Home Repair & Maintenance Ideas and Tips

How to Unclog and Plunge a Toilet

Clogged toilets are no fun. Before you call the plumber, try these simple steps that could solve the problem without any professional help. 

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A home toilet clog doesn't necessarily mean that you need to call a plumber right away. You can try these simple steps before seeking professional help: 

  1. Avoid an overflow situation by opening the top of the toilet and closing the "flap." The flap is usually a round, rubber part that you can temporarily disconnect or lower, and then reconnect or raise when the clog is cleared. Or you can turn off the water supply at the base of the toilet while you work on eliminating the clog. 

  1. Do your best to determine whether the clog is caused by organic matter or by a foreign object (like a plastic toy) before choosing a course of action. 

  1. If you have one, try a plunger first. Many people mistakenly put the plunger into the hole at the bottom of the bowl instead of over it. Make sure there’s water to cover the rubber top of the plunger to create a seal. Often, people stop plunging too soon and give up. Be patient as it may take a few minutes or more of plunging to completely clear the clog.  

  1. For organic matter clogs, try heating a pot or kettle of water on the stove. Boiling water can actually crack a toilet bowl, so make sure the water is below the boiling point. Pour a half a box (or more) of baking soda into the clogged toilet bowl, followed by an equal amount of vinegar. Then, add the hot (but not boiling) water. Let the mixture stand for several hours or overnight before you try to flush again. If you don’t have vinegar and baking soda, you can add some dish soap, shampoo, or liquid soap to the hot (but not boiling) water and let that remain in the bowl for several hours or overnight. 

  1. If you don’t have a plunger, you can also try to clear a clog with a straightened wire coat hanger. It’s a good idea to cover the end of the wire with some tape, cloth or sponge to protect the porcelain. Use the hanger as if it were a plumbing snake to break up the clog. 

  1. A plumbing snake, which can be found at hardware and home stores, can often clear stubborn clogs. Feed the snake into the drain until you feel resistance on the obstruction, then twist and push to clear it. 

  1. If possible, try to avoid using harsh chemical solutions, which may harm pipes, plumbing componentsand the environment. 

  1. After the clog is cleared, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and clean and disinfect any tools you used, as well as the toilet, floor, and surrounding area to prevent spreading germs. 

Of course, the best advice about toilet clogs is to avoid them in the first place. Remember only to flush toilet paper down a toilet and keep the toilet lid down when not in use to prevent objects from falling into it. If you do have to call for professional help, be sure to let the plumber know in advance what steps you’ve already taken to clear the clog before they start troubleshooting the problem. 

When it comes to unexpected plumbing issues, you have options with American Home Shield. If it’s a plumbing problem that needs immediate attention, American Home Shield offers plumbing services on-demand through American Home Shield ProConnectSimply select the service you need* and ProConnect will send the closest available pro to fix your problem 

Or, you can choose an American Home Shield home service plan, which provides coverage for parts of up to 23 home appliances and systems, inlcuding toilets, so that next time you have an unexpected breakdown, your budget is protected.  And if the covered component of your appliance or system can’t be repaired, American Home Shield will replace it for you subject to contract limitations and exclusions.  We’ve been protecting homeowners for 50 years and have built a nationwide network of 17,000 qualified, independent contractors to help turn your home problems into a solution. 

*American Home Shield ProConnect services are not available in all markets. 

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations.