Clogged toilets - it happens. In some homes, it happens nearly every day. In others, it’s rare, but it happens to everyone eventually. The toilet overflows and you find yourself with that panicked feeling.
What Causes a Toilet to Clog?
Almost every time, it’s just a lot of stuff in the toilet. Some toilets that don’t have good water pressure or flow will clog more often. Disposable wipes also clog the toilet. The number one culprit is too much toilet paper.
On rare occasions, it’s a solid object that has been dropped into the toilet. Children are famous for sticking toys into the toilet to make them disappear. Sometimes, something will fall from a shelf into the toilet and clog it. In recent years, cell phones drop into the toilet and back things up.
For homes or commercial buildings with septic tanks, it can sometimes be caused by a full tank. This is something that a professional will need to diagnose and help fix.
How to Unclog a Toilet
A plunger is the first tool to try. You’ll want a plunger that has a flange and sits in the hole at the bottom of the bowl. Center the plunger over the hole and press down slowly. Increase the speed and pressure as you go. A few pushes usually releases the mass and lets the water flow down smoothly.
If you know that there’s a solid object in there, you need to remove it. This might be unpleasant, but there’s no other way to open up the toilet and get it flowing again.
Don’t put drain opener, like Liquid Plumber in here. It’s not going to help loosen the clog and, since it’s concentrated bleach, it can create chemical mess.
If the toilet opens up and is unclogged, you’ll need to clean up the water mess. After removing the water and solids from the floor, be sure to disinfect the floor with a good disinfectant, like bleach or a Lysol product.
If the plunger doesn't work, you can look for a toilet snake. This is a long coil that’s attached to a handle. It goes into the toilet and physically pushes through and cuts up the mass. Be gentle. The toilet is porcelain and will break, so if you meet resistance, you should push gently or turn the handle slowly.
Toilet snakes come in a variety of forms. The most basic is standard snake, a coil of wire that looks like a large spring. Another style has a long handle that the wire hides inside of. Place the end of the coil in the hole at the bottom of the toilet. Then slowly push the coil into the drain. If you meet resistance, gently turn the coil to loosen the clog. Either the coil will “drill” through the clog and release it that way or whatever is clogging the toilet will attach itself to the coil and you can pull it back out.
These are the two things that you can do for yourself.
When to Call a Pro
If you can’t unclog the toilet with a plunger or a snake, it’s time to call a professional.
Of course, pros will use the same tools you used, but they have other tools as well, like cameras they use to see what’s going in the drain. If they find crayons or a bottle of hairspray it tells them what they need to do. This also allows them to look further down the drain to see if the clog is deeper than right at the toilet.
In one case, for instance, we had a client whose toilet had clogged and it was caused by a mass that was near the street. In another, the clog was in one of the pipes in the basement.
If the septic system is full, it can cause the toilet and the sink to back up with waste. This needs to be handled immediately as this can be a bio-hazard if someone touches it or if it stays around too long.
A septic company comes out and pumps out the tank. Very often, this will create a large, muddy mess in the yard too. It’s important that this is handled right away.
There might also be a problem with the septic system itself that causes it to need to be repaired or replaced. Hopefully, this isn’t the problem as it can cost thousands to fix.
If you’re on a city sewer system, the city’s responsibility usually starts where the small pipes from your home enter the sewer pipes at the street. If there’s a clog there, it’s affecting a lot of people and the city will fix it.
What to do Before Your Toilet Clogs
The best thing to do is to have a plunger in the bathroom near the toilet at all times. This solves 99% of your clogs quickly. It’s helpful to have a toilet snake in the house, garage, or basement before you need it. That way, you can fix the problem without having to go to the store in the middle of the night.
Again, don’t put drain opener, like Liquid Plumber, into a toilet. It won’t help and makes the water dangerous with bleach.
If you’re not sure what to do, give Water Restoration a call. We’ll talk about what you’ve done and what we might need to do for you. If we can’t help you, we know someone who can and will someone out to you right away.