How to Unblock a Toilet 

Close-up of a white toilet bowl with a plunger in it

A blocked toilet is a common household problem that can cause major inconvenience. It’s never a pleasant situation, and it can feel a little awkward asking for help to sort it out. Thankfully, by following this step-by-step guide to unblocking your toilet, you can avoid any possible awkwardness by doing it yourself.

So, prepare to tackle this unpleasant but necessary task and get your toilet back in working order in no time!

Shut Off the Toilet Water Supply

First and foremost, stop the flow of water to the toilet to minimise the chance of flooding. You can do this by reaching the toilet ‘flapper’ in the cistern tank and shutting it down. If locating the flapper proves challenging, it’s essentially a drain stopper with a chain connected to it. You can put on gloves to access it, but there’s no need to worry as the water should be clean. 

In the event, you are unable to locate the toilet flapper, shut off the water supply to the property through your stopcock. However, ensure everyone is informed that there will be no access to water until the toilet is unblocked.

How to unblock a toilet with a plunger 

To unblock your toilet using a plunger, you will need the following items:

  • A toilet plunger – it is larger than the sink plunger
  • Latex gloves that reach your elbows, if possible
  • Towels or newspapers to soak up any spilled water
  • A face mask to avoid any foul smells – ensure proper ventilation by opening a window or using a fan

1. Get ready

Before you start put on your mask and latex gloves. Then, lay down newspapers or old towels around your toilet to soak up any possible water leaks that might occur. To let in fresh air open a nearby window.

2. Inspect the cistern tank

It’s essential to conduct an examination to identify a possible obstruction. Begin by lifting off the cover of your toilet cistern (the component situated behind your toilet) to see if there is any water inside. If the cistern is filled with water, it’s reasonable to assume that the blockage is situated deep within the sewer pipe. In such a case, the next step would be to use a plunger. If you can’t remove the clog with a plunger, you may need to contact a professional plumber for an inspection.

However, if the cistern is empty, it means that the obstruction is located between the sewer pipe and the toilet itself. In this case, alternative approaches should be considered if the plunger proves ineffective.

3. Position the plunger properly

The first step is to run the plunger under hot water in order to soften the rubber and improve its effectiveness. Position the rubber cup of the plunger in the water, ensuring that the flange completely covers the entire drain hole. For optimal sealing and suction against the toilet drain, tilt the plunger at an angle.

4. Apply pressure

Once the plunger is correctly placed, grip the handle tightly with both hands and slowly sink it into the water. To eliminate any trapped air in the cup, start with consistent and gentle plunges. Press down hard and pull up forcefully when the air is released to increase your plunge intensity. This way, you will create a strong water current, which will remove the blockage.

After a couple of plunging tries, check if the clog has been removed. Try flushing the toilet and observe the water flow. If it drains smoothly and doesn’t back up, you’ve effectively unblocked the toilet! However, if the water stays high or drains at a slow pace, it suggests the clog hasn’t been fully removed, so you should continue with the plunging.

Certain clogs may require additional work to remove them. Don’t fret if it doesn’t clear up immediately – continue plunging, alternating between soft and strong movements until the blockage is completely removed and the toilet flushes without any issues.

How to unblock a toilet without a plunger 

Here are some alternative methods you can use to unblock your toilet without a plunger. However, when it comes to chemical solutions, it’s best to stick to just one of the recommendations, as combining various chemicals can pose a risk. Additionally, make sure to wash your hands or wear rubber gloves.

How to unblock a toilet with hot water

An easy method to unblock a partially clogged toilet is with hot water. The force of the water can help remove blockages, and the heat can break down any grease or fat that’s also there.

  1. Fill an electric kettle or a pot on the stove and heat up the water until it starts boiling. The water needs to be hot enough, similar to the temperature of a cup of tea, but not scorching.
  2. From waist height, carefully pour the hot water into the toilet bowl. The aim is to create enough pressure to help dislodge and move the blockage. After pouring in the water, give it a few minutes to work – due to the heat tough blockages will soften making them easier to dislodge.
  3. Check if the blockage has been cleared by flushing the toilet after allowing the warm water to act. Successfully unclogging the toilet with hot water should result in smooth water drainage. However, sometimes, a single cycle of hot water might not fully remove the obstruction. So, if the water still doesn’t drain properly after the first try, continue until the blockage is cleared.

While hot water can be effective for unclogging toilets, it’s important to be cautious. As the porcelain in the toilet bowl could be damaged, avoid pouring boiling water directly into it. Always use water that’s warm enough to be comfortably touched without being too hot.

Unblocking a toilet with washing-up liquid

An effective way to clear a toilet blockage without a plunger is to employ dishwashing liquid. This method is particularly useful for partial clogs or if the blockage comes from organic waste or grease. 

  1. Pour around half to one cup of dishwashing liquid into the toilet – dish soap aids in breaking down oil and clearing blockages. 
  2. Then, pour a bucket of hot water.
  3. Leave the mixture of soap and hot water to sit in the toilet for a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes so the soap has sufficient time to effectively break down the blockage.
  4. Flush the toilet – check if the blockage has been removed and the water flows properly. If needed, repeat the process until the clog is removed.

Unblocking toilet with baking soda and vinegar

  1. One easy method to dissolve toilet blockages includes 2 common household products – vinegar and baking soda. When combined, they trigger a chemical reaction that could help dissolve and eliminate the clog in your toilet.
  2. Begin by pouring 1 cup of baking soda across the toilet bowl. After that, add equal amounts of vinegar – it will interact with the baking soda in the toilet and create foam and bubbles. 
  3. Allow the mixture to sit in the bowl for around 30 minutes; this gives it enough time to do its job and clear the clog.
  4. Flush the toilet to see if the blockage has been removed. If it’s not, you might consider repeating the process. This method is also effective for clearing clogs in sinks.

Unblock a toilet with a drain auger ( plumbing snake )

A drain auger or a plumbing snake, is a tool that is inserted into the toilet to remove obstructions in the drain pipe. This plumbing unblocking tool can potentially break through the blockage, allowing water to flow through, pull it out with its tip, or even completely remove the obstruction.

  1. Insert the drain auger into the toilet until it reaches the obstruction causing the blockage.
  2. Rotate the handle clockwise and apply pressure to the toilet auger to ensure that it is firmly in contact with the obstruction. This action may help break the blockage into smaller fragments, making it easier to flush away. 
  3. Keep turning the plumbing snake’s handle and pushing it deeper into the drain until you notice the resistance lessening. 
  4. The toilet auger might penetrate the obstruction, enabling it to be pulled out of the drain pipe through the toilet bowl.
  5. After removing the obstruction(s), flush the toilet to ensure that the system functions properly again. Items that are lodged in the drain pipe might necessitate the removal of the toilet bowl to access them properly.

Unclog a toilet with a wet-dry vacuum cleaner 

You can try to remove a tough clog in the toilet with the help of a wet-dry vacuum cleaner. Start by using the vacuum to remove the water from the toilet bowl and get rid of it. When the bowl is empty, insert the vacuum hose into the toilet’s U-bend. After that, wrap a towel around the vacuum tube at the bottom of the toilet bowl to form a seal. By doing this, the vacuum should have sufficient suction power and manage to clear out the clog.

Use a toilet brush to unblock a toilet 

Wrap the tip of your toilet brush in a plastic bag and secure it with a stretchy band or sellotape to form a tight seal. Use the toilet brush like a plunger, applying strong, forceful pushes until the clog is cleared. However, the toilet brush won’t work as well as a standard plunger, so you might need to plunge for a while before making any progress. Once you’re done, be sure to take off the bag and throw it away. 

Why does a toilet get blocked

  • Excessive toilet flushing – In some cases, we are too quick to press the flush button. Using an excessive amount of toilet paper or flushing inappropriate items (such as wipes or sanitary products) can result in a blockage.
  • Accumulation of waste and debris – debris and grease can gradually accumulate in the pipes, causing blockages and reducing the flow of water.
  • Mineral deposits from hard water – these deposits can negatively impact your toilet pipes by impeding water flow and increasing the likelihood of blockages.
  • Issues with plumbing design – sometimes, the problem lies with the plumbing itself, rather than your actions. Blockages are more likely to occur in older or improperly installed pipelines.
  • Low water pressure – Low water pressure can also contribute to blockages. When waste is not effectively pushed down the pipes due to a weak flushing mechanism in the toilet, blockages may occur.
  • Presence of foreign objects – accidentally flushing items like jewellery or toys that should not be in the toilet can cause blockages.
  • Damaged main sewer lines – If the main sewer line is punctured or compressed, it can obstructed the outlet to the septic tank or municipal sewer system, causing toilets and other plumbing fixtures to drain slowly or not at all. Moreover, dirt, rocks and other debris can enter through the punctures, worsening the drainage problems.
  • Blockage in the P-trap – Excessive debris forced through the toilet bowl often results in blockages in the S – or P-trap section. Partial obstructions typically escalate into complete clogs, resulting in the toilet bowl overflowing and wastewater spilling onto the bathroom floor.
  • Obstructed plumbing ventsClogged drain vent pipes can also affect the flushing power of the toilet. Vent pipes, which extend through the roof, stabilise pressure within the drain system. They facilitate the entry of clean air from outside, creating suction and pressure that enhance toilet flushing power.
  • Problems with low-flow toilets – These toilets are designed to conserve water, but if they do not have sufficient flushing power, waste may not be adequately cleared, leading to blockages. This issue is particularly noticeable in older models that are less efficient compared to newer designs. If a toilet repeatedly clogs, it may be worth considering an upgrade.

Common signs of a blocked toilet

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take immediate action so you can prevent further plumbing issues. It’s recommended to tackle a clogged toilet right away, as any delay can lead to more significant problems down the line.

  • Slow drainage – if the toilet bowl takes a long time to drain after flushing, it could be a sign of a blockage in the drainage pipe.
  • Gurgling noises – Strange sounds like gurgling or bubbling coming from the toilet while flushing are a sign of trapped air around an obstruction which causes the issue.
  • High water level – If the water in the toilet bowl rises above its normal level after flushing, it’s likely there’s an obstruction. This could mean the toilet is ready to host an aquatic party.
  • Bad smells – A clogged toilet can quickly become a source of unpleasant odours. Even after cleaning, if the bathroom smells bad, it might be a sign of an impending blockage.
  • Backflow – A clogged toilet can trigger a chain of problems affecting other fixtures in the home. If the bathroom sink or shower drains slowly after flushing, it could indicate a more severe blockage in the plumbing system.
  • Observable obstruction – In some cases, the problem is so clear that it’s hard to miss. Look down the toilet drain for any visible blockages like excessive tissue paper or unknown items.

If you’re struggling to identify the cause of the blockage, it’s best to call a plumber to address the situation and help you resolve the problem.

How to avoid toilet clogs

Use less toilet paper

In most cases, when a toilet gets clogged, it is because of an excessive amount of toilet paper being flushed at once. Although toilet paper is designed to break down, it is intended to do so in the sewer, not in your toilet. It takes time for it to fully dissolve, so the excess paper hinders the proper flushing of your toilet. 

To avoid this problem, try to conserve paper and use only the necessary amount. However, if you find yourself needing a substantial amount of paper, try flushing multiple times throughout the process rather than just once at the end to prevent overwhelming the toilet.

Close the toilet lid

Sometimes, a blockage may occur due to objects accidentally falling into the toilet without your knowledge. It could be an item that slipped off the sink and went down the toilet drain or perhaps a toy that was dropped by one of your children. Such foreign objects have the potential to lead to significant clogs and plumbing emergencies. Therefore, to prevent accidental items from entering your toilet, it is best to always keep the lid closed when it is not being used.

Be careful what you flush down the toilet

Your toilet is specifically designed for 3 things: water, human waste and toilet paper, so it’s important to be mindful of what you flush. Items such as cotton balls, Q-tips, tampons, and even “flushable” baby wipes should be disposed of in the trash to prevent potential plumbing issues.

Clean the toilet regularly

Regular toilet cleaning and maintenance are essential to prevent blockages. Therefore, to ensure optimal flushing power and reduce the risk of clogs, make sure to clean under the rim of the toilet bowl where the small water inlet holes are located. 

Over time, these holes can become blocked. It is also recommended to occasionally clean the inside of the toilet cistern (tank) if it is easily accessible. Algae build-up can lead to toilet clogging issues, hindering the water flow or causing problems with the mechanism. To avoid such problems, it is advisable to empty the toilet tank and thoroughly clean it at least once a year.

Maintain a limescale-free toilet

Limescale is a common culprit behind the unattractive brown stains in toilet bowls and can also lead to clogs by obstructing the free movement of substances through the U-bend. Every type of water, particularly hard water, contains minerals like calcium, iron, lime, magnesium, etc., that tend to accumulate on the inner surfaces of pipes and toilet bowls. Limescale develops as water evaporates, leaving these minerals behind. Over time, these deposits accumulate, attracting dirt and bacteria, gradually forming layer upon layer.

Aside from being unsightly and unhygienic, limescale build-up can also narrow pipes and cause potential blockages. The severity of this issue depends on the hardness of the water in your area. Even in regions with relatively soft water, descaling your toilet is advisable whereas in areas with hard water, it is crucial. 

On-time intervention

Early intervention is crucial when it comes to dealing with toilet blockages. Rather than being hesitant, it is important to act promptly if something falls into the toilet. Yes, it may seem unpleasant, but a few moments of discomfort can prevent a lot of trouble. When an item like a hairbrush or toothpaste tube disappears into the U-bend, retrieving it becomes a challenging task, and you will need a professional drain unblocker.

To avoid such situations, it is advisable to always keep a plunger near your toilet. By doing so, you can address potential blockages as soon as you suspect them or when you know something has gone down the drain. A few pumps with the plunger will likely resolve any issues and restore proper drainage.

Also, when faced with a problem, resist the urge to flush the toilet repeatedly. It may be tempting to try again, especially when the water level starts rising instead of going down. However, this is the worst thing you can do. It is best to wait until the water level subsides before attempting to flush again. Ideally, using a plunger right away to directly address the problem is the most effective approach.

Be mindful of the tree roots.

If there is a large tree planted in your yard or nearby, the problem may not be related to what you flush down the toilet. The culprit for your clogged toilet could be the roots of your tree. As roots can grow into the pipes, they can cause blockages and obstruct the flushing. Consult a plumber to determine if this is the root of the issue. If confirmed, use a tree root killer – apply it according to the instructions on the package, and pour it down your drains periodically to control the situation.

Conclusion

Maintaining a clog-free toilet is essential for a smoothly running household. By following the methods outlined in this guide, you can efficiently tackle and prevent blockages, whether you have a plunger at hand or not. From the effective use of plungers to innovative tips on how to unblock a badly blocked toilet without a plunger like hot water and household items, there’s a solution for every situation. 

However, remember, regular maintenance and mindful usage are key to avoiding inconvenient and messy toilet clogs. In the event of a severe blockage or persistent issues, don’t hesitate to call a professional plumber. Stay proactive and enjoy hassle-free plumbing with these practical tips!

 

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