Unclog a Toilet

Most toilet clogs are caused by accumulations of paper products in the bowl’s narrow trap or by miscellaneous items that accidentally fall into the toilet and get stuck in the trap. A complete blockage can cause a toilet to overflow; a partial clog can result in sluggish flushing. Whatever the cause -- toilet blockages are more than frustrating. Find out how to unclog them.


  DIFFICULTY:

ratings key
 

step 1

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To unclog a toilet with a plunger, bail out excess water, leaving enough to cover plunger cup. If possible, use a flanged plunger. Place plunger cup snugly over drain opening. Standing directly over plunger, pump up and down vigorously 10 times. On last stroke, yank up on plunger with a strong pull. Repeat if necessary.

step2

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Use a closet auger if plunger fails to unclog toilet. Place auger bend in bottom of toilet drain opening; push auger cable into trap. Crank auger handle clockwise to get cable past trap. If the auger becomes hard to turn, pull it back a little and try again. When auger tip hits clog, move auger from side to side to break up clog.

step3

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To find out if rim flush holes are fully open, hold a mirror under the toilet bowl rim at an angle that allows you to see the holes.


step4

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To unblock rim flush holes, cut a short section of wire from a coat hanger. Insert wire into each hole, with care to protect porcelain. Turn wire to loosen built-up min- eral deposits.


step5

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A blocked siphon hole may house bacteria. To clear the blockage, insert a wire probe into hole and twist it in and out to remove waste buildup.

step6

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To inspect the top of the trap for a partial blockage, bail water out of the toilet bowl, place a mirror at an angle in the opening, and shine a flashlight on the mirror.

and keep in mind

If the water in a toilet bowl begins to rise above its normal level after you flush, suspect a clog. To prevent an overflow, remove the top of the tank and close the flush valve by hand--putting either the flapper stopper or the ball stopper back in the closed position. To deal with the stoppage, bail out the excess water in the bowl (leave enough to cover a plunger’s cup), and then apply a plunger.

If that doesn’t work, use a closet auger. In a pinch, you can try to snag the obstruction with a hook made out of a straightened wire hanger, but never use a chemical drain cleaner to unclog a toilet. Such products are harmful to pipes and to people, and they are not effective in penetrating toilet clogs. If you cannot unclog the toilet with a plunger or an auger, the problem may be a blockage somewhere else in the drainage system, possibly in the main drain or the vent stack.

Sluggish flushing may also be caused by mineral deposits clogging the flush holes located under the rim of the toilet bowl (a problem common in areas with hard water) and by waste blocking the siphon hole, located opposite the toilet’s drain opening.

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