5 Ingenious Ways to Unclog a Toilet
The only consolation in this dreaded scenario is that it happens to all of us. And, in the end, it might make for a good story for your closest friends to enjoy. But take heart, there are some simple solutions for this always-untimely event. The following are 5 time-tested tricks that have worked wonders for many a poor soul, listed here from the easiest to the hardest.
1. Do nothing but wait, then flush.
Toilets, like all plumbing drains, work by the force of gravity. A full bowl of water exerts its own pressure on the clog and, over time, often will clear the clog for you. So if you have more than one bathroom in the house, just wait it out overnight, or as long as you can. Then, try to flush again. If it’s a standard clog (too much paper, in most cases), this passive solution is surprisingly effective.
Warning: When you do the test flush after the waiting period, be ready to stop the water flow to the bowl (see Top Toilet Tip, below), just in case this method didn’t work.
2. Pour in some hot water. Wait. Flush.
If you don’t have the time to wait out the clog, or if you’d like to increase your chance of success by giving gravity a helping hand, you can pour a few cups of hot water into the bowl. Proponents of this technique believe that the hot water helps to break down the waste, thereby loosening the clog. Can’t hurt to try. However, this doesn’t mean you should be pouring pots full of boiling water into a cold, brittle, china toilet bowl, which could crack it.
3. Add soap. Wait as long as possible. Flush.
This is clearly the preferred method when you’re not at home and would do anything to avoid having to break the news to your hosts. A few good squirts of liquid dish detergent is perhaps the most popular method, but again, if you’re a guest and not alone in the house, it can be hard to explain why you have a sudden need for Palmolive in the bathroom before you’re ready to join the party again. Other lucky souls have reported that liquid hand soap or shampoo have done the trick nicely, too. The theory here is that the soap breaks down the waste faster than water alone. When it’s time to flush, be ready to stop the water to prevent spillover.
4. Plunge like a pro.
First of all, standard cup-type plungers don’t work well on toilets because they can’t provide a good seal over the drain hole. Instead, use a flange plunger, which has a rubber sleeve that extends down below the domed cup, or boot, section. Flange plungers with accordion-like boots work well, too. Make sure the flange is extended (it can fold up into the boot), then lower the plunger into the toilet at an angle so the boot fills with water and isn’t trapping air. Insert the flange into the drain hole and press down so the boot seals tightly around the hole.
5. Use a closet auger.
A closet auger, or toilet auger, works just like a standard drain snake but is specially designed to accommodate the sharp turns of a toilet trap without damaging the bowl (which standard snakes can do). Work the business end of the auger into the drain hole, with the bend in the handle pole pointed toward the drain route. Crank the tool’s handle clockwise and work it in and out a little to break up the clog. If a solid object, such as a sponge or rag, is creating the clog, crank the auger clockwise to snag the obstruction, then pull it out of the toilet.
A Few Additional Tips On How To Maintain Your Plumbing
- Watch what you put down your kitchen sink. Dumping grease, chicken scraps, and tough fruit peels down your kitchen drain is a sure fire way to clog your sink, no matter how good your disposal is.
- Use a hair trap. A metal or plastic hair trap that fits over the shower drain is a cheap, effective way to prevent annoying clogs and having to pull nasty hairballs out of the drain.
- Don’t flush wipes and hygiene products down the toilet. Hygiene products are not plumbing safe, and even the wipes that are supposedly flush-friendly are not. Toss them in the trash.
- Watch out for leaks. Not only do leaks waste water, they can also cause mold and dry rot. Check your pipes occasionally for any sign of water leaks, and call a plumber ASAP if you see one.
- Reduce your water pressure. For about 8 to 10 dollars, you can buy a water pressure test gauge that twists onto your garden hose. If your water pressure is over roughly 80 PSI, then your plumbing is being strained, and there’s a high risk of leaking and failure. If the pressure is too high, hire a plumber to install a pressure reducer (this is not the same thing as the water flow reducers often used in sinks and showers).
Use a Closet Auger
- Put on rubber gloves and position a bucket near the toilet.
- Extend the auger handle.
- Insert the end of the auger into the toilet trap. The sheath around the end of the auger fits the contour of your toilet’s bowl and trap and protects the toilet against scratching.
- Push the auger handle in until you feel resistance. The resistance is the auger cable pressing against the material causing the clog.
- Crank the handle to rotate the cable. Push the handle in as you crank to break up the clog or hook it with the end of the cable.
- Extend the handle again to remove the cable and any clogged material the cable tip may have hooked. Remove the excess material to the bucket.
- Watch for the water to drain out of the toilet. This means the clog has broken up and the material has flushed. Pour the material from the bucket back into the toilet to flush in small amounts when the clog has cleared.
- Repeat the auger process if the first attempt is unsuccessful. Contact a plumber if you’re unable to remove the clog after numerous attempts.
Two Unlikely Home Remedies for Clogged Drains!
There are many methods to unclog your drains, but these two home remedies may take you by surprise. Although they might not seem like the most conventional methods, they can help you unclog the smallest to the most stubborn drains in your home:
Coca-Cola: Not Only Hard On Enamel
Surprise! Coke or Pepsi are great for vanquishing a clog! Everyone’s heard about how a nail will dissolve in a glass of coke over time, and although most of us know this is a stretch, coke is arguably better than many commercial chemical clog removers because of its strong dissolving agents!
To get started, purchase a two liter bottle of Coke and allow it to acclimate to room temperature. After pouring it down the drain, let it fizz and work its corrosive power for an hour or two before running hot water. Coke and Pepsi are loaded with phosphoric acid, which breaks down buildup that can clog your drains! Phosphoric acid can even remove lime scale and other tough buildup that regular cleaners struggle with. This is a effective and refreshing home remedy if we ever saw one!
Using A Plunger in Your Sink or Bathtub
If your sink or bathtub is clogged beyond what a little Coca-Cola can clear, it might be time to pull out the big guns: the plunger! This may come as a surprise to those of us who only call on this device when we’ve got a clogged toilet, but yes, you CAN use it for other clogs. If it’s your sink that’s giving you issues, fill it about halfway, and if it’s your bathtub, stick to about four or five inches. This method, although effective, can be messy, so be prepared! Another tip to remember when using the plunger is making sure that it has water in it. Using a plunger is transferring energy through the pipe to dislodge the clog. If your plunger is full of air, it’s less effective because of the energy lost. If your plunger is full of water, all that energy is going to be submerged in the water, which will put more force on the clog.
How To Unclog Your Toilet With Baking Soda And Vinegar
If the toilet remains clogged after a few attempts at resolving the problem, remove at least half of the water from the bowl. Then try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar into the toilet. The mixture will bubble excessively, which is why it’s important to first remove the excess water. Let the bubbles sit for at least 20 minutes before you try to flush.