Learning how to unblock a toilet is a helpful life skill that can save you in a pinch. Whether it is your toilet at home, at work, or a friend’s house, letting someone else deal with your backed up waste is considered embarrassing. It becomes more about your poop and less about the toilet. Not all toilet clogs are not due to the density or size of your waste. There might be an existing blockage like toilet paper, sanitary pads, tampons, and the occasional whatever-my-child-tried-to-flush. Never fear! There is more than one way to unblock a toilet. Before we go into the steps of how to unblock the toilet, let us consider what happens when they are left alone.
Will a toilet eventually unclog itself?
Toilet blockages are a case to case basis. If you are living alone or with other adults and the likelihood of unexpected items in the drain is low, you can try to wait it out. Gravity plays a significant role when it comes to the drainage. There is a chance that the toilet will unclog itself with enough time. If you notice that it is decreasing slowly and you have another toilet in the home you can leave it overnight and reassess the next day. Sometimes the blockages fix themselves.
How to Unblock Your Toilet (DIY)
A proactive approach is fixing the blockage yourself. There are different levels of effort, depending on the severity of the blockage and the materials you have on hand. Before trying any of these methods, prep yourself and your bathroom for possible messes. There might be splashes on your bathroom floor and your clothes. Equip yourself with old clothes that you don’t often wear and can easily toss into the wash after you unblock your toilet. Wear a pair of rubber gloves meant for toilet cleaning. If you do not have a couple of rubber gloves, find the next best thing you have on hand from latex gloves to plastic bags. To streamline your bathroom cleaning process, cover the floor near the toilet bowl with newspaper, scrap paper, towels, or old clothes to absorb any excess water.
Tip: If your toilet is overflowing, do not attempt to flush the toilet again. Take the lid off the tank and press down on the toilet flapper, the flapper is what prevents the water from entering the toilet bowl. When it does not stay down, look for an object to weigh it down. By stopping the additional water, you can calmly decide the next step to take.
No-Plunger or Auger Methods
A blocked toilet can happen any time, and if you find yourself in a new place without any of the proper tools, there are things you can try to help the blockage along. These methods take up more time compared to unblocking a toilet with tools. There is no instant gratification; patience is required.
Dish Soap and Hot Water
Heat some water, bring it up to a boil and let it cool or mix in a little cold water. Trying to find the right temperature that can help break down the blockage, but not too much because it could damage the porcelain toilet bowl. You can opt to add the hot water first and see how the blockage is moving then add a bit of dish soap. Or mix the dish soap with the hot water and pour the mixture down the toilet bowl. The dish soap helps loosen the blockage and provides a nice slip to help things along.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Another DIY drain cleaner is using baking soda and vinegar. The general idea is to use the chemical reaction to help breakdown waste. It will fizz and bubble a lot, but don’t be afraid. It is a familiar and safe cleaning agent that has been in countless school science projects.
There are different ways you can go about it. You can create the mixture first in a separate container, or pour the baking soda first and slowly add the vinegar. The ratio of baking soda to vinegar varies as well. You eyeball the amount, but if you want to go by the numbers a 1:1 or 1:2 parts baking soda to vinegar should do the trick. You can also add a bit of hot water along with your DIY drain cleaner. There is no fixed time, but leave it for a couple of hours. If you can manage to wait overnight, do so. Checkback in the morning with a test flush and see if it unblocked the toilet.
If you are willing to sacrifice a wire coat hanger, a mop, or a toilet brush–you can create an improvised toilet plunger or auger. For the mop or toilet brush, cover the end with a plastic bag and make sure it is secure. Tie it off with a rubber band or a duct tape. Use it the same way you would with a plunger, push it down with short thrusts then lift.
For the wire coat hanger, you can create an auger/ toilet snake. Break the coat hanger and try to come up with a long thin strand with a hook on end. Run it through the drain and try to feel for the blockage. You can opt to pull the blockage out or break it down. To break the blockage, twist the wire, use the hook to break solid pieces that need help. If the obstruction is not human waste, it’s best to pull it out and collect it. There is no good in pushing the blockage further down the drain and have a similar problem at a later date. Even without the right tools, you never have to wonder about how to unblock your toilet.
For conventional methods, the plunger is the first thing that comes to mind! It is best to invest in a good quality plugger in the shape of a ball or with a rubber flange. Tap your plunger on the floor, if it is stiff pour hot water to soften up the rubber. A flexible plunger is easier to use and provides better results. Give deep and shallow pushes, then release. Repeat until you have unblocked the toilet.
Auger/ Toilet Snake
An auger, not an improvised coat hanger, is easier to use. Before you use it, make sure the plastic/ rubber is intact, if the metal is exposed, it could scratch your toilet bowl. You can cover it with duct tape when you are in a pinch. Run it through the drain and twist the handle to break down the blockage.
When do you call a plumber?
Three cases could push you to call a plumber. The first is that you have tried all available DIY methods. If it cannot be taken care of by the auger/ toilet snake, the block is probably too far gone. Your toilet might need to be taken apart, and a professional is best suited for the job.
The second is even before you tried DIY methods; you noticed the water is backing up through other drains in the house. If your initial attempt to flush affects your sink and shower, then stop the overflow and contact a registered plumber in your area. Your toilet affects other drains is a sign that there is a problem with the main lines.
The last case is when you don’t want to or have the time to address the issue yourself. While getting a plumber can be expensive, they can take care of the range of problems that come with it. Never stare at a blocked toilet in fear! Work the problem slowly but surely.