How to Unclog a Toilet and Get Flushing Again
We tend to take a lot of things for granted, like the fact that our toilets flush as needed. No need to think about anything, everything just works the way it is supposed to. We don’t learn how to unclog a toilet because it always works.
Until it doesn’t.
Bathroom business isn’t perhaps high on the list of things we like to talk about, but the fact is we all at one time or another face the problem of a clogged toilet. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Stuff happens. And when it does, believe it or not, there’s more than one way to unclog a toilet. In fact, there are seven different ways to unclog toilets quickly. In this post we review:
- How to keep a clogged toilet from overflowing
- Different methods to unclog toilets
- Tools and materials you’ll need to unclog toilets
- When to call a plumber
Stop Toilet Overflow…Now!
First things first. A clogged toilet is a toilet that can overflow. If water is rising to the top of the bowl, you need to act fast to prevent a potentially flooded bathroom. There are two ways to stop a clogged toilet from overflowing with water:
Take the lid off the toilet and close the open flapper that is allowing water to continue to flow. Don’t worry about the water in the tank; it is as perfectly clean as your home’s drinking water or the water in the shower.
Reach behind the toilet and turn the water supply off.
Once you stop the toilet overflowing, you can move on to unclogging the toilet. You may not need them, but it’s probably a good idea to have some rags handy in case some water spills out in your attempts to unclog your toilet, especially if you decide to use some of the tools recommended below.
How to Unclog a Toilet 7 Different Ways
The Old Stand By – The Plunger
Every household should have a plunger. Why? Because a plunger is the best way to unclog a toilet. A house without a plunger is a house that should have had one if there is a clogged toilet.
Believe it or not, there are many different types of plungers While flat plungers are fine for flat surfaces around shower or sink drains, a plunger with a flange is better designed to unclog toilets.
There is an art to effective toilet plunging. To achieve best results, follow these steps:
Put the plunger in the toilet bowl and push down gently until you achieve a good seal. The first push is to get rid of the air. If you push too forcefully, you could splash dirty water upon yourself.
Now that you have a good seal, pump the plunger up and down with some force, but make sure you maintain the seal.
Finally, pull the plunger up to break the air seal. The water should rush down the drain.
If this has not fixed the clog, repeat these steps until the clogged has loosened.
Once you’ve unclogged your toilet, put the plunger someplace where you can easily find it again. Because there’s always next time!
No Tools Required – Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you don’t have a plunger handy, turn to the trusted non-toxic household helper: baking soda and vinegar. You might know that baking soda and vinegar are fantastic for a variety of uses, including cleaning many surfaces, acting as an excellent deodorizer and keeping drains running smoothly. Baking soda and vinegar are equally great to fix a clogged toilet without a plunger following these simple steps:
- Add one cup of baking soda to the clogged toilet.
- Wait two minutes.
- Slowly pour two cups of vinegar into the toilet. Baking soda and vinegar react to cause bubbles, so be sure to pour slowly and carefully so that the toilet water does not splash or overflow.
- Allow the vinegar and baking soda mixture to work for several minutes.
- Flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared.
If this doesn’t work, consider buying a plunger or following the recommendations below.
Nothing to be afraid of – The Plumbing Snake
Like a plunger, plumbing snakes are handy tools for any homeowner. Regular plumbing snakes can scratch or damage porcelain toilets, so make sure to use a special toilet or closet snake, also called an auger. This special plumbing snake has a rubber coating that won’t scratch surfaces and protects the toilet’s porcelain.
To properly snake a toilet:
- Place the head of the augur in the toilet bowl.
- Slowly turn the handle of the augur clockwise.
- When you feel resistance, wind the snake back.
- Flush the toilet to see If the clog has loosened.
- If the toilet is still clogged, wind the snake back in and repeat until the clog is broken up and the toilet flushes easily.
Again, store the augur where you can get it easily, as just because you’ve unclogged a toilet once, doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.
Heat it Up – Dish Soap and Hot Water
Don’t have a plunger or snake? Out of baking soda and vinegar? Ok, here’s something you’re bound to have handy: dish soap and water.
- Put one gallon of hot water on the stove to heat up.
- While the water is heating up, squirt some dish soap into the toilet.
- When the water is very hot, but not boiling, carefully pour it into the toilet.
- Wait several minutes while the hot water and dish soap soften the clog.
- The toilet should now be unclogged and flushing freely.
Helpful Hint: You can also try to use shampoo and hot water from the sink if you want to try to clear the toilet without leaving the bathroom.
Not for the Faint of Heart – Wet/Dry Vacuum.
This is a truly unique method for fixing a clogged toilet. Caution: Consider only if you have wet/dry vacuum. Do not try this method with a regular household vacuum. You risk ruining the vacuum and, more importantly, the possibility of shocking yourself.
- Wear plastic gloves because you need to hold the wet/dry vacuum hose inside the toilet. If the bowl is not empty, vacuum the water out.
- Place the wet/dry vacuum hose in the toilet drain and wrap an old towel around the hose to create suction.
- Turn the wet/dry vacuum on, firmly holding the towel and hose in place. The wet/dry vacuum should create enough suction to pull the obstruction out. Thoroughly clean and sanitize the vacuum afterward.
Science to the Rescue – Drain Cleaners (Bio Ben)
While chemical drain cleaners are not recommended because they can damage plumbing and create chemical burn hazards, we do recommend you try an enzyme or bio cleaner, like BioBen. This product is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for the environment.
- Pour the measured amount of BioBen down the toilet.
- Wait for BioBen to clear the toilet clog.
- Flush the toilet.
BioBen claims it can continue to work in your pipes to keep flowing free of clogs for up to a month.
When DIY Fails – Call a Plumber
If none of these methods works to unclog your toilet, or if you don’t have the necessary tools to properly unclog your toilet, it’s time to call in a professional plumber. A plumber is also your best option if you have a toilet that frequently clogs—that means you’ve got a serious problem somewhere deeper in your pipes.
You can count on Benjamin Franklin Plumbing to effectively unclog your toilets and drains. We take to heart the words of our namesake, Benjamin Franklin, who famously said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” We’ve built our company around bringing a higher level of excellence to every customer experience. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and our licensed plumbers proudly offer an on-time guarantee and a 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantee to meet all your plumbing service needs. Because we’re locally owned and operated, our plumbers are familiar with the plumbing challenges you face. If there’s any delay in providing your service, we pay!
And, by the way, there are other problems that can occur with your toilet besides an occasional clog. Toilets rely on the interaction of numerous parts to function properly. If a toilet isn’t flushing properly, it could be a problem with its plumbing or with the parts that make it work. Sometimes a toilet will function even though it has malfunctioning components. Even though it’s tempting to ignore, a toilet’s parts should be replaced once they start to break. If left ignored, they could fail. Even if they don’t completely break, malfunctioning toilet parts waste water and increase your bills.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing answers your service calls 24 hours a day at 800-259-7705. Or request an appointment online.