water

If you don’t want to even bother getting your hands near your toilet (we don’t blame you), another alternative is to try to soften the obstruction. To do this grab a bucket of water and some dish soap. First squirt a bunch of the dish soap into the toilet bowl (chopped up pieces of bar soap will work as well). Next slowly pour a bucket of warm water into the toilet. Try to match the temperature of the water to something pretty hot but still would be drinkable, like hot coffee. Now all you have to do is wait until the water in toilet slowly goes down. If this has occurred then your clog has been taken care of. If not, repeat the process over again.

Option 3: Baking Soda And Vinegar

This method is extremely similar to the dish soap and water method as described above. Once again, you will first need to gather your supplies which are: baking soda and vinegar. You should use an entire box of baking soda to ensure optimal success. Next, dump the baking soda in the toilet and then very slowly add vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit for a while and then flush your toilet. Your clog should be completely taken care of.

Option 4: Drain Cleaning Chemicals

This method should only be used as a last resort as it can be the least effective and can cause harm to the environment. If you think that obstruction is not something that can be softened then avoid this method and call your local plumber instead.

To unclog your toilet using chemicals, simply pour the entire bottle of drain cleaner into your toilet. Let the chemicals dissolve the obstruction and then see if your toilet flushes afterwards.

plunging-toilet-400

You flush the toilet and then it stops flushing.  Dread.  Or even worse, the toilet starts to overflow. We know,  Pure terror, right?  Especially if you are at a party or someone else’s house!  One thing is for sure: panic will not unclog the toilet.  While we cannot eliminate the dread, we can give you some practical advice on how to unclog a toilet. First words of advice: every bathroom should have a plunger if only to save your guests from potential embarrassment.  When buying a plunger get the kind that has a flange on the bottom, these are most useful for clearing clogged toilets.

How to Unclog Your Toilet Scenarios: 

Scenario 1: 

Situation:  Water is rising, and you think it is going to overflow.

Solution:  Quick! Take the lid off the tank. Close the toilet flapper so that more water cannot flow into the bowl.

Scenario 2: 

Situation: You are at someone else’s house, and there is no plunger in the bathroom.

Solution: No plunger? If there is a glass or trashcan, use it to pour hot water into the toilet bowl.  The hot water will help release the clog.  A little dish soap can help, but if you are at someone else’s house you might not feel comfortable asking your host.

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Scenario 3:

Situation: Slow draining or partial flush (this is the most common)

Solution: If the water is not overflowing, you can grab a plunger and fix the clog.  If you do not have a plunger, try the solution above.  If you have rubber gloves, you might want to put them on before plunging the toilet. Cover the toilet drain hole with the plunger, making sure that water covers the bottom of the plunger.  Start with a gentle plunge to get the air out of the bell.  Then pump the plunger up and down vigorously without breaking the seal.  Keep the plunger upright while you are plunging, do not pull it front to back or sideways.  After many vigorous plunges, pull the plunger up sharply breaking the seal.   Your toilet should be unclogged.  If not repeat the process.  If you have tried several times and the toilet is still clogged, it is time to call a plumber.

How to Prevent Your Toilet from Clogging

Prevent clogs in the first place by troubleshooting toilets that frequently get clogged.

Why does my toilet keep clogging?

Foreign Objects – an object might be causing a partial blockage so that water goes through, but solid waste often gets clogged.  You’ll need a plumber to fix this.Solution: don’t store things on top of or over your toilet.  This will help prevent objects from falling into the toilet.

Low Flow Toilet – some low-flow toilets do not deliver enough power to clear a toilet bowl.Solution: If you are always experiencing the problem of low flow toilets, it may be time to install a more powerful toilet to fit your needs.

Blocked Vents – All plumbing fixtures need vents for the waste water to drain properly.  If your toilet is draining slowly, the vent might be blocked.Solution: Have a plumber check the vents.

Clogged Drain Line – If several plumbing fixtures in your home are getting clogged or running slowly, it is likely that the main waste line is clogged.  The clog could be due to accumulated buildup, tree roots, or hard water deposits.Solution: A clogged drain line is a serious issue that needs professional assistance. If you are experiencing this problem, call a plumber right away.

The Two Best Things You Can Do To Prevent Clogs:

  1. Don’t flush random things down the toilet. “Flushable” wipes clog toilets, no matter what the packaging says – don’t do it.Common household items that clog the toilet and should never be flushed down: dental floss, hair, diapers, sanitary pads, paper towels. 
  2. Take care of your plumbing. All of your wastewaters leaves the home through the main line. Once your main plumbing line gets clogged, you’ll have problems.  Don’t pour grease down the drain.

That covers our advice on how to handle a clogged toilet. If you have any more questions or would like more advice, feel free to call one of our professional plumbers for advice. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Cedar Rapids is here to help you with your plumbing needs. Call us today at (319) 365-6792

Steps

  1. How to Unclog a Toilet - Step 1

    First use a toilet plunger. Make sure there is enough water to create a seal, and plunge the toilet drain.

  2. How to Unclog a Toilet - Step 2

    If the plunger doesn’t work, use a closet auger next.

  3. How to Unclog a Toilet - Step 3

    Place the auger into the drain and feed it through the pipe until it reaches the clog. Rotate the handle to break up the clog.

  4. How to Unclog a Toilet - Step 4

    If the auger doesn’t work, try removing the toilet bowl to reach the clog. Replace the wax ring if replacing the toilet. Here’s some information for you if you want to know How to Replace a Toilet.

Clearing out a clogged toilet may not be your idea of a good time. But you can save a lot of money by fixing it yourself rather than calling a plumber.

In this video, I’ll show you the two basic tools you need to clear a clog from a toilet. They can both be found at your local independent home improvement retailer.

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In most cases, you can open a clogged toilet by using a force ball-type plunger, like this one. There are different varieties to this design, but they basically all work the same way.

I would also recommend using a ball-type plunger (like this one) rather than a cup plunger (like this one.) The ball-type offers more pressure for clearing a toilet than the cup type.

The plunger is simple to use. Make sure there is plenty of water in the bowl to help create a seal for the plunger to work. Then pump the plunger a few times to create suction to draw out the clog.

If the plunger does not clear the clogged drain, try a closet auger. This tool has an auger bit, or a spiral blade, that rotates as it works its way through the toilet tank’s trap and into the drain pipe.

One end of the auger is curved and has a plastic or vinyl coating to keep from scratching the finish on the bowl. This will be the end you put directly into the toilet. The other end has a crank. This allows you to rotate the spiral auger head to break up or pull out the object clogging the toilet.

To use the auger, retract the auger into its housing as far as it will go. Then place the curved end of the housing into the toilet bowl, inserting it into the opening as far as it will go. As you’re using it, be careful not to force it. You don’t want to break the porcelain.

By being able to hook an object with the spiral end and then retract the auger back through its housing, you can pull an object out of the toilet bowl, such as a child’s toy, that you don’t want entering your home’s drain system.

If neither of those two tools will clear your clogged toilet, as a last resort, you may have to remove the toilet from the floor, turn it upside down and force the obstruction out from either the top or bottom. Needless to say, this is messy, but it gets the job done. And if you do this, you’ll need to replace the wax ring, which is something you’ll do if you replace the entire toilet. See our video “Replacing a Toilet” for more information.

If you have questions about this or any other home improvement project, be sure to read our list of Frequently Asked Questions for this video. And be sure to print out our Project Instructions, which includes a Tools and Materials checklist, before visiting your local independent home improvement retailer. That’s where you’ll find all the products and helpful advice to complete your project. If you’re not sure where to find your local store, check out our Store Locator.

Good luck with your project and thanks for watching.

Close Transcript

Prevent overflow: Flush once, close flapper, turn off water source

While it’s tempting to flush more than once to clear a clog, chances are, you’ll only add more water to your toilet bowl and soon, the all too familiar toilet overflow nightmare becomes a wet, stinky reality. Two options for keeping more water from entering your toilet bowl are:

  1. Wearing long, rubber, dishwashing gloves, remove the top of your toilet tank, reach in and close the flapper (that stopper looking thing attached to a chain), to keep water from entering the bowl. If you suspect your one flush will cause your bowl to overflow, keep your right hand ready to close the flapper, should water start to rise in the bowl when you push the handle down to flush with the left.
  2. Not interested in fishing around in your toilet tank? Just turn the water supply valve, located on the wall, at the back of your toilet until it clicks off. Once you turn the water off, you can flush with the remaining water in the tank, keeping in mind that you can close off the water flowing into the tank by closing the flapper, if need be.
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Using the Plunger

Okay, so you’ve got your rubber gloves on, newspaper or old towels spread out on the bathroom floor around the toilet and the correct plunger. Let’s do this!

  1. Cover the entire mouth of the P-trap (the hole at the bottom of your toilet) with the plunger to make a tight seal.
  2. Press the plunger down once, slowly, releasing the air in the dome of the plunger. Then, showing your toilet you mean business, push down on the plunger aggressively several times without breaking the seal.
  3. Pulling the plunger up quickly, breaking the seal, the water should go down the drain and there it is! Clog cleared, problem solved. Keep in mind that it might take a few attempts to break up a stubborn clog.

Plumbing Snakes and Augers

Plumbing SnakeSometimes when a plunger doesn’t dissolve your clog, you might have to break out a plumbing snake or auger. Your hardware store or local home improvement store offers a range of drain augers, from simple drain snakes to heavy-duty professional augers. Less expensive snakes will do the job, but will tend to scratch your porcelain toilet bowl.

  1. Simply uncoil the wire end of the snake. Place the end into the drain.
  2. Extend the auger until you get to the clog.
  3. Move the snake in twisting and turning motions until you see the water start to drain.

Wet Vac that clog

Another interesting way to clear toilet clogs, gets the job done with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner. You can rent wet/dry vacuums at most home improvement, hardware and grocery stores. Do not try this with your regular vacuum cleaner!

  • Wrapping an old towel around the vacuum hose to create a drain seal, place the vacuum hose in the toilet drain and extract the water and the clog.
  • You can tell the clog is gone when the water in the bowl drains or you can detect something solid passing through the hose. You may have to try this a few times.

Dishwashing detergent and hot water

  1. Pour a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent into your toilet bowl. Don’t get carried away with the detergent, as a little does a lot.
  2. Leave drain as is for about ten minutes, while you bring a couple of gallons of water almost to a boil. Note: Boiling water could crack your toilet bowl, so heat to just under boiling.
  3. Carefully pour hot water into the toilet bowl from about waist height to create enough force to push the clog through.

This method may need a few tries and a good bit of time to work and might cause the bowl to overflow if you aren’t careful.

Baking soda and vinegar

One way to unclog drains involves creating a chemical reaction between baking soda and an acidic liquid. You can use lemon juice, but white vinegar, with its excellent cleaning properties works great. Remember that volcano you made in science class?

  1. After scooping enough water out of the bowl, so the baking soda doesn’t get completely wet, pour about a half of a box of baking soda into your toilet bowl.
  2. Next, add a bottle of white vinegar. Pour white vinegar slowly, so you don’t get splashed when the baking soda starts to fizz.
  3. Allow the bubbling to work on the clog, about a half hour, while you bring a pot of water almost to its boiling point.
  4. Pour hot water into the drain, slowly. When the water drains, you’re done. If the water drains slowly, repeat process until toilet flushes normally.

If none of these methods work, or if DIY isn’t your thing, contact a professional plumber. The clog may be further down the drainage pipe system. If water is backing up in your sink, lavatory and bathtubs, you may have a breached pipe in your main sewer line going out of your home or a septic system.

Contact FloHawks Plumbing and Septic for clog and drain concerns and get back to your family gatherings with peace of mind.

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