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Can't Flush? Here's How to Unclog Your Toilet

By Adam Morris
Share to PinterestUnclog your toilet with these tricks

At some point in your life, you will be faced with the uncomfortable situation of a clogged toilet. Whether you jammed it or someone else plugged it, and what it is clogged with, isn't important. All that matters is that the toilet is not doing its job and will need to be unclogged as quickly as possible so that it can go back to work.

Keep calm; panic and constant flushing can lead to flooding and other issues. Here's how to keep that from happening.


Keep the toilet from overflowing

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The first thing to do is shut off the water that runs into the toilet. This helps ensure that there is no chance of more water flowing into the bowl and causing a flooding nightmare to occur. This is very simple to do, though you might need a certain degree of strength and flexibility to do it. You will have to get down behind the toilet and turn the knob on the water line running into the back of the toilet. Remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. So turn the knob to the right until you can't turn it anymore and the water will be off. Make sure to leave one full tank of water behind the toilet as well.


Buy the proper plunger

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There are many plungers out there but not many that will deal with tough clogs. So when you go to the hardware store buy a plunger that has a funnel cup. Or an extra bit of rubber on all sides that reaches down into the toilet clog to suck it up and out. Other plungers that look like the classic ones from cartoons and movies won't be nearly as effective.


Prepping your plunger

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Plungers are rubber, which becomes stiff when sitting unused. To make it more pliable, loosen it up before you begin. Leaving it under a stream of hot water for a few minutes will do the trick. Another idea is to soak it in a container of warm water for a while. If it's a sunny day and you don't need to toilet immediately, you can even put the plunger outside in the sun for a bit.


Proper plunging technique

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To get the most out of your effort, using the proper technique is key. Make sure your plunger is directly over the drain hole, and its handle is straight up and down, not at an angle. This creates ideal suction.

Press down until the plunger touches the drain hole, then pull it back without releasing the suction. Repeat this motion several times before removing the plunger. If the water doesn't swiftly go down the drain, do the whole process over again. You may have to do this several times.


Test your handy work

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Now see if you unclogged the toilet. You will usually know if there is standing water in the toilet, and it has gone down. Sometimes it's not clear, as most clogs will drain slowly on their own. The only way to really know for sure is to flush the toilet once. With the residual water left in the toilet tank, flush it, to see if it goes down, or if the weight of the water goes down. If it doesn't and fills the bowl up further, you have more work to do.


Use household solutions to dissolve the clog

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One reason the plunger may not have worked is that the clog is significant and needs to be broken down further. The way to expedite this is to use various solutions. One simple one is hot water and dishwasher detergent. This can work without even using a plunger at times.  But it's also handy when working in concert with a plunger. Pour this solution in assuming it won't overflow the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes while it does what it's supposed to do. Then plunge the toilet and test it again, filling the tank back up with water if you have to.


Use store-bought clog solution

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If home remedies don't work, always go industrial strength. A trip to the hardware store or pharmacy might be necessary to find a solution that is safe on toilets and deals with clogs. Make one hundred percent sure whatever you are pouring down the drain is OK to pour into your toilet.

Some solutions will literally eat into the porcelain or the pipes and cause much bigger future problems than just a clog. But see if this does the trick.


Store-bought solution after-care

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Plunging a toilet that contains chemicals is a delicate process. Due to the nature of the substances, you want to ensure you're safe and your bathroom's protected.

Covering the floor with newspaper or a similar safeguard is a good idea. Gloves are also a must, and wearing protective eyewear is a smart move in case of splashback. Once you're prepped, gently plunge using the proper technique of drain coverage with a perpendicular handle. Repeat as needed if the water doesn't drain from the bowl.


Try a toilet brush

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If a plunger doesn't work, you do have a number of other tools at your disposal. The closest at hand is a toilet brush. It's an impromtu option that may do the trick.

Angle the brush's bristles into the drain. Pump up and down a few times, reaching as far as you can go. This force may loosen your clog.


Unhinge a wire hanger

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A cheap and easy tool for unclogging a toilet is a wire hanger. Unwind it and straighten it out, save for the hook. Wrap a protective cloth around this hook to avoid damaging the porcelain.

Angle the hook into the drain and gently push it down until you hit the clog. Move the hanger until you see the water draining. Flush a few times after this to clear the pipe.


The value of a vacuum

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If you're still in a bind, a vacuum could help, but only the only a wet/dry shop vac variety. Wrap a cloth around the hose's nozzle to create better suction. Stick the nozzle into the drain and turn on the vacuum. This should hopefully suck out any type of clog.

It should go without saying that you'll want to clean your vacuum well, afterwards.


Use an Auger

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If the drain still won't clear, it's time to get a little medieval, and by medieval we mean using a tool that looks like a medieval torture device, also known as an Auger. This is a cable that has hooks on the end of it which you poke down the opening in the toilet into the clog, hoping to punch a hole in it or jar it loose.


Remove the Toilet Bowl

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This may be out of many people's skill set, but it is the next logical step when the clog can't be removed by all the means above. It will require tools to unscrew the toilet from the bottom and something to cut the seal around the toilet and the floor. But it may be the only logical next step in the whole process. Make sure you have someone help you do this though as it's only a one-person job if that person is a pro.


Call a Plumber

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At some point, you need to bite the bullet, expect to pay some real money, and call a plumber to deal with the clog. Get some references and look at reviews for the plumber online to make sure they know what they are doing and don't rip people off and then set an appointment. They will undoubtedly get it taken care of in a few hours.


Keep it From Happening in the First Place

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If clogs are a recurring issue at your house, put up signs to remind residents not to flush things that shouldn't go down the toilet. Leave small trashcans for feminine hygiene products in the bathroom. Educate kids not to flush anything other than waste or toilet paper down the toilet. This will reduce the chance of toilet clogs in the first place.



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