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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 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.


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.

Chemicals you can try

Not everyone has plungers or snakes, but there are other ways to loosen a clog using everyday household items. These methods, while usually cheaper, will require you to wait for the chemicals to do their jobs. This means that you shouldn’t expect an immediate fix.

Dish soap and hot water

The materials for this method are the easiest to gather, as you likely have some dish soap in your kitchen already.

Step 1 — Pour about a teaspoon of dish soap into the bowl. It doesn’t take much, just enough to loosen the clog. Let that sit for about 10 minutes to try to loosen the dirt.

Step 2 — Fill a pan with dependable handles with water and put it on the stove to boil while the soap does its thing.

Step 3 — Before the water comes to a complete boil, take it off the stove. Using boiling water could crack the toilet bowl, so grabbing it right before it starts to bubble will ensure a crack-free transference.

Step 4 — Carefully take the pot from the stove and pour the hot water into the toilet bowl from about waist height. The force of the water should be enough to push the clog through.

Step 5 — If the water doesn’t drain, let the soap and warm water soak in the bowl.

Depending on the clog, this process can take a awhile. You may need to add more soap and water, but if the water isn’t draining, you might end up causing the bowl to overflow.

Baking soda and vinegar

Lemon, Baking Soda, and Vinegar

Finally, a reason to use what you learned while making a volcano in seventh grade. You probably won’t get an award for the chemical reaction housed in your toilet bowl, but it will make it usable again.

Step 1 — Scoop some water out of the bowl, ensuring the baking soda doesn’t get completely soaked.

Step 2 — Pour at least half a box of baking soda into the bowl.

Step 3 — Slowly pour a bottle of white vinegar on top of the baking soda. It’s going to fizzle a lot, so do it slowly to ensure you don’t splash yourself.

Step 4 — Let it sit, bubble, and eat away at the clog for about 30 minutes while you bring a pan full of water close to a boil.

Step 5 — Slowly pour the hot water into the drain. If the water drains, you’ve killed the clog. If it does drain but it’s still slow, repeat the process until it finally flushes.

Heavy duty chemicals

Joseph Belanger/123RF
Joseph Belanger/123RF

This method is for the people who don’t want to mess around with homemade remedies and go straight to the good stuff. Head to any store and purchase some drain cleaner. Make sure it’s something that you can safely use on ceramic, however, as some chemicals can eat away at your toilet.

Step 1 — Go to a grocery or hardware store and buy a bottle of drain cleaner.

Step 2 — Follow the instructions on the back of the bottle, which usually amounts to you pouring the bottle down the drain and letting the poison do its job.

Step 3 — After some time has passed, check to see if the water will go down. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

If you’ve tried all of these methods and still can’t clear the bowl, you may have to bite the bullet and call a plumber to remove the toilet from the wall. Doing so will allow you to figure out if the problem is buried deep within the pipes.

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