A clogged toilet is always unpleasant. Unfortunately, it is also a common household problem, and one that can quickly turn into a major disaster if poorly handled. In most cases, however, a simple drain clog is easily remedied, and can be fixed in a matter of minutes with a few ordinary household items. Here’s everything you need to know about unblocking a toilet.
The best defence against clogs is prevention. Avoid flushing anything but toilet paper. Hand wipes, feminine products, cigarette butts, paper towels, and even thick tissues are usually the culprits responsible for blocked pipes. Also, if you ever accidentally drop anything into the toilet, fish it out straight away never try to flush it! Believe it or not, flushed cell phones and children’s toys can cost a small fortune to dislodge from drains, sometimes necessitating the removal of whole sections of drywall and piping. For those who live in apartment buildings, this is certainly no way to make friends with the neighbours.
The Passive Solution
If you are lucky, the easiest way to unclog a toilet is to simply wait it out. Let water dissolve the clog, and try flushing again after several hours. By pouring a caustic soda (coke, for example) into the toilet bowl, you can speed the dissolving process along considerably. Simply dump a can of cola in the water and let it eat away at the debris. Just be sure to never flush the toilet when the water level is already high. You could inadvertently cause a disgusting overflow.
If the waiting game doesn’t pay off, it is time to take matters into your own hands. Prepare by getting rubber gloves, a plunger, a drain snake or wire coat hanger, and a bucket. For some of the worst jobs, you might also consider a respirator to filter out the fumes. What we do always recommend however, if the problem is far worse call in the professionals as you could just be preparing to make things worse by doing it yourself which can be a costly damage.
Taking the Plunge
Carefully insert the plunger into the drain and press firmly down, and then pull slowly up. You are aiming to create a tight suction on the drain hole at the bottom of the toilet, so be sure to manipulate the plunger to create a firm seal. Plunge up and down about 10-20 times, or until you feel the clog work loose. (Move the plunger slowly and be careful to avoid splashing.) Then flush to see if it worked.
If the plunger method doesn’t work, unbend the coat hanger and straighten it into a long rod. Next, insert it deep into the drain until it meets the clog (or use the drain snake, if you happen to have one). Push through and work it loose by twisting the hanger in a circular motion. Then flush to clear the newly unclogged drain.
Flush once or twice more to let the fresh water clear debris off your hanger or plunger, then put them in the bucket to avoid dripping on the floor. Wash and disinfect the plunger and/or dispose of the coat hanger to avoid spreading germs. Don’t overlook this portion of the job. Failure to properly disinfect could pose a serious health risk. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect the toilet after fixing any clog, as plunging can sometimes cause splashing that isn’t obviously apparent. It is often a good idea to clean the floor around the toilet as well.
Most often, unclogging a toilet is quite simple. At times, however, clogged drains can signal a much larger problem. Clogged mainlines, backed up septic systems, and faulty pipes can sometimes occur. If none of the measures listed above work, it is time to call in a professional.