What to Do When You Have a Clogged Toilet

Man holding plunger over toilet
No homeowner wants to go to the restroom only to discover your toilet is clogged. Perhaps you tried to flush and the water level is rising at an alarming rate, or your little one threw their rubber duck into the bowl and it's lodged itself firmly in the drain. There are many ways your toilet can become blocked. The important thing is to know what to do when it happens.

You might be in a situation where you can't wait for a plumber to arrive, or want to try to dislodge the clog on your own. Although our professional Long Island plumbers are always ready to solve your plumbing problems, there are a few at-home tricks you can try out.

1. Flush with Hot Water

Often, you can get rid of clogged toilets without resorting to using invasive methods like a plunger or drain snake. Most items that block toilets are a combination of toilet paper, waste, and materials that shouldn't be flushed into your plumbing system (like baby wipes and feminine hygiene products). Thus, it's possible to push these items through your drain chemically instead of manually. But if a toy or personal item, such as a watch, has gotten stuck, that's a different story.

If you suspect the clog is not too bad, first try heating up a pot of hot water. While you might use boiling water for other drains in your home, such as in sinks or showers, do not use boiling water in your toilet. You don't want to melt or crack your toilet bowl. Once the water is hot, pour it from the waist level into the bowl. Pouring water from a taller height will help dislodge clogs.

2. Try Dish Soap

Believe it or not, you can pour dish soap into your toilet bowl to try to tackle smaller clogs. Pour roughly 1/4 cup of dish soap into the bowl and follow with a generous amount of hot water. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, try flushing your toilet. Dish soap should act as a lubricant and loosen the clog.

3. Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

If dish soap doesn't work, another non-invasive technique is to use baking soda and vinegar. First, pour one cup of baking soda into the bowl. Then, add a cup of vinegar. Close your toilet lid and let the mixture sit for 10 to 20 minutes. It should bubble and froth. The chemical reaction's force should break apart any debris in the drain. Once it has settled, pour roughly half a gallon of hot water into the bowl. This will force any remaining debris down the drain.

4. Use Plastic Wrap

As unconventional as it sounds, in a pinch you can use plastic wrap to help clear a clog. Simply put a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the toilet seat. Pull it tautly so it's stuck on firmly. Then, flush your toilet. Plastic wrap should create a vacuum similar to what a plunger does. You'll notice it inflate or bubble as the toilet flushes, this is completely normal and means it's working.

5. Buy or Make an Enzyme Cleaning Agent

Enzyme cleaners employ enzymes and live bacteria to break apart debris. They are a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to harsh chemicals. Conventional drain cleaners can be harmful to both your plumbing system and your family. Although it can be tempting to tackle a blockage with bleach, enzyme cleaning agents are a far safer choice. You can even make your own DIY enzyme solution with the recipe below:

  • 2 cups citrus rinds (older), such as lemons, limes, and/or oranges
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baker's yeast
  • 4 cups water

Chop up your fruit peels into small pieces. Then, carefully pour all ingredients into a 2-liter bottle (common soft drink container) and shake vigorously. Note what date you make your enzyme cleaner in your calendar, as it will take roughly a month to form completely. Until it has fermented sufficiently, you'll have to open the bottle and gently shake the solution to release any accumulating carbon dioxide twice a day. Once a month has gone by, strain out the fruit peel chunks and pour the solution into a fresh spray bottle. It's now ready to use and can be stored at room temperature.

6. Use a Toilet Plunger

If chemical methods fail to get rid of clogs blocking your toilet, then your next step will be to use a plunger. Ensure you get the right type of plunger, as some models are made for sinks or shower drains. Consider using a beehive plunger, bellows-style plunger, or traditional flange plunger. These designs are made to fit snugly into your toilet drain.

Once you've acquired your plunger, take a look at the bowl's water level. If it's too high to plunge without splashing water everywhere, you'll need to empty it by hand. Bail out excess water into a bucket and then leave the bucket aside (once the toilet is clear you'll be able to pour it back in).

Next, put tarps, newspapers or garbage bags on the floor next to your toilet to protect it from any splashing. Carefully insert the plunger into the bowl and push gently. Once it has latched onto the drain, you can begin plunging. Push between 15 and 20 times and then try flushing your toilet. You may have to repeat this process a few times. Be patient. Plunging is a time-consuming process, but often a foolproof one as well.

7. Try a Drain Snake or Wire Hanger

As a last resort, before calling a professional plumber to tackle the clog for you, DIY-inclined homeowners can use a plumber's snake or wire coat hanger to dislodge stubborn blockages. This method will be particularly helpful if a hard object has gotten stuck in your toilet.

A drain snake looks like a long, coiled metal rope; designed with a crank at one end. Typically, the snake (also known as an auger) is pushed into the drain. Then the crank is used to either break apart the blockage or pull it out of the bowl. Since most homeowners don't have an auger handy, the next best thing is to use a metal coat hanger:

  • Straighten the hanger, bending a hook into one end
  • Push the hooked side into your toilet
  • Being careful not to scratch the bowl, fish around until you feel the clog
  • Either scoop out any contents and throw them away, or attempt to break the clog
  • Once dislodged, you may follow by pouring hot water into the bowl and giving it a flush

Hire Our Pro Services Today!

We hope these helpful DIY tips will make you feel empowered instead of panicked next time your toilet is clogged. However, if you don't have the time or inclination to unblock your toilet, our team of experts at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Central Long Island is always happy to help. We have decades of experience providing exceptional services to clients throughout Long Island, and can efficiently solve all your plumbing problems.

To book an appointment with one of our qualified technicians, we invite you to call our friendly office staff. You can also request an appointment online for more information.