Q: What’s the best way to unclog a toilet? Are there ways to prevent my toilet from clogging up in the first place?
Of all the clogs out there, the toilet clog is probably the most unpleasant (for obvious reasons). And if you don’t act quickly, toilet water could begin to overflow (yuck). Here, we’ll discuss a few simple ways to unclog your toilet and avert disaster.
Turn off the water.
If your toilet is on the verge of overflowing (or if it has already begun to overflow), the first thing you’ll want to do is turn off the water. This will prevent any more water from entering your toilet and making the problem go from bad to worse. Find the toilet shut-off valve located behind the toilet near the floor and turn it clockwise.
Grab the right kind of plunger.
Funnel-cup plungers are the best plungers to unclog a toilet. They’re the plungers with a flange, or added piece, extending off the bottom of the rubber cup. Plungers that do not have this extra piece are typically designed for the sink, not the toilet.
Place your plunger over the toilet hole, and push it down and up vigorously about 12 times. Repeat as necessary. There should be enough water in the toilet to cover the bottom of the plunger. If there isn’t, you can fill a bucket with water from the sink and pour this extra water into the toilet. The upward pull of the plunger is just as important as the downward push, so remember to put equal effort into both. Just be careful of splash-back.
Try a toilet auger.
If you’re unable to remove the clog using a plunger, it’s time to take it to the next level. Try removing the clog with a toilet auger. You can buy this tool at just about any hardware store. Just make sure the portion of the auger you’re inserting into the toilet has rubber over it—if the metal from the auger is exposed, it can scrape against the porcelain in your toilet and damage it.
Insert the corkscrew end of the auger into the toilet hole; then turn the handle of the auger clockwise. The idea is that as you’re feeding the auger into the hole, you’ll push and dislodge the obstruction. Once you feel that you’ve been able to unclog the toilet, pull the auger out, give the toilet a few additional plunges to clear any remaining blockage, then flush. If your toilet flushes normally, you’re good!
When to call a plumber.
If you notice that water is backing up in the other drains in your home when you flush the toilet, the problem is probably located in the main line, in which case you’ll need a plumber. Also, if a plunger and an auger simply won’t do the trick, you’ll need to call a professional.
Toilet clog prevention.
To avoid having to deal with a clogged toilet in the first place, we do have a few general tips:
- Never flush heavy paper products down the drain (this includes paper towels and tissues). Excess paper can clog the toilet and/or the whole sewer system. Make sure that any product you flush is specifically designed to disintegrate in water and is safe for plumbing systems and septic tanks.
- Take it easy on the toilet paper. Flushing large amounts can certainly lead to clogs.
- Teach kids what shouldn’t go down the toilet. After all, it can be tempting to watch an action figure go down a water slide! Toys are a common cause for clogs, so make sure kids keep them out of the toilet.