Here we share the “doos” and don’ts of unclogging the toilet with and without a plunger.
Few sounds can cue more instant anxiety than the undeniable bubble of a toilet flush stopped in its tracks. Whether you’re at home, in the office, or a guest in unfamiliar territory, a clogged toilet always seems to happen at the most inappropriate moments. If you find yourself facing this plumbing issue, or worse - facing it without a plunger – there are a few common methods to flushing your worries back down the drain.
Avoid a potential flood of mistakes with these steps to successfully unclog the toilet in almost any situation.
ABOVE ALL ELSE: AVOID OVERFLOW
DO NOT: Take the flush-and-a-prayer method of flushing again – and again - until the blockage breaks up. Chances are this could lead to overflow.
DO: If water is already rising, lift the tank lid and carefully use the rubber floater to block water from filling the hole at the bottom. If this isn’t a fast enough option, turn off (twist right to close) the water at the valve, typically located behind the toilet towards the bottom.
OPTION #1: TAKING THE PLUNGE: HOW USE A PLUNGER
Step 1: Make sure there is enough standing water in the toilet to cover the bottom of the plunger.
If there isn’t, you can add the necessary amount from the sink or shower to avoid air pockets.
Step 2: Align the plunger so that it completely covers the drain hole. When positioning, avoid pressing the cup straight down, as that will introduce additional air. This will weaken the force to the suction. Instead, lower the plunger into the bowl at a slight diagonal so it fills with as much water as possible.
Step 3: Plunge Without breaking the seal between the cup and hole, push the plunger cup up and down vigorously with both hands seven to ten times or until the water starts to flush. If it seems like air is bubbling out the sides of the plunger to the top of the bowl, reposition the plunger cup to the seal and repeat.
Step 4: Turn water supply back on (twist left to open) if previously shut off and flush the toilet.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 as needed.
CALLING FOR “BACKUP”: HOW TO UNCLOG THE TOILET WITHOUT A PLUNGER
OPTION #2: HOT WATER, SOAP & SOAK
What you’ll need: Hot (not boiling) water, liquid soap, container
Turn on the hot water in the sink or shower and locate liquid soap and a bucket, cup or similar container to fill. Dish soap is preferred, but if you can’t break free to the kitchen, liquid hand soap, body wash or a bath bomb can work. Squeeze about a quarter cup (or as much as you can) as close to the hole as possible. Add some hot water (not boiling) and let sit to help lubricate and disband the clog.
OPTION #3: HOT WATER TO GET YOU OUT OF TROUBLED WATERS
What you’ll need: Hot (not boiling) water, container
Turn on the hot water in the sink or shower and locate a bucket, cup or similar container to fill. Once the water has reached its hottest possible temperature (below boiling; anything above can crack the bowl’s porcelain), pour the water up to an inch below the rim to avoid flooding. Let the water sit for a few minutes to push and dissolve the matter at hand.
OPTION #4: TOILET BRUSH “PLUNGING”
What you’ll need: Toilet brush and a good grip
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If there’s no plunger in sight you can avoid “brushing” with toilet clogging disaster by angling a toilet brush down the hole and “plunge” like you would with a regular plunger to loosen things up. If the bristles are too wide, try turning the brush upside down to angle the long end of the handle down, “snake style.”
OPTION #5: “SNAKING” MATTERS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
What you’ll need: Wire hanger or long-stemmed handle of some sort
Similar to the brush method, if you’re still unable to access or ask for a plunger, the unclogging process will have to get manual. Some undesirable, yet easier-to-clean options could include a wire hanger to uncoil, a plastic or metal long-stemmed handle – like a toilet brush, comb, etc. –or sacrifice your hand by covering it with a plastic bag. Once you’ve located or prepared your instrument of choice, carefully explore the drain hole until the blockage is dealt with. During this “fishing” process, avoid touching the porcelain as much as possible to prevent permanently scratching its surface.