A clogged toilet is a huge inconvenience. Living in a home with only one bathroom requires tending to the clog immediately. The only thing worse than a one-bathroom home with a backed up toilet is a malfunctioning toilet with a house full of guests.
Toilets clog all the time. The vast majority of the time something is lodged in the toilet trap and cannot pass on its own. It can be mind boggling to see what people retrieve. Things that get trapped include napkins, sanitary products, wash clothes and toys.
Unclogging a toilet is usually a simple process but there are times when getting the object to pass or pulling it out is more difficult. You don't always have to call in a plumber to fix the situation. But you do need to know how to unclog the trap way without damaging the toilet.
Read on to learn how to unclog a toilet without causing damage to the toilet.
What is a Toilet Trap or Trap Way?
Look at the back of your toilet bowl and you will see a curving design in the outline. This is the pathway that the water waste flows when the toilet is flushed. In a working toilet, everything goes through the trap way and empties out into the drainage line.
If the toilet fills with water instead of rushing through the trap there is huge probability something is stuck in the pathway. There will be instances when the clog is in the drain. In these instances, you'll have water backing up into the tubs and sinks throughout the house.
Removing a clog as soon as possible is necessary for various reasons. One, you don't want to be inconvenienced by not having use of your toilet. Two, it is unsanitary to leave waste stilling in the bowl.
It is always a good idea to have a plunger, toilet auger, and plumbing snake in the garage. Before you begin to work on the clog try to determine the source of the clog. There is also the option to call a plumber but before it gets to that try these DIY hacks.
Wait and Flush
When a toilet is flushed several mechanisms go into action. You push down on the lever, a flap opens, water in the tank rushes into the bowl. The water and waste get pushed through the trap way by a force of gravity.
The tank refills bringing fresh water back into the bowl.
If there is a clog some of the dirty water will get past the obstruction and some will return to the bowl. Wait for the tank to finish filling and then flush the toilet again. You may have to do this several times for the force of the water to push the item through.
How to Unclog a Toilet with a Plunger
Every home should have a plunger in case you need to unclog a toilet. Along with the plunger buy a pair of rubber gloves to have on hand if you have a clog. When working on the toilet place towels on the floor to absorb water that may come from the toilet.
The plunger cup is a bell-shaped rubber device that has a flap that folds out from inside the hollow opening. To use the plunger place it in the toilet and cover the entry into the trap way. Slowly push the hand inward to get the flat out so it can seal the entryway.
Once the trap way is sealed begin to put pressure on the handle and vigorously push inwards to deflate the plunger and the pull it out. Repeat this step several times.
If the object has been dislodged the water in the toilet should go down as a sign that the plunging was successful. Flush the toilet to be sure. If the toilet won't unclog repeat the process.
Pour a Pot of Water Into the Toilet
Since the operational concept of a toilet is based on gravity forcing the water through the cycle, try adding to the force.
Get a large pot from the kitchen and place it in the bathtub. Fill the pot with warm water and then dump the water. Give the toilet another flush and then dump the water from the pot into the bowl.
If your clog is really bad and the water is backing up and settling into the bowl, turn off the water supply to the toilet. Wait for the standing water to go down and then dump the water into the toilet bowl.
This technique may require multiple tries also.
A safe way to unclog a toilet is with the use of dish detergent. You do not need to spend a lot of money on the top brands, a bottle from the dollar store will work. Start with one cup of detergent and pour it directly into the toilet bowl.
Allow it to set for about a half-hour. The detergent will work as a lubricant in the toilet trap as it slides between the toilet walls and the blockage.
After 30 minutes flush the toilet. Whatever is causing the blockage should release and travel into the drainage.
Try the Metal Hanger Method
This hack works quickly and only requires a wire metal hanger. Some methods suggest cutting the hanger with pliers. This is not necessary if the hanger can be uncoiled at the neck.
After you uncoil the wire straighten it out but leave hook. You will need to close the hook a little to get it through the trap way. Once inserted push until you feel resistance.
If it is human waste, you will need to turn the hanger to break-up the matter. You can also try creating a hole so the water sitting in the toilet can flow through.
In cases where there is wipes or feminine products, the goal is to hook the item with the hanger and pull it out of the toilet. Flush the toilet to ensure the blockage is cleared.
Create Your Own Solvent with Baking Soda and Vinegar
Adhere to caution when pouring chemicals into your toilet. People believe that products like Drano and Liquid-Plumr are safe for clogs. They associate the toilet with other plumbing fixtures.
Drano has a product called Max Build-up Remover that is supposed to be safe for toilets. However, it is not intended for removing clogs. The truth is, chemicals are very harsh and dangerous.
The danger in pouring chemicals into the toilet is that it may not dissolve the clog. Now the product is sitting there and if you try to use a plunger it can splash onto the skin and into the eyes.
There is a safer method that you can do with household products. You will need baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water.
Start by dumping a cup of baking soda into the toilet. If you have turned off the water supply or the water level is low, pour in the pot of boiling water. Last, slowly pour in about two cups of vinegar.
Let the mixture sit for a couple of hours before to see if it dissolves the clog. You can also attempt to flush the toilet. If it still doesn't move, try using the plunger to push it through.
Clear the Trap with a Toilet Snake
Toilet snakes are manual devices you can run into the toilet trap way to either break-up the clog or pull it out. It is a long coil of metal with a wire device on the end that can hook the item causing the blockage. Also known as an Auger, it is used to run the line through the trap with snake-like motion.
When properly inserted into the trap you will be able to turn the handle at the other end to crank the auger into the drain. Rotate it around a few times and then reverse the motion as you pull it out.
Be careful, the augur can recoil or bend. This can cause visible cosmetic scratches in the toilet.
Once the clog is cleared, wash down the device and dry it off before storing it.
Look Under the Toilet
If you've tried the above methods and nothing works it may be time to call in a professional. This last trick is a DIY hack but you need to know how to properly remount the toilet.
It is possible the clog is not on the toilet but as moved into the entryway of the drainage system. You will need to remove the toilet. Before you do, go to the hardware store and purchase a new wax ring and caulking.
The additional supplies you will need are a wrench, pliers, bucket, towels and a plastic bag for the old wax ring.
Turn the water valve to shut off the water supply. Flush the toilet and then disconnect the hose from the bottom of the tank. Remove the two floor bolt covers from the sides of the tank and unscrew the bolts.
Once the toilet is lifted and placed to the side, you will see the old wax ring around the drain opening. Remove the wax ring and place it in the bag.
At this point, you can tilt the toilet to see if you can see the obstruction at the bottom of the trap way. This may require the help of another person. Once you confirm the trap way is clear, look to see if there is anything visible in the opening of the drain in the floor.
If you still do not see the blockage run the toilet snake into the drain as far as you can. At this point, you should be able to reach the clog and pull it out.
Once the drain is clear clean up the residuals, and install the new wax ring. Reinstall the toilet. Caulking around the bottom to help secure the toilet is optional.
What if the Clog is in the Drain Line?
You tried everything and the toilet won't unclog. It is officially time to bring in an expert. The professional plumber will be able to run a camera into the drain to locate the clog. Their snake is much longer and more powerful to clean-out the line.
If the plumber has to cup into the drainage line in the backyard, ask that they place a cap over the opening. Mark where the cap is located in the event you or the plumber has to run a snake into the line to clear a future blockage.
How to Prevent a Clog?
Preventing a clog isn't always possible but there are preventative plumbing measures that can help prevent one. Always flush the toilet twice after each use if you have low water pressure in your home. It also helps with the low flush toilets.
Don't put anything in the toilet other than human waste and toilet paper. Teach your children the toilet is not a toy and they should not place toys inside. Women in the home need to know feminine products, and disposable wipes in the toilet are a recipe for disaster.
Clean your toilet weekly and inspect the tank once or twice a year. If you find it is becoming difficult to get a good flush, check it out before you have a major clog.
Did you find these Tips Useful?
We hope these tips gave you a clear understanding of how to unclog a toilet. Despite getting a little dirty and putting in some muscle work, it can save you a few dollars.
If cleaning out clogs isn't your thing, Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, & Electrical is here to help. We're located in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Click here to request an appointment or reach us via live chat.