How To Unclog The Toilet When Nothing Works: 8 Methods


A clogged toilet is never a good thing at home, at work, or at a friend’s house. In most cases, you can thankfully get the drain going again on your own.

Turn off the water supply behind the toilet. Then, use an accordion plunger, toilet scrub brush, or another tool to poke at the drain hole. If any of these do not work, then you can try other options such as vinegar and baking soda, hot water, a wet/dry vacuum, or commercial products.

What To Do Before Unclogging The Toilet

Before you work on the clog, you should do a couple of things to make your job easier and cleaner.

Turn Off The Water

If the toilet is not draining due to a clog, do not continue to press the flush handle. If you do, then the toilet bowl will fill and lead to an overflowing mess. 

You can stop the tank from refilling while you work by turning off the water supply valve behind the toilet. 

Alternatively, you can unhook the chain inside the toilet tank. Take note of how it is hooked up before you take it off so that you can return it back to its original connections when done. 

Once the chain is off, the lift arm inside the tank cannot lift the flapper valve to allow more water into the toilet bowl. 

Turn the water supply line back on or reconnect the chain when you are ready to flush again.

Gather Supplies

Gather the following items before you work on the clog:

  • Rubber gloves that extend up to your elbows
  • Towels
  • Bucket
  • Old clothes

Wear old clothes and lay towels down around the toilet before you start.

Methods

1. Use The Right Style of Plunger

Many people buy the rigid and flat half-cylinder style of plunger, but these are designed for unclogging sinks. 

For toilets, you need an accordion-style plunger end. These plungers apply more pressure to the drain pipe hole than a regular flush.

To use a plunger effectively, complete the following steps:

  1. Add water to the bowl, if there is not enough to cover the bottom of the plunger. 
    • You want to avoid air pockets and create a water-tight seal around the drain hole. 
    • Use water from the nearby bathroom sink, tub, or shower to pour in. 
  2. The plunger’s end must cover the drain hole completely to create a seal. 
    • Angle into the water towards the hole to allow water to enter the end of the plunger, keeping air out.
  3. You do not need to use excessive force when using the plunger. If you push too hard you can break the wax ring that seals the toilet at the base. 
    • Let the plunger do the work. Push up and down quickly up to ten times in succession. 
    • If air bubbles out from the plunger, you do not have a tight seal. Adjust the positioning over the hole until you do. 
    • When you lift the plunger, if water drains out, then the clog has been freed. If not, repeat or try a different method.

If you do not have a plunger, the following methods are effective and easy alternatives.

2. Baking Soda And Vinegar

For this method, baking soda and vinegar will make a fizzy reaction when mixed. Waste material may come up and over the rim of your toilet. 

Make sure you have plenty of towels in place. You can throw them in the bucket to carry them out of the bathroom for laundering.

You need the following items:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 cups vinegar

Do the following:

  1. Add two cups of hot (not boiling) water from the hottest setting of the tap to the toilet bowl. 
    • Boiling water can negatively affect the adhesion of PVC pipe joints and the rubber seal of your toilet base.
  2. Pour in the baking soda. 
  3. Warm up the vinegar to touch using the stovetop or microwave. Pour the vinegar into the toilet bowl. 
  4. Let it sit for a few hours.The warmed and fizzy reaction should help to loosen up the clog.

3. Use A Tool To Unclog

A closet auger, or plumbing snake, is a tool that is specifically designed for pushing and unclogging stuck material in a toilet’s drain pipe. 

Push the plumbing snake into the toilet drain hole and twist to loosen the debris. When the resistance is gone, remove the tool and flush the toilet. 

Alternatives

If you do not have a plumbing snake on hand, you can try other tools, such as the following:

  • Toilet cleaning bristle brush: Push it into the drain hole to break up or move the clog.
  • Wire coat hanger: Untwist the wire hanger. Bend an end into a loop, and cover any sharp points with some waterproof or duct tape to prevent scratches. 
  • Kitchen tool: You can use a wooden spoon, chopsticks, or other kitchen tools to try to push the clog away. Use care with any metal utensils since they can scratch. Discard wooden tools afterwards since they may absorb the toilet water, and should not be reused with food. Metal utensils should be sterilized with an appropriate cleaner designed for use on the material.
  • Mop: Cover the end of a mop with a plastic bag. Attach the plastic bag with a rubber band or duct tape. Push into the drain hole to loosen the clog.
  • Gloved hands: Reach in with gloved hands if the clog is near the opening. Do not force your hand in any further to avoid getting stuck in an embarrassing situation.

Use a bucket to set the tools inside to avoid dripping wastewater onto your bathroom floor.

4. Hot Water And Dish Detergent

Collect one gallon of hot water directly from the tap at the hottest setting. Do not use boiling water. Boiling water can loosen joints of PVC pipes, crack the toilet with the extreme temperature change, or affect the base seal of your toilet.

Put about a quarter-cup of dish detergent into the toilet bowl. Pour in the hot water, and let it sit for one hour. 

The dish detergent adheres to the clog, making it slippery and the hot water loosens the compaction. Combined that can break up the clog. 

Use a tool mentioned above to further loosen the clog. 

Flush the toilet. If water rises or will not move out, repeat or try another strategy.

5. Wet/Dry Vacuum

A wet/dry vacuum uses powerful suction to remove unwanted waste. This type of vacuum should be plugged into a GFCI outlet and is the only kind of vacuum safe to use with water.

Complete the following steps:

  1. Suck out any water or debris in the toilet bowl. 
  2. Use a hose attachment that will fit into the drain pipe hole to remove the clog.
  3. Flush the toilet and take notice of how the water flows. 
    • If it is still slow-moving, then the pipes are likely still clogged. 
    • Repeat the use of the hose or use it in combination with another method.
  4. Empty the vacuum’s collection basin. Once the toilet is unclogged, flush half or less of the contents inside the vacuum at a time down the toilet.

Toilet waste is highly unsanitary and full of bacteria, so your wet/dry vacuum basin and hose should be cleaned and sanitized according to its instruction book. 

Make sure you clean the outside of the hose that went into the toilet as well. 

A power washer can rinse the filters out on the lawn.

6. Give It Time

Sometimes, a clog will undo itself. If the clog is a result of toilet paper, human waste, and water, the materials will break down over time. 

If the water is slowly draining, you can give it an hour or so to loosen up. You can wait a full day to see if the clog loosens itself if you have another toilet in your home. 

Make sure you have turned off the water supply, so no water is leaking in from the refill tank and causing an overflow. 

You can add some hot tap water to help speed up the process. 

Close the seat and open a window. 

Put a small piece of tape to hold the toilet seat closed and down. This will prevent forgetful people from using the toilet.

If you do not have a second toilet in your home, ask the neighbors if you can visit to use theirs while the problem gets sorted out.

7. Commercial Clog Removal Products

There are many options for commercial clog removers. Some of these are more natural than others, such as those with enzymes that break down waste with reactive bacteria. 

Those with strong chemicals should be reserved as a last option. These are not ideal for the environment and water sources and often need to be used in well-ventilated areas. 

Read the informational label to ensure that it will work with your toilet and plumbing. The purpose of these products is much like the ones mentioned above. They loosen or start to dissolve the clog to flush it away. 

If you have tried the vinegar method above, do not add a product with bleach to the mixture in the toilet bowl. These two will react with each other and make toxic chlorine gas.

You may need to use a tool in conjunction with a commercial product.

After using a commercial product, make sure to clean up any residue on the seat to avoid contact with skin.

8. Professional Plumber

Well all else fails, it may be time to call in a plumber. Or, if your clog is not organic, such as a toy that has clogged the pipes, an experienced plumber can help you out. 

This professional can address the clog and the following:

  • Remove the toilet or connecting pipes to get to the source of the problem
  • Check the roof vent to make sure there are no blockages such as bird’s nests or leaves. If there are, these can affect the pressure needed for flushing.
  • Determine if tree roots or other pipe issues are affecting the main drain pipe in your plumbing system, which in turn affects the toilet drain.

Sanitization

Wastewater from a toilet is considered “black water”. It is contaminated with bacteria and considered harmful to human health. 

Anything used to clean the toilet should be sanitized using cleaners that are safe for use on the materials, or thrown away. 

Your toilet seat, bowl, and handle should be cleaned as well.

Prevention

Ideally, you want to prevent clogs from happening in the first place, especially if you are using a toilet in someone else’s home.

Items to Never Flush

You should never flush any of the following down a toilet:

  • Dirty mop water
  • Food
  • Toys or any other non-organic waste items
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Kitchen paper towels
  • Wipes

Remove small items from the top of the tank that could fall into the bowl and place them elsewhere.

While flushable wipes are designed to be used in toilets, they often cause clogging issues. People tend to use more than recommended, or combined with waste, they are too much for the toilet to handle.

Double Flush

Flush the toilet before using toilet paper to cleanse yourself. This reduces the amount of waste that goes down the drain hole at once. 

If you need to use more than ten sheets of single-ply toilet paper at once, consider flushing in between wiping as well.

Dish Detergent 

Put a squirt of dish detergent into the toilet bowl before you use it. This helps to lubricate the water and bowl to assist waste on its way out. 

Keep a bottle of dish detergent near the toilet to use as needed.

Macerating Toilet

If toilet bowl clogs are common in your home, you may wish to install a macerating toilet. This style of toilet will chop up waste as it enters the drain, drastically reducing the likelihood of a clog.

Conclusion

Toilet clogs are frustrating, but nothing to fear. Using simple tools and DIY methods to loosen the clog, such as a plunger or vinegar and baking soda, should get the wastewater moving out in no time.

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

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