Try These 3 Tricks to Unclog Your Toilet Before You Call a Plumber
You flush your toilet, but instead of the water in the bowl going down, it rises. Knowing how to unclog a toilet can be a valuable skill for a homeowner. Although not all clogged toilets can be fixed without calling a professional plumber for assistance, there are some instances where an average Joe can unclog a toilet without resorting to the expense of calling out the big guns.
A primer on toilet clogs and what you can do about them might help you in this time of dire need.
If your toilet is clogged, the signs are pretty obvious. The water in the bowl either drains very slowly when flushed or doesn’t drain at all. Instead, it rises to the top of the bowl and may even overflow into your floor. The location of the obstruction in your plumbing lines largely determines whether you can unclog the toilet yourself. The deeper in the obstruction, the less chance you have of resolving the issue on your own.
The rudimentary design of a toilet makes it excellent at doing what it does: removing waste from your house. However, it’s only made for certain types of waste, and when other items are flushed down the toilet, clogs can occur. Toys dropped haphazardly into the bowl, sanitary napkins discarded in the toilet or even things like cigarette butts and cat litter are common causes of clogging.
When it comes to clearing a clogged toilet, here are three tried-and-true fixes:
To properly plunge a toilet, place the plunger into the toilet bowl drain and gently push down. This first plunge expels air and creates a seal on the drain. Forcefully pump your plunger up and down to sustain the seal you’ve created. Next, abruptly pull the plunger up, breaking the seal. Repeat as needed until the clog appears to be expelled and water is once again moving down the drain.
If plunging the toilet does not clear the clog, consider buying a drain auger, also known as a plumbing snake. As its name suggests, this tool is “snaked” down the line where it (hopefully) pushes through whatever is obstructing your plumbing line and preventing your toilet from flushing.
To use an auger, insert it into the drain, cranking its handle to move it slowly through the drain line. When the snake meets resistance, you’ve found the obstruction. At this point, the snake should snag whatever is clogging the line, freeing the line and allowing the flow of waste and water to continue. Pull the snake back out of the drain. It may take you several attempts at snaking the drain to clear a clog.
No plunger? No auger? No problem. An ages-old hack for how to unclog a toilet without a plunger is to pour a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Wait 10 minutes, then add two cups of white vinegar to the bowl. After a few minutes, attempt to flush your toilet again. Repeat the process again if the clog remains.
If your DIY efforts to successfully unclog your toilet fail, it’s likely because the problem with your toilet lies deeper inside the plumbing system. Issues may be happening with the drain lines that move waste to the sewer system or your septic tank. This may be more apparent if you’re also noticing slow drains or non-working drains in other areas of the home or if your showers or sinks are having backup issues. Essentially, to unclog a toilet when nothing else works, you're probably going to need to hire a professional.
Much like toilets, drain lines can become clogged. A professional plumber has commercial augers that can reach further into the drain lines to free clogs. A plumber is also equipped to fix a leaking or broken drain line, which can also prevent toilets from flushing properly. If a tree root is impeding the flushing of the lines, for example, a pro may be needed to replace a section of the drain line that is causing the clog or backup in the line. Professional plumbers typically use high-tech equipment and cameras to help locate and diagnose the source of clogs.
Some of the issues surrounding clogged toilets can easily be taken care of on your own, so knowing how to unclog a toilet and how to use a toilet plunger are important. Other problems are more complex and require the special equipment and skills of a professional.
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