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Repair & Maintenance

Don’t Call The Plumber Just Yet: How To Unclog Your Toilet

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

Photo by: Shutterstock

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

• 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.

• 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.

• 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. Be patient as it may take a few minutes or more of plunging to completely clear the clog.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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 or the obstruction, then twist and push to clear it.

• If possible, try to avoid using chemical solutions, which may harm plumbing components and the environment.

• 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 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.

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