Can Drain Cleaner Be Used in Toilets?

You’ve got a clogged toilet and that disrupts your life, but before you call drain cleaning services you might be thinking, well what about that half bottle of drain cleaner I have left? I used it on my sink, why not in the toilet? It’s all the same, right?

Well, no.

Toilet clogs are different than sink clogs.

A toilet clog typically involves a lot more mass than a sink clog because it processes – and builds up – more organic material. Wastelines below the toilet fixture cannot be unclogged with chemicals that rely on caustic or oxidizing chemicals to dissolve the blockage. They build up too much intense heat without clearing the line.

That means the chemicals will sit in the toilet without resolving the issue. In fact, more serious issues may develop such as:

  • Toilet bowl cracks due to chemical reactions
  • Damage to PVC pipes
  • Accelerated corrosion and cracking of corroded pipes

You don’t want highly caustic chemicals sitting in your toilet for any period of time. It can react unfavorably to other cleaners you use, creating toxic gas. Since it didn’t resolve the clog, a more hands on approach, like plunging, creates the liability of possibly causing the drain cleaner to splash up on your skin, eyes or vulnerable bathroom finishes and fixture seals. Most reputable drain cleaners explicitly state on their labels that they are not intended for toilets.

Sink clogs, where a drain cleaner is most likely to help, mostly occur immediately below the drain, in the sink trap. The cleaner only has to soften up and dissolve enough of the clog so that it can be moved along by water from the faucet. There is often little need to summon drain cleaning services for this.

Toilet clogs can also occur in the trap part of the bowl, before the flow of water passes into the main waste pipe leading out of the house. Those clogs are typically too large to dissolve efficiently. More importantly (because toilets are tied more directly into the main wasteline than sinks are) backups may mean the clogs could be much deeper in the system than can even be reached by a chemical poured into the toilet. Some of our plumbers have seen drain cleaners actually melt ABS pipe because the cleaner came to rest against a clog it couldn’t clear, yet it continued to generate a cooking temperature all night long.

Even When Drain Cleaners “Work,” They Don’t!

Imagine being able to see a clog inside a pipe. the drain cleaner flows up against the mass, but it does not contact the surface of the clog evenly. For one thing, clogs are not perfectly flat surfaces on the back end. The drain cleaner sinks into the clog with different points of penetration. At the first place a hole is punched through, all the drain cleaner flows out that opening and the clog is “resolved,” but it isn’t. Now you have a constricted pipe with a hole through which water flows. Sure, water isn’t backing up, but you’ve set the stage for more sluggish pipes and more frequent clogs that increase in severity.

What To Do Instead To Solve a Clogged Toilet
  • If the bowl is overflowing, don’t flush again. Instead, lift the lid on the tank and close the toilet flapper. That’s the part that flips up when you push the flush handle down.
  • Use a plunger. Get the kind that tapers down at the mouth. Make sure there is water in the bowl and give it a few pumps down and up. This creates a dramatic increase in water suction that can break up the clog and send it in pieces along the waste pipe and out of the house. The majority of clogs are resolved this way.
  • If a plunger doesn’t resolve the issue or if it works only very temporarily, you may have a solid object stuck in the toilet drain. Use a plumbing auger, AKA “snake.” There are several versions, but they all are basically cables, that can be extended into the bowl deep enough to contact the source of the clog. It could be a child’s toy or an object that fell into the bowl by accident. When you contact the obstruction, rotating the handle of the auger will break up the obstruction or in some cases catch hold of the object so it can be pulled back out of the toilet.
  • Enzyme waste removal products may help, but we don’t normally recommend them for immediate clogs. They will not work on inorganic materials. They may take over eight hours to work. Can you really wait that long? They can, however, be useful to clean and condition your toilet waste pipe when there is no emergency, so the pipes are less likely to clog in the future.
What Else Might Be Clogging Your Toilet?

If you need toilet repair, it’s a good idea to check and see if the other home toilets are backed up. If they are, the problem is likely a backup in the main wasteline outside the house. Tree roots, cracks in the pipe and collected and hardened grease and paper are all common culprits. It might even be a main sewer line clog that must be cleared by the city.

If more than one toilet is backing up at the same time, you have a plumbing emergency. You won’t be able to easily resolve the issue and professional help is the best call. We recommend calling Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area immediately because your toilet facilities cannot be used in the meantime. We can restore your plumbing system to normal operation fast, because we have all the right tools and years of experience.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing is very familiar with many types of plumbing systems in the Bay Area going back many years. We also understand the environmental conditions and soil types for the area and can usually pinpoint the exact problem within a half hour or less for fast, efficient toilet repair.

Additionally, we are highly experienced bathroom and kitchen fixture designers. So, we know most of the common fail points of dozens of older toilets, sinks and plumbing systems and, if necessary, can work with you to upgrade any portion of your plumbing you desire, from the main sewer up to the sink faucet.