The definitive guide to fixing a clogged toilet

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There are few things more terrifying than an overflowing toilet. It can ruin your floor, ruin your toilet, and ruin your day. Occasionally, something specific gets in the pipes, but often a clogged toilet is simply the result of toilet paper — and other normal toilet fare — building up over time.

The first step is to flush the toilet once. The more you flush, the more water you’ll add to the tank, much of which will end up on the floor because it has nowhere to go. If you notice the water isn’t going down, step away from the handle. The next step is to turn off the water to the toilet. There should be a nozzle on the hose attached to the wall. Turn that until it clicks off. Once you’ve turned the water off, you can flush it as often as you want if you feel the need to do so. Grab a pair of rubber gloves and put newspaper or old towels around the base of the toilet to catch any overflow.

Tools for fixing the issue

Plunger

Plunger types

If you have a plunger, the process is easier, but we understand that not everyone owns a basic plunger. Even if you do happen to own one, having a plunger doesn’t mean you have the correct plunger. If you have one that is completely flat at the bottom, it’s meant to be used for sinks. Toilet plungers have an extra part at the bottom that protrudes past the bottom. That said, follow the instructions below if you have the correct plunger.

Step 1 — Run the plunger under hot water to soften it up so it creates a better seal.

Step 2 — Place the plunger so it covers the entire mouth of the hole at the bottom of your toilet. If you can’t get it to make a seal, wrap an old towel around the bottom of the plunger, but make sure it doesn’t go down the hole and make the block worse.

Step 3 — Pump the plunger a few times without breaking the seal. Make sure the water is still a few inches above the plunger.

Step 4 — Pull the plunger up quickly and break the seal. If the water goes down the drain, you’ve cleared the clog. If not, continue to plunge. It might take a few tries depending on how stubborn the clog is.

Plumbing snake

Sometimes, a plunger just isn’t enough. In these cases, a serious tool like a plumbing snake might do the trick. If you have a big problem and don’t want to pay for a plumber, head to a hardware store and pick one up. Then, follow the steps below.

Step 1 — Uncoil the the wire end of the snake and lower the end into the drain.

Step 2 — Keep extending it until you hit the clog.

Step 3 — Twist and move the snake until the water starts to drain.

These days, there are a few different kinds of snakes available. The cheapest one will get the job done, but it might scratch your toilet bowl. Generally, the higher the quality, the safer it’ll be for your toilet bowl.

Vacuum

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Viacheslav Iakobchuk/123RF
Viacheslav Iakobchuk/123RF

Make sure you have a wet-dry vacuum, which you can pick up on Amazon for around $30. You can easily ruin a regular vacuum if it can’t handle water. If you don’t have a wet-dry vacuum, you can usually find one for rent at a hardware or grocery store. Once you’ve obtained on, follow the steps below.

Step 1 — Wrap an old towel around the hose so you can create a seal in the drain.

Step 2 — Stick it in the the drain and suck out the water and hopefully the clog.

You’ll know when you get the clog out when any water left in the bowl goes down the drain or you feel something pass through the hose. You may have to try a few times.

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