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4 Ways to Unclog a Toilet That Won't Drain

There’s never an appropriate time for your toilet to clog. Whether you’re at a holiday dinner, family gathering, or home alone, a clogged toilet can create an embarrassing and frustrating mess. Unfortunately, it’s not a mess that you can ignore for very long either.

Clearing a clogged toilet can be tricky, and it’s even trickier when you don’t have a plunger. Thankfully, there are ways to unclog a toilet with and without a plunger, and we’ll walk you through a few of our most effective methods, step by step.

How to Unclog a Toilet with a Plunger

Person using a plunger in a toilet

Time needed: Five minutes or less

Necessary items: Toilet plunger, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Get your clogged toilet back up and running again the good old-fashioned way — with a plunger and some serious elbow grease. Here’s how to restore your toilet to working order in just five easy steps:

1. Ensure you have the right plunger.

Did you know that there are different plungers for different tasks? Make sure that you are using a toilet plunger for the job and not a sink plunger. Toilet plungers have a flange that goes into the hole of the toilet, while sink plungers are flat and do not have a flange. While both work in the same fashion, sink plungers may not be able to form the seal needed for proper toilet plunging.

2. Confirm that there is standing water in the toilet bowl.

Sometimes clogs cause a toilet to slowly drain its bowl. You cannot plunge a toilet that is empty, so if there is no standing water, use a cup to fill the toilet with water from your sink. If the toilet is empty, take the opportunity to use hot (but not boiling) water, as high temperatures can help clear clogs.

3. Cover the hole with the plunger at a slight angle.

Angle the plunger so that the flange goes into the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl. When you push in at the correct angle, it should form a seal around the hole.

4. Pump the plunger several times.

Lean into the plunger and pump at a slight angle in order to force water into the pipe at a high pressure. Do this several times. If air seems to be forcing itself out the side of your plunger cup, then reposition in order to form a proper seal. After pumping around six or seven times, pull the plunger off of the bowl to see if the obstruction has been removed.

5. Flush.

Once the obstruction has been removed by your plunging, flush the toilet and allow it to refill as normal. If plunging the toilet did not work, and the toilet looks like it will overflow, open up the tank and pull open the flapper to cease the flow of water into the toilet bowl. Once the tank stops filling, try steps 1-4 again. If the clog does not clear after multiple attempts, it may be time to call a plumber.

How to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

Today just isn’t your lucky day. Your toilet’s clogged, and you don’t have a plunger? Hang in there. There are still a few ways to work through this. If your toilet isn’t draining, you may not need a plunger to fix it. Here are three less conventional ways to remove a blockage from your toilet pipes.

Unclog a Toilet Using Soap and Hot Water

Time needed: About 30 minutes

Necessary items: Soap, a gallon of very hot water, a plastic cup, disposable gloves/dish gloves

1. Make room in the bowl.

image showing empty toilet bowl

Manually remove some water from the toilet bowl, ensuring that there is space for adding a gallon of liquid. Remove the water with a small container—like a cup from the bathroom sink. Just make sure you don't put it back on the counter when you're done!

2. Add soap.

image showing a person adding soap to toilet bowl
Lubricate the toilet bowl by adding some dish soap, shampoo, or a few slivers of bar soap.

3. Add hot water

image of hot water being poured into toilet bowl
Heat a gallon of water to very hot but not boiling. A drinkable tea temperature is just right. If the water is too hot, it could crack your toilet bowl. Pour the water into the bowl, and let it sit for 20 minutes.

4. Test your work

image of toilet

Try flushing the toilet. If it flushes, you’re all set! If instead it starts to overflow, turn the water valve off behind the toilet—then start again at step 1 or try another method.

Unclog Your Toilet with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Time needed: 10–15 minutes

Necessary items: Baking soda, vinegar, disposable/dish gloves, cup

If the toilet remains clogged after a few attempts at resolving the problem, remove at least half of the water from the bowl. Then try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar into the toilet. The mixture will bubble excessively, which is why it’s important to first remove the excess water. Let the bubbles sit for at least 20 minutes before you try to flush.

Unclog Your Toilet with a Coat Hanger

Still clogged? Here’s one last-ditch effort: Unravel a wire coat hanger and put on a pair of disposable gloves.

Person pouring diswashing soap in toilet

  1. Manually remove some water from the toilet bowl, ensuring that there is space for adding a gallon of liquid. Remove the water with a small container—like a cup from the bathroom sink. Just make sure you don't put it back on the counter when you're done!
  2. Lubricate the toilet bowl by adding some dish soap, shampoo, or a few slivers of bar soap.
  3. Person pouring watetr in toiletHeat a gallon of water to very hot but not boiling. A drinkable tea temperature is just right. If the water is too hot, it could crack your toilet bowl. Pour the water into the bowl, and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Try flushing the toilet. If it flushes, you’re all set! If instead it starts to overflow, turn the water valve off behind the toilet—then start again at step 1 or try another method.

How to Unclog Your Toilet with Baking Soda and Vinegar

If the toilet remains clogged after a few attempts at resolving the problem, remove at least half of the water from the bowl. Then try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar into the toilet. The mixture will bubble excessively, which is why it’s important to first remove the excess water. Let the bubbles sit for at least 20 minutes before you try to flush.

How to Unclog Your Toilet with Coat Hanger

Still clogged? Here’s one last-ditch effort: Unravel a wire coat hanger, and put on a pair of disposable gloves.

Person cutting a coat hanger

Bend one end of a wire hanger back on itself a few inches (as in the photo). Then wrap that end of the straightened hanger with a cloth and duct tape it firmly in place so it doesn’t scratch your toilet. Use the hanger to gently push debris down the pipe until you can flush. Twist and push the wire in a circular motion. If you can’t feel the wire hitting the obstruction, this task may be out of your reach.

Why Won’t My Toilet Unclog? Call for Backup

If, after several attempts at plunging your toilet, it remains backed up, it’s time to call for backup. Get help from the professionals at Mr. Rooter Plumbing. We make your plumbing emergency our top priority and will schedule service with you as quickly as possible to resolve your problem. Call us today at (855) 982-2028.

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