Unclogging a Toilet

There are certain jobs that you don’t really want to learn under pressure – how to change a tire, how to put up a tent, how to unclog a toilet. They’re basic survival skills that everyone should learn at some point in their life.

So here we help you with the third one – how to unclog a toilet.

There are a few ways to unblock a toilet. The method you use comes down to what tools you have at hand and how bad the blockage is.

If, however, you’ve already decided that this is a skill you can live without, feel free to contact our friendly toilet unblockers. We don’t mind at all – unblocking toilets is part of what we do regularly, and we understand that many people would rather leave it to the professionals.

There are a few ways to unclog a toilet

Clear the clog using a plunger

It’s a good idea to have a toilet plunger in every bathroom of your house. It may not be something you use often, but it’s worth having one nearby because when you need it, you need it quickly.

If something is blocking the toilet, place the plunger in the toilet and push down gently to gradually remove the air. You also want to do this slowly, so that dirty water doesn’t splash back on you.

Pump the plunger up and down quickly – you only need to move it up and down a few centimetres. Make sure you maintain the seal and keep the plunger under the water. Air and water movement below the plunger should dislodge whatever is blocking the toilet. After about five pumps of the plunger, quickly pull it up to break the air seal. Water will then rush down the drain. You may need to repeat this a few times if it doesn’t work on the first attempt.

Before you store the plunger away, make sure you wash it with soap and hot water. Another tip to keep in mind is to run hot water over the plunger before you use it, if you have the time (that is, if the toilet is clogged but not overflowing). The hot water will soften the rubber and make it easier to create a seal.

Unblock the toilet using a plumbing snake

Another tool you might want to have in your cleaning supplies cupboard is a plumbing snake, also known as a toilet snake. This is a flexible coil of wire that can be inserted into the toilet. It extends and winds down to clear obstructions without damaging the plumbing. A toilet snake is useful for blockages in the toilet that are quite far down – deeper than you can reach with your hand.

Do not be tempted to make your own snake out of a wire clothes hanger. It will scratch the porcelain and probably won’t work. A proper plumbing snake has a plastic cover over the metal to prevent you from scratching the toilet as you insert the snake into the toilet.

It may also have a handle that you can turn or rotate as you push the snake down. It’s an incredibly effective yet simple tool you might want to have on hand.

Other toilet unclogging methods – do they really work?

If you don’t have a toilet plunger or a plumbing snake, you may want to try other toilet unblocking methods that are out there on the internet. We prefer the more traditional approach of the plunger or toilet snake, but if you are interested in the alternative methods of unclogging a toilet, here are a few tips…                

Vinegar and baking soda

For people trying to avoid using toxic chemicals in their home, the combination of vinegar and baking soda is a common remedy. We’ve seen different ratios for various cleaning purposes. We’re not entirely sure they work for unclogging a toilet.

The reaction that occurs when vinegar and baking soda are combined results from the release of carbon dioxide. The expansion and mini explosion this creates may clear a minor clog.

It will depend on what is causing the clogged toilet and how severe it is. The risk, however, is that you’ll make the problem worse by putting more products down a drainage system that is already struggling to clear what’s there already. 

Hot water and soap

Be very, very careful with this approach. You’d think that soap and water would be a reasonably harmless approach. There are, however, a few risks here. First of all, boiling water can crack your porcelain toilet. So we strongly advise that you do not pour boiling water down the toilet. In addition, pouring liquid soap down the toilet will probably make the problem harder to resolve. Soap doesn’t break down clogs.

It may just create a lot of bubbles that make it hard to see the blockage, make the floor incredibly slippery, and add to whatever is clogging or clumping in your pipes. This is not a home remedy that we recommend.

Household bleach Some people use bleach as an all-purpose home maintenance remedy. We don’t see much harm in putting small amounts of bleach down the toilet if you can see water slowly running down the toilet – that is, the toilet is not completely clogged.

But bleach won’t remove an item that is blocking the drainpipes. It’s not going to immediately break down excessive amounts of toilet paper, and it’s not going to create any pressure that will move a clog down the pipes. This is another home toilet unclogging remedy that we can’t see much benefit in.

Toilet chemicals and cleaning products

There are a lot of household drainage products for sale that claim to unblock your toilet. Take note, products designed to clear blocked drains and sinks are different from toilet unblocking chemicals. That’s because many blocked drains are caused by soap scum, hair, food waste and other products that can be cleared by breaking them down.

A clogged toilet is often caused by too much toilet paper, too much waste being flushed and getting trapped, or faults in the pipes or sewage system. None of these things will be fixed with toilet chemicals.

You must also be careful not to put regular drain-clearing chemicals down the toilet as they may corrode the porcelain and the pipes. There are products that are specifically designed for use in the toilet that won’t cause this corrosion. They work by helping to clear the gradual built up of dirt or scum and won’t help in unclogging a blocked toilet.

At Sumich, we prefer the approach of plunging, snaking and extracting whatever is blocking the toilet. In most cases, putting more substances down a clogged toilet will compound the issue. Adding more things to a clog may just make the problem bigger.

There are a number of reasons why a toilet gets blocked. If you want to avoid this problem in the first place, have a read of our article here all about how to prevent your toilet from getting clogged.

If you’re unsure about any of this, or do not feel comfortable unclogging a toilet yourself, give the team at Sumich a call. We even have an Auckland emergency plumbing team available to help you out 24/7.