How to unclog a toilet

Date:28 October 2016 Tags:, , , ,

These tips to unclog a toilet will get the water flowing.

By Timothy Dahl

A clogged toilet is a terrible thing and, unfortunately, something you’re likely to encounter sooner or later. That’s why everyone should learn the basic steps to unclog a toilet, and avoid a nasty overflow situation.

Shut off the Water

As you watch the water rise in a clogged toilet, panic can set in. But some quick thinking can help avoid a huge mess. Quickly remove the top of the toilet and push the flapper down. This will prevent water from flowing back into the toilet bowl. The water in the tank is clean so don’t hesitate putting your hand in.

Alternatively, if your toilet has an internal mechanism and no flapper is accessible, then look for the water shut off valve which is located at the base of the water hose where it connects to the water line. Turn this valve clockwise to close and the water should shut off.

If you’ve reached the point of no return and you can’t shut off the water, grab a few towels and place them around the base of the toilet. This will at least make cleanup easier and prevent dirty water from running across the floors.

What’s Clogging It

Many times it’s obvious what’s clogging a toilet, but occasionally (especially if you have small children) you’ll encounter a toilet that looks clear but isn’t flushing. This could indicate a blockage from a small hard object such as a toy. A plunger could possibly push it in further, so in this case it’s best to reach into the toilet with your hand and see if you can locate and remove the blockage. In other cases, it’s obviously not.

Use the Right Plunger

If the blockage is of the softer variety, you’ll need to break out the plunger. Not just any plunger, but a toilet plunger as opposed to a sink plunger. A toilet plunger will have a narrow flange at the bottom that will create a suction in the toilet drain. A sink plunger has a flat bottom which will not make a good seal inside a curved toilet.

The head of the plunger should be submersed in water to create a proper seal. Add more water to the toilet bowl if needed to get this seal. Once the plunger is in place, give it a few small quick pushes down, then a slow pull back up, but not out of the water. This should remove your clog and the water should drain. If this works, turn your water back on and flush the toilet to confirm it is no longer clogged. Repeat this process a couple more times if there is still a blockage.

The Last Resort

If a plunger fails to remove a clog, then you can use a toilet auger to remove or break up the clog. An auger consists of a coiled up metal rod that can be inserted into a drain or toilet and then rotated to clear a blockage.

The auger won’t need to travel very far into your toilet to find the blockage. If it easily passes through the toilet and into the main line, then it’s time to call a plumber. A plumber will have a more powerful auger that will reach further, and they will be able to provide a professional opinion as to why the toilet is clogged.

Prevent Clogs

To prevent toilet clogs, be mindful of how much toilet paper you use, and do not discard items such as cotton swabs or feminine products into the toilet. It’s also a good idea to remind your little ones to not put anything into the toilet that doesn’t belong there.


This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.

Image credit: Freepik

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