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How to Fix a Clogged Toilet

 |  Plumbing

There is one thing about adult life that everyone dreads: a clogged toilet. Whether you are a homeowner or renting an apartment, the clean-up from a clogged toilet is the same. Here are some helpful tips for the do-it-yourselfer who is facing the rising tide of toilet water.

Analyzing the Problem

Through the years, We’ve discovered that sometimes the toilet tells you when it has a clog developing. The water will not go down as smoothly or quickly as usual. This is what’s called a build-up clog. There is something in the way that is small enough to let the water pass but is large enough to grab paper on the way through. One paper-heavy procedure will be enough to cause an overflow.

Toilet in water closetFor most of us, we don’t notice until it’s too late. That’s when we have to pull out the big guns… and the towels. If the clog is sudden, it’s likely caused by a foreign object. The most common obstructions found in toilets are toys, which can immediately cause problems.


Most people will grab the plunger right away when they see the toilet water rising. They immediately start pumping to avoid the overflow. This usually causes more of a mess. If it is possible to stop the tank water from entering the toilet bowl, go ahead and do that. This can be done by replacing the plug in the tank. Once the water is stopped, let the water in the bowl sit before grabbing the plunger.

Not all plungers are created equal. The most common plunger people have in their homes is the simple cup plunger. It has the brown or black cup with the wooden handle attached. This plunger is quite effective on flat surfaces with drains such as White Toilet plungerbathtubs or sinks. However, it falls short on rounded sinks and toilets because it cannot properly seal on a rounded surface.

We encourage our clients to keep a flange plunger in their bathrooms for toilet emergencies. A flange plunger looks like an accordion but fits into the toilet drain to create the necessary suction for plunging. This is a very versatile plunger because the flange part can be collapsed into the cup for use with sinks or bathtubs.

Make sure there is enough water in the toilet bowl to cover the plunger. When it is time to plunge, it is important to remember to push down gently that first time. The plunger is completely full of air, and a hard plunge push will break the cup seal and send water splashing out of the toilet. Once that first plunge is done, go ahead and pump vigorously a few times. If the clog doesn’t dislodge, our technique is to repeat the plunge a couple more times. If it still doesn’t dislodge, we move to the next step.

Toilet Auger

Toilet with Auger in it Gilbert AZBecause of how toilets are designed, we caution our clients on using a standard snake in a toilet. A plumbing snake is a wire designed to grab onto whatever is clogging the drain so it can be removed. This is great for sinks or bathtubs. However, toilet

drains have such a severe bend in their pipe that it is difficult for a person to effectively work the snake into the drain without actually submerging their hands in the dirty water. A toilet auger is designed to fit into the drain and uses a crank to maneuver the snake toward the clog. A hook on the snake helps to grab the clog so it can be removed.

Remove the Toilet

If the plunger and toilet auger fail, it is possible to pull up the toilet and remove the clog. However, this is a last resort because it involves turning off and unhooking the water supply, partially disassembling the toilet, and replacing the seals and bolts. We know some do-it-yourselfers who are quite capable of replacing all the parts with great success, but some create further issues because they were not able to get a good seal on the toilet when they replaced the rings. Leaks at these rings can rot the floor boards around the toilet.

Call a Professional

When you’ve tried everything at your disposal, it’s time to put an “out of order” sign on the toilet and call me. Although calling in a plumber on the weekend is not ideal, letting an unknown clog stay in the toilet can cause more problems than you want. A clog can cause water build-up that will stress or wear down the joints and seals on a toilet. By waiting too long to call a professional, a simple unclogging job can turn into a structural repair.

Things to Remember

1. Close the lid. Whether you look at it as feng shui or common sense, it is best to put the toilet lid down when not in use. This avoids items accidentally falling into the toilet and creating a clog.

2. Standard toilet paper. Certain designs of toilet paper can cause problems in the toilet. These include some “premium” toilet papers and toilet paper with additives like aloe. These products do not separate and break down easily. This can cause build-up in households or offices, especially where bathrooms are used more frequently.

3. Toilet paper only. Feminine hygiene products do not break down as easily as toilet paper, which is designed to break down quickly. These products include tampons, sanitary napkins, facial wipes, baby wipes, and anything thicker than regular toilet paper. Even though the box says “flushable”, your toilet may not agree.

4. No chemicals. Toilet plumbing is not designed the same as sinks or bathtubs. Gravity does not drive the water through the system, pressure does. Any chemicals put into the toilet will simply sit at the bottom instead of reaching the clog. This makes it dangerous when you plunge later because the chemical-laden water can splash onto you.

Clogs happen to everyone. When all else fails, call the professionals at Isley’s Home Service for quick, 24/7 assistance and expert advice. We’ve been helping the residents of Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas with their plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs for almost 60 years.

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