How to Unclog a Toilet

By: Kelly Boyer Sagert | Affiliate Disclosure

A clogged toilet is a frustrating experience and seems to happen at the most inconvenient times. Fortunately, in most cases, you can solve this problem on your own with a few DIY methods—no professional help necessary. 

5 ways to unclog a toilet

Try out these five different methods to help you unclog a toilet.

Method #1: How to unclog a toilet with a plunger

This is one of the most common ways to unclog a toilet. With this method, choose a plunger that’s heavy-duty. Good options include ball-shaped plungers or ones that have a secure, seal-forming rubber flange.

Materials

  • A plunger
  • A drain snake

Instructions

  1. After running the plunger under hot water to soften it, place it over the entire hole in the toilet bowl. If there isn’t enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger, add more until the plunger head is covered.
  2. Slowly push the plunger over the hole, and then yank it back up.
  3. Firmly push and pull until you notice that the water level is going down.
  4. If the toilet flushes, but does so slowly, wait until there’s enough water in the toilet to cover the plunger. Repeat the process until the problem is solved. Note: you may need to use a drain snake to break up whatever is causing the clog.

Method #2: How to unclog a toilet with dish soap

If you’re in a situation where you don’t have a plunger, or if there’s an object stuck in the drain, try unclogging the toilet using dish soap.

Materials

  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Measuring cup

Instructions

  1. Fill a plastic bottle with warm water.
  2. Put a half cup of dish soap in the toilet bowl and let it sit for 20–30 minutes. The soap will eventually seep into the clog and lubricate the toilet trap way.
  3. Pour the hot water into the toilet bowl. The clog should slowly become free.

Method #3: How to unclog a toilet without a plunger or snake

If there’s a physical object stuck in the toilet, or a wad of toilet paper is causing the clog, you may need to physically unclog the toilet.

Materials

  • Toilet brush or wire hanger
  • Rubber gloves, or plastic bag

Instructions

  1. Put on your rubber gloves. If you don’t have any, you can wrap your hand in a plastic bag.
  2. Wearing rubber gloves, or using the plastic bag, reach into the toilet to try and dislodge the clog.
  3. If you can’t reach the clog, use a coat hanger or a toilet brush and reach into the toilet drain hole to see what you can remove. This can be a messier process, but it can be effective.

Method #4: How to unclog a toilet with baking soda and vinegar

When going this route, the trick is to use equal amounts of baking soda and vinegar. The more severe the clog, the more slowly you should use these ingredients. For a minor clog, use a cup of each ingredient. For a more significant clog, start with one-fourth cup measurements to prevent an overflow of the water and its contents.

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Hot water
  • Kettle

Instructions

  1. Heat your water in a kettle on the stove.
  2. Pour the amount of baking soda you’re going to use (one cup for a smaller clog and one-fourth cup for a larger one) into the toilet bowl.
  3. Next, pour an equal amount of vinegar into the bowl.
  4. Once the fizzing calms down, put in a kettle’s worth of hot water.
  5. If this doesn’t unclog your toilet the first time around, you may need to repeat the process a second time.

Method #5: How to unclog a toilet when nothing else works

If all else fails, try to be patient and let the clog work itself out before calling a plumber. When a toilet bowl is full of water, the force of gravity will naturally take place and clear out the clog, eventually solving the problem. This method can be especially helpful if the source of the clog involves too much toilet paper in the drain.

When to call a plumber

If the previous methods have failed, it may be time to call a professional. It also makes sense to call a plumber if:

  • you run into an unforeseen problem and you aren’t confident in your ability to fix it.
  • you’re worried that you could cause damage to your plumbing. 
  • you have a more serious plumbing problem that’s bigger than a clog. 

If you need to find a plumber, ask friends and family members for recommendations and read trusted, third-party reviews.

How to prevent toilet clogs

To prevent future clogs, make sure that everything you’re flushing is actually flushable (tampons, sanitary pads, paper towels, and napkins generally aren’t flushable). Though it may appear that these products have flushed, there’s a chance that they’re sitting in your pipes and creating a blockage. 

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind to avoid clogging your toilet:

  • To test whether a product is flushable (i.e. baby wipes), put it in a bowl of water and let it sit. In another bowl, put some toilet paper in water. Compare the disintegration of each product. Did the baby wipes disintegrate like the toilet paper did?
  • If there are children in the home, teach them how much toilet paper to use at one time (nine sheets per bathroom trip is standard). Additionally, remind them to not put toys and other foreign objects down the toilet.
  • Avoid storing items over the toilet that could fall into the bowl and cause a clog. This includes soap, tissues, combs, and so forth.
  • Choose toilet paper that easily dissolves, like Scott Rapid-Dissolving Toilet Paper or Cascades Toilet Paper.
  • If you have a bowel movement that requires more toilet paper than average, put half of the paper into the toilet and flush. Then, put the second half of the used toilet paper in the bowl and flush the toilet again. This tactic can reduce the chances of a clog.

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