This might just be me complaining, but I feel as though, in my house, I’m always the one that gets stuck unclogging the toilet. I know my husband unclogs his fair share, too, but it’s such a chore that whenever I have to deal with it, I find myself groaning in aggravation.
Added to this frustration is the fact that we only have low-flow toilets in our house which, though better for the environment, clog with even the smallest amount of toilet paper!
I am proud to say, though, that we have never called a plunger. Instead, we have our own set of solutions that we rely on to get tough clogs out of the toilet.
Here are some ways you can unclog a toilet – without having to shell out hundreds to a plumber.
1. The “Hold and Flush” Technique
This is one of the simplest ways to unclog a toilet, and if you’ve never tried it before, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you decided to read this article!
First, know that clogs can be caused by weak flushes (which is often the case in my household). If you only turned the knob halfway, you might not have gotten rid of all the waste. Lots of it could still be trapped down in the toilet trap.
If the water is rising higher than you expected, turn the knob completely the next time you flush. When you apply pressure, the flapper should stay open, and the full power of the water might be all you need to get things moving once more.
2. Test the Drainage
Before you try to manually or chemically remove a clog, remove the tank lid and lift the flap valve.
Allow a cup or two of water into the bowl, and see if the water goes down. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how big and what kind of a clog you are dealing with.
3. Try a Pail of Hot Water
Often, a pail of hot water is all you need to dissolve a clog. Fill a bucket with water and raise your bucket as high as you can above the toilet bowl. Flush with minimal speed, adding the water.
The slow speed should provide enough pressure to dispel the mass. If you find that the bowl is just filling up with water instead, you might want to stop midway and try other methods instead so you don’t overflow the toilet onto your bathroom floor!
4. Chemical Clog Removers
I really recommend against using chemicals at all costs, but sometimes, nothing else will do.
A few words of caution if you decide to use chemicals, though. First, they often work, but they take some time to take effect. Realize that if they don’t work, you run the risk of getting corrosive water all over your hands.
If you try chemicals and find that they didn’t work as well as you had planned, run as much water into the toilet as you can, and let it drain overnight. When you plunge, wear safety goggles and gloves so you don’t get the corrosive chemicals on your body or in your eyes.
Chemicals can be harmful to your pipes and to the environment, so make sure you do your research before using one. Only use those designed for toilets, and please, only as a last resort!
5. Consider Using a Toilet Auger (aka, a Plumbing Snake)
A toilet auger, also known as a toilet snake, is a semi-rigid cable encased in tubing. It’s bent at one end so you can snake it through the toilet trap to get rid of any blockages. Usually, these tools are specially designed to remove obstructions without scratching the trap.
These tools work best if you have some sort of unnatural obstruction in your toilet, like a toy or a diaper.
To use one, you will want to start by taking the end of your auger, and putting it at the bottom opening of the bowl, with the tip completely withdrawn.
Sometimes, the auger will have a rubber sleeve to protect the porcelain. The tip should face upward and backward, which is the direction that the trap faces.
Rotate your auger in a clockwise fashion, pushing the rod deeper into the trap. Then, you can work it back and forth. Keep the rubber sleeve pressed into the toilet bowl – if there is any resistance, you may have caught the clog. Rotate in a counterclockwise fashion and withdraw the cable along the clog. You should be able to pull the item out now.
6. Try a Wire Hanger
Always try an actual toilet auger before resorting to a clothes hanger, as these aren’t designed for use in your toilet (obviously) and can scratch and damage some internal components if you aren’t careful.
This old-school technique can still work, though. To do this, you’ll need to find a wire hanger and cover up the wire portion with tape.
Push the hanger into the hole, shake it around for a moment, then flush. This works best on natural clogs, like waste and toilet paper, rather than actual obstructions.
7. Use a Plunger
Nine times out of ten, you can remove most minor toilet clogs with the use of a plunger. Fortunately, plungers are inexpensive and also super simple to operate. You’ll just need a few minutes to clear this kind of clog.
Any kind of flanged plunger should fit into the toilet trump’s mouth, and create a tight seal. This tight seal will create pressure that will loosen the clog, and help dispel it down the drain.
A plunger is the easiest tool you can use to remove a natural clog, but you will want to avoid using it on a toilet that has been clogged by a foreign object, like a toy, diaper, or washcloth. This can push the item deeper into the drainpipe which will worsen your problem.
If you are sure it is a natural clog that you are dealing with, start by putting a few towels around the base of the toilet. This will soak up any extra liquid that is dispelled when you begin plunging.
Remove any objects around the toilet that you don’t want to get wet, as the wastewater can splash – and that’s quite disgusting.
If you just happened to flush and noticed the toilet was clogged, wait for fifteen or twenty minutes to let some of the water settle out of the toilet bowl. It will be easier to plunge if you don’t have all that extra water splashing around, and also far less disgusting!
That said, you do need some water in the toilet bowl to make sure the plunger is completely submerged. Fold the skirt of the plunger from the inside out, which will create a tight seal. Pump the bowl opening vigorously with the plunger, doing so at least six times. Take a rest, then pump again. You may need to do this a dozen or so times.
If, after doing this, you have forced plenty of water through the bowl and still can’t get a good suction, you can control the amount of water that is in the bowl by lifting the toilet flush valve from inside the tank. Then, try to plunge it again.
If you think the clog may have cleared, give it a flush, but be ready to close the valve with your hand in case water spills over.
Once your clog cleats, you’re going to want to clean the inside of the bowl – it will look quite grimy afterward!
8. Use a Wet Vac
You can sometimes use a wet or dry vac to clear a clog. To do this, fix the nozzle inside the hole of the toilet bowl.
Make sure it’s tightly secured to the vacuum cleaner, though, so you don’t leak water all over the floor. Then, you can suck out the clog, or at least portions of it, so that the test is easier to flush.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
This “hack” is one of my favorites for clearing toilet clogs. It also freshens up the toilet a bit so you won’t have quite as much cleaning to do when the clog clears.
Here’s how it works – you’ll add a mixture of two cups of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda to the clogged toilet bowl. It should dissolve the clog as long as you let it sit in the toilet for an hour or two.
10. Give an Enzyme Waste Removal Product a Try
Another option you can try is an enzyme waste removal. These are used in septic systems to break down waste and can be purchased at most home improvement stores. These are favorable to chemicals because they don’t damage your pipes or the environment.
If your clog is not organic, though, it won’t work, so don’t try to use it on toys or anything like that. To use this method, you’ll pour the recommended amount of enzyme into the toilet bowl. You may have to wait overnight, but the clog should clear and allow the toilet to drain.
11. A Plastic Bottle
Using a plastic bottle is another easy way to get rid of clogs. You will first want to turn off the water supply to your toilet, and be sure to wear gloves, as your hands might get dirty.
Use a spare bowl to remove some extra water from the toilet. Then, pour some warm water into a plastic bottle, and cover it with your thumb.
Gently guide the bottle into the toilet bowl,remove your thumb, and press the bottle, hard. This will force the water out and dispel the clog.
12. Try a Squirt Gun Drainer
Please, if you try this, don’t give the squirt gun back to your kids!
If you want to drain all the water out of your toilet bowl to get rid of a clog, you can use a regular squirt gun. That way, you don’t have to reach in by hand with a bowl.
Once you get the water out with a squirt gun, you will have a much easier time of unclogging the toilet. It will also be less messy, too. But I’d throw the toy out when you’re done with it, that’s for sure.
13. Warm Water and Dish Soap
Like vinegar and baking soda, the warm water and dish soap “hack” is one that many people don’t know about, and it’s one that can be quite helpful in clearing your toilet. Plus, it will give it a bit of a clean, too.
You only need a bucket of warm water and some dish detergent. The detergent will coat the inside walls of the pipe and serve as lubricant while the warm water will dissolve the clog.
Put the soap in first, then add the hot water. Pour it in carefully, then let it sit in the toilet for about 20 minutes. Flush – your clog should have disappeared!
14. Make Sure Your Other Fixtures Aren’t Clogged
Most of the time, a clogged toilet is blocked by something like waste or another obstruction that got dropped into the bowl – like a dog toy or a child’s toy.
In most cases, a natural clog can be pushed through the system and a foreign item can be manually removed. However, you may want to double-check to make sure other fixtures, like your sink and tub, aren’t also clogged.
If they are, then you could have a case of the main drain line serving all of your bathroom fixtures being blocked.
That’s not good news, and it’s going to be tough for you to deal with on your own. You’ll want to contact a professional plumber to deal with it. Luckily, this is fairly uncommon, and it’s probably not the case if you can see where your toilet clog is backed up.
15. Take it All Apart
If you are dealing with an unnatural clog and can’t get it out with any of the methods mentioned in this article, you may have to take the entire thing apart. We had to do this once, when my husband decided to flush some pork bones down the toilet (let’s not get into the details – things happen).
To do this, you’ll have to turn off and unhook the water supply, partially disassemble the toilet, and unscrew it from its mounting ring. This can take several hours.
Luckily, my husband is pretty mechanically inclined, and was able to do this himself. I wouldn’t recommend it for the novice plumber, though – you may want to call in professional help if you can’t get your clog out with a toilet auger or plunger.
16. Epsom Salts
You can even use Epsom salts to get rid of a clog! This is helpful in cleaning your toilet, too. Drop a bit of Epsom salts into the toilet bowl, which should help dispel the clog. Just leave it there for a few minutes before you flush.
17. Give it Some Time
For any kind of clog (except for one that is “inorganic,” like a child’s toy that has been dropped down the toilet), giving it some time to clear can be the magical solution.
If you’ve added vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, or even a chemical declogger and it still doesn’t seem to be working, take a deep breath (ideally not near the toilet, because, you know…ew!) and walk away.
Give the water some time to settle, then come back an hour or so later. You may find that the clog breaks up on its own within that time frame, and that your problem has since disappeared right down the drain!
18. Use a Toilet Brush
If your clog is located close to the waste trap, you may be able to use a toilet brush to get the clog down. Just force the brush through her rap, and push forcefully. It’s gross, but if you wear gloves, it’s still better than spending money on a plumber.
19. Worst Case Scenario…Reach Right In
But put gloves on first, please!
I hate to say it, but sometimes, a big clog warrants some elbow grease. Remember how I told you about the pork bones? Well, my husband had to get up close and personal with the clog as a result.
Luckily, it wasn’t excrement but instead food just clogged the toilet, so while it was gross, it wasn’t as gross as it could have been.
Slap on a pair of gloves and reach in. You can remove the clog by hand, and while it won’t be pretty (or smell all that great) it’s still better than calling a plumber.
What Makes a Toilet Get Clogged in the First Place?
There are several ways you can reduce the likelihood of your toilet getting clogged in the first place.
For starters, don’t use more toilet paper than you actually need. You may need to flush it in increments to prevent it from overloading the drain, which is a hassle, but still less of an inconvenience than having to bust out the plunger!
When you’re using a low-flow toilet, you may find that you have to use a lighter brand of toilet paper. We find that we have to use thin, storebrand toilet paper rather than the thicker, more comfortable stuff – our water pressure just can’t handle it. Again, an inconvenience – but much better than having to plunge constantly!
Be aware of every product you flush down the toilet because some – like paper towels, floss, feminine products, or wet wipes – are not meant to be flushed and can not only cause clogs, but damage your entire sewer system.
If you have kids, make sure they understand that only toilet paper should be put in the toilet – not toys or other items. You can help enforce this by keeping the toilet lid shut at all times.
Another thing you need to keep out of the toilet? Any hardening compounds. That includes drywall joint compound, caulk, wax, grease, and surprisingly (I’m guilty of this one) sourdough starter. Whoops!
Believe it or not, you can also prevent a toilet clog by keeping your toilets as clean as possible. Clean your toilets on a weekly basis with a brush, as stopped-up jets can stop the toilet from flushing at full power.
Now that you know the best ways to prevent (and treat!) a clogged toilet, I wish you luck! A clogged toilet is not anything that’s fun to deal with, but luckily, it doesn’t have to be a problem that is expensive to address. You just need to get creative!
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).