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How to DIY a clogged toilet

Updated: Jan 13

A clogged toilet is a toilet that can overflow. If water is rising to the top of the bowl, you need to act fast to prevent a potentially flooded bathroom. There are two ways to stop a clogged toilet from overflowing with water:

Take the lid off the toilet and close the open flapper that is allowing water to continue to flow. Don’t worry about the water in the tank; it is as perfectly clean as your home’s drinking water or the water in the shower.

Reach behind the toilet and turn the water supply off.

Once you stop the toilet from overflowing, you can move on to unclogging the toilet.

Tools Required

  • Plunger

  • Rubber gloves

Toilet Not Flushing All the Way? Here’s What to Do. A poor flush means that your toilet drain is partially or completely plugged. Most clogged toilets are what are known as “slow drainers.” That is, flush water partially fills the bowl but doesn’t rush out and clean away the waste. The water level remains high, then usually drains down to normal height within a minute or two. You might not even know the toilet is clogged until you flush it. So if you suspect a problem, test the drainage first, then reach for the toilet plunger.

Step-by-step using a plunger

Step 1 How to Test the Drainage of a Toilet That Won't Flush Before trying to unclog the toilet through brute force, remove the tank lid, lift the flapper valve slightly to let a cup or two of water into the bowl, and see if the water goes down. Have towels ready, though, because flushing a clogged toilet may flood your floor!

Step 2 Unclog a Toilet: Begin With a Plunger For about 90 percent of clogged toilets, you only need one special tool — a toilet plunger. Buy a toilet plunger with an extension flange on the rubber bell-shaped end. A toilet plunger with an extension flange is designed to fit toilets better, so you can deliver more "oomph" to the plunge. The toilet plunger will unplug sink and tub drains, too, if you simply fold the flange back into the bell.

How To Use a Plunger First, plunge the toilet with the rubber flange pulled out to get a better seal. Push in and out vigorously, keeping enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger. Have towels handy to wipe up any water that splashes out.

Plunging Tips A toilet plunger fits over and seals the toilet drain. Wear rubber gloves and follow these plunging tips:

  1. Make your first plunge a gentle one. Initially, the bell is full of air. A hard thrust will force the air back around the seal and blow water all over the bathroom and you!

  2. Once you force out the air, plunge vigorously in and out, maintaining the seal. You'll be forcing water in both directions in the drain, which will effectively loosen most clogs. Stick with it, plunging 15 to 20 times if necessary.

  3. Be patient. Try alternating between steady strokes and occasional monster heaves.

  4. Keep enough water in the bowl so the toilet plunger stays covered. Trying to force air through the toilet trap won't generate much pressure.

Most of the time, plunging is all it takes to clear the clog. But for tougher clogs, try using a toilet snake.

Step 3 Major Toilet Surgery (If All Else Fails) If the clog resists all your efforts, you'll probably have to pull up the toilet. This job will take several hours, because you have to turn off and unhook the water supply, partially disassemble the toilet, and unscrew it from its mounting ring. Chances are you can then get at the problem. Be sure to buy a new wax ring and new mounting bolts to reseal the toilet base to the mounting ring. Get a complete tutorial on installing a new toilet here. If other drains in your home are plugged, or if water comes up through them, the problem is probably farther down in the main drain pipes out of easy reach. For those clogs, you may have to call a plumber. Plumbers are expensive, but they can put your bathroom back in service fast, even if there's a major blockage.

Speaking of your bathroom plumbing, how’s the ventilation? These signs of poorly vented plumbing drain lines will help you solve some other issues you may be having in the bathroom. Step 4 Bonus Toilet Unclogging Dos and Don'ts 1. Avoid chemicals. Don't be suckered into thinking powerful chemicals will do the messy work for you. They sometimes work, but they're slower. And when they don't work, you have a drain full of corrosive water on your hands. If you tried chemicals and they didn't work, run as much water into the toilet as possible and let it sit overnight to drain through the clog. Then, when you plunge, wear safety goggles and rubber gloves to keep the water out of your eyes and off your bare skin. 2. Keep the toilet cover down. A good way to avoid preventable clogs in the first place, especially if you have small kids. This keeps toys, crayons, and hairbrushes from falling into the toilet. 3. Don't pour hardening compounds down the toilet. These include such things as drywall joint compounds, grease, caulk, and wax products.

No Tools Required – Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you don’t have a plunger handy, turn to the trusted non-toxic household helper: baking soda and vinegar. You might know that baking soda and vinegar are fantastic for a variety of uses, including cleaning many surfaces, acting as an excellent deodorizer, and keeping drains running smoothly. Baking soda and vinegar are equally great to fix a clogged toilet without a plunger following these simple steps:

  1. Add one cup of baking soda to the clogged toilet.

  2. Wait two minutes.

  3. Slowly pour two cups of vinegar into the toilet. Baking soda and vinegar react to cause bubbles, so be sure to pour slowly and carefully so that the toilet water does not splash or overflow.

  4. Allow the vinegar and baking soda mixture to work for several minutes.

  5. Flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared.

If this doesn’t work, consider buying a plunger or following the recommendations below.

Nothing to be afraid of – The Plumbing Snake

Like a plunger, plumbing snakes are handy tools for any homeowner. Regular plumbing snakes can scratch or damage porcelain toilets, so make sure to use a special toilet or closet snake, also called an auger. This special plumbing snake has a rubber coating that won’t scratch surfaces and protects the toilet’s porcelain.

To properly snake a toilet:

  • Place the head of the augur in the toilet bowl.

  • Slowly turn the handle of the augur clockwise.

  • When you feel resistance, wind the snake back.

  • Flush the toilet to see If the clog has loosened.

  • If the toilet is still clogged, wind the snake back in and repeat until the clog is broken up and the toilet flushes easily.

Again, store the augur where you can get it easily, as just because you’ve unclogged a toilet once, doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

Heat it Up – Dish Soap and Hot Water

Don’t have a plunger or snake? Out of baking soda and vinegar? Ok, here’s something you’re bound to have handy: dish soap and water.

  • Put one gallon of hot water on the stove to heat up.

  • While the water is heating up, squirt some dish soap into the toilet.

  • When the water is very hot, but not boiling, carefully pour it into the toilet.

  • Wait several minutes while the hot water and dish soap soften the clog.

  • The toilet should now be unclogged and flushing freely.

Helpful Hint: You can also try to use shampoo and hot water from the sink if you want to try to clear the toilet without leaving the bathroom.

Not for the Faint of Heart – Wet/Dry Vacuum.

This is a truly unique method for fixing a clogged toilet. Caution: Consider only if you have a wet/dry vacuum. Do not try this method with a regular household vacuum. You risk ruining the vacuum and, more importantly, the possibility of shocking yourself.

  1. Wear plastic gloves because you need to hold the wet/dry vacuum hose inside the toilet. If the bowl is not empty, vacuum the water out.

  2. Place the wet/dry vacuum hose in the toilet drain and wrap an old towel around the hose to create suction.

  3. Turn the wet/dry vacuum on, firmly holding the towel and hose in place. The wet/dry vacuum should create enough suction to pull the obstruction out. Thoroughly clean and sanitize the vacuum afterward.

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