TOILET BLOCKAGE REPAIR – AUCKLAND

When do you need to call a plumber for a toilet blockage?

Most toilet blockages can be fixed by you at home. It’s usually only when something that isn’t meant to be flushed gets trapped, or when something mechanical in the toilet isn’t working that you’ll need to call out a plumber to repair the toilet blockage. So we thought we’d give you a few basic tips on how to fix a blockage and, more importantly, how to prevent a toilet blockage.

Understanding how a toilet flushes

There are several parts within the tank and bowl that make the toilet work, but essentially what happens is this. When you flush the toilet, water and waste run down the bowl, through the trap, into the waste water system. The bowl refills with water from the tank. The tank fills with water from the main water supply.

How a toilet operates is quite simple, but many people don’t understand it because it is a mechanical action that we don’t actually see. We usually just do our business and flush, without looking in the toilet tank to see what happens to make the waste disappear.

Why does your toilet get clogged?

There are a few possible reasons why you might be experiencing toilet blockages:

You have a low-flow toilet

Most modern toilets are designed to use less water with each flush. Some early models get blocked if the water flow is too low for the amount being flushed down. The first thing to do is to reduce the amount of toilet paper you’re using and see if this fixes the problem.

The toilet trap is blocked

The trap is the curved part of the toilet at the base that you can see if you look at it from the side, below the bowl. Often items get trapped here, rather than further down in the drain. This could be because a non-flushable item was accidentally put down the toilet, or too much paper was used.

There is a problem with the main water line

If this is the case, you may not be able to clear the blockage with a standard toilet plunger. If you suspect there may be issues with the water supply coming into your house, our recommendation is to call your main water supplier to find out if there is a water supply issue near your home (for example, a broken pipe down the street, etc). 

There is a problem with the sewage system

Household drainage issues are sometimes the result of larger sewer system issues. If the main sewage lines are blocked (for example, from tree roots), you may need to contact your local council. If you can’t fix the toilet blockage yourself and you suspect there is a larger issue that needs addressing, give us a call and we can help diagnose what the cause is.

How to unblock a toilet yourself

We’re always happy to help, but we do recommend you try to unclog a blocked toilet yourself when possible to save yourself a call-out fee.

If you suspect you have a toilet blockage caused by too much toilet paper or another item flushed down the toilet, don’t continue to flush the toilet as this may make the problem worse and result in dirty water overflowing the bowl. The first and easiest thing to try is to unblock it with a toilet plunger. We recommend you have on hand a classic rubber cup plunger that you can buy at your local hardware or DIY store for about $10. (Or you can spend a bit more, around $30, to have one encased in a holder that might look a bit nicer if you want to leave it in the bathroom.) This type of plunger works by using air pressure of the suction cup to pull up and clear a blockage.

You simply put the plunger in the bowl to cover the outlet from the bowl so that air or water cannot pass. Start by moving the plunger up and down gently to avoid pushing the blockage further down. Gradually push and pull with a bit more force, until the water starts to recede. Add more water to the bowl if necessary and repeat the procedure. Remove the plunger before flushing the toilet to see if the flow has returned to normal.

How to prevent toilet problems and blockages

The easiest way to prevent your toilet from needing repairs is to use it properly. It sounds simple, but it means using the parts correctly – waiting for the tank to fill before flushing a second time, not forcefully banging or pressing the flusher, not slamming the seat lid, etc.

You can also keep an eye out for the toilet not draining or filling properly. If the bowl is filling more slowly than it should be, this may be an early indication that there is a problem with one or more parts in the tank. If the bowl is filling higher than it should be, this could also indicate it’s not fully draining or emptying. And if the water drains from the bowl after a flush very slowly, there may be a blockage forming. If you notice any of these things, we advise against continuing to flush in an attempt to clear the problem. 

What you can and cannot flush down a toilet

Preventing a toilet blockage begins with knowing what you can flush and what you shouldn’t flush down your toilet.

The obvious things that you can flush down the toilet are human waste, excrement, vomit. But if you’re conscientious about how much water you use or if you are on tank water, think twice about whether you really need to flush after every use. Friends of ours on tank water tell their small children, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down”.

Things you should NOT flush down the toilet:

  • Too much toilet paper
    How much is too much? As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of toilet paper calculators emerged and according to one, we should be using about 8 sheets per wipe.
  • Baby wipes or wet wipes
    Even the ones labelled as “flushable” should not be flushed as most don’t break down in water.
  • Paper towels, kitchen towel, handy towel, tissues
    Yes, they contain paper, but they’re generally much thicker than toilet paper and are designed to be more absorbent and durable. These do not break down easily in water.
  • Dental floss
    It doesn’t break down in water, and it may coil or wrap around other substances, creating larger masses that will cause a blockage.
  • Hair (human or pet hair)
    It doesn’t break down in water, and it may coil or wrap around other substances, creating larger masses that will cause a blockage. You can put hair into your compost.
  • Cotton buds, cotton balls, cotton swabs
  • Gauze, plasters, bandages, sticky plasters, Band-Aids®
  • Cigarettes or cigarette butts
    Not only do these cause clogs and blockages, but they are also highly toxic in the water system.
  • Food, grease, oil, fat, chewing gum
  • Your dead pet fish
    We’re not sure where or why this habit started, but give poor little Nemo a proper burial in the garden.
  • Feminine hygiene products, tampons, sanitary pads
    Because these items are designed to absorb moisture, they expand when flushed and are likely to clog pipes and drains. Instead, wrap them in toilet paper or tissue and dispose of them in the rubbish. (Alternatively, you might want to look into eco-friendly feminine hygiene options such as menstrual cups or period underwear.)
  • Condoms
    These will not dissolve in water and will cause blockages. Just wrap them in toilet tissue and dispose of them in the rubbish.
  • Drugs, pills, medications
    You may think you’re being safe and keeping them out of the way of children, but flushing your old medicine down the toilet contaminates the water system. Wrap them up and put them in the rubbish, or check with your local pharmacy for information on disposal programs.
  • Kitty litter
    Even the brands that claim to be biodegradable can cause clumps in the waste water system. Our advice is to look for a compostable product. We also advise against scooping out your cat’s waste and putting that down the toilet – no matter how careful you are, it’s practically impossible to exclude the small granules of kitty litter.
  • Diapers
    This is an obvious one for most of us, but you’d be surprised at some of the things we’ve seen.

Basically, there are only 4 things you can safely flush down the toilet:

  1. urine
  2. faeces
  3. vomit
  4. toilet paper

Stick to the basics and you’ll significantly reduce the need to deal with toilet blockages. But if you do find you need help with keeping your toilet running properly, get in touch and we can help.

Get in touch for a no-obligation quote.

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There are a number of plumbing and drainage companies in Auckland, so why choose Sumich?

Founded by owner-operator Chris Sumich in 1991, Sumich Plumbing & Drainage has one of the most experienced teams operating in Auckland. Our team has a combined experience of over 100 years and we’ve seen a comprehensive range of scenarios and solutions over the years. Clients trust us to give honest, transparent advice and service.

As registered members of the New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters Association, we are professional, licensed Auckland plumbers for all of your plumbing, drain laying, gas-fitting and heating needs. Give us a call to see how we can help.

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