Having a clogged toilet is something that happens in every home or workplace, unfortunately. Because it can be such a common occurrence, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time what to do when you have a clogged toilet.
This is especially relevant if you have small children still learning how much toilet paper to use or what shouldn’t be flushed.
It’s also handy if you manage an office where multiple employees share bathroom facilities, creating high usage and a greater risk of someone flushing something that should not go down the toilet.
So it’s best to be prepared. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
Once a toilet starts to block, there isn’t much time to figure out what to do when there is water (and waste) overflowing.
So here are a few steps to learn so that you’re prepared if and when you have a clogged toilet.
Grab the towels
To minimise the mess and the damage that water can do to your floors, grab a few towels and put them around the base of the toilet. Start with the bathmat, as it’s probably the thickest towel in the bathroom.
Then grab the largest body towel you can find and wrap that around the base of the toilet. This will help prevent water from running through the floor, and it will also reduce the chance that you’ll slip and hurt yourself.
Stop the current toilet flush
If the toilet is overflowing because it won’t stop running, jiggle the handle or flusher slightly – but make sure you don’t press it down fully or flush the toilet again.
Sometimes a slight movement of the flusher is enough to stop the continuous flush as it may dislodge a flapper that isn’t closing. Another thing to try is to lift the lid of the cistern and manually close the toilet flapper.
Check for the smell of gas
The smell of gas, sulphur, rotten eggs or sewage could indicate a bigger problem in your drainage system or the street sewage system. If this is the case, it’s time to call a plumber.
They will need to determine where the drainage problems are and what to do next. Give the team at Sumich a call on 0800 437 021 and we can send a member of our emergency plumbing team out to help you.
Turn off the water system
In many older homes, there is a tap on the wall near the toilet that acts as a shut-off valve. If you have one of these, use it to turn off the water supply to the toilet.
Stop flushing the toilet
Sometimes the temptation is to flush the toilet again to see if that clears the blockage.
More often than not, this won’t work. It will probably create a bigger mess with more water overflowing.
Remove any (non-waste) object that caused the clogged toilet
If something has been dropped down the toilet by accident (e.g. a child’s toy, the lid from your face cream, something off a bathroom shelf, etc), you’ll need to reach in and remove it.
If you have rubber or latex gloves under the sink or in the kitchen, put those on first. It’s not a pleasant job, but you will have to remove the object.
Clear the clogged toilet using a plunger
Hopefully you have a toilet plunger nearby. It may not be something you use often, but it’s worth having one in the bathroom because when you need it, you need it quickly.
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.
Once you’ve created a seal with the plunger over the bottom of the toilet, pump the plunger up and down quickly while maintaining the seal and keeping the plunger under the water.
You only need to move it a few centimetres up and down. This will create air and water movement below the plunger, which should dislodge the blockage.
Once you’ve pumped the plunger up and down about five times, quickly pull up the plunger to break the air seal.
This should cause the water to rush down the drain. If this doesn’t work on the first attempt, repeat the steps.
Make sure you wash the plunger with soap and hot water after using it, before you store it away.
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
A plumbing snake, or toilet snake, is a flexible coil of wire is designed to be inserted into the toilet. It extends and winds down to clear obstructions without damaging the plumbing.
A snake is useful for blockages in the toilet that are quite far down – deeper than you can reach with your hand. It’s quite handy when you know something has been accidentally dropped down the toilet that needs to be pulled out.
Please do not try to make your own snake out of a wire clothes hanger. It won’t work and will scratch the porcelain.
A proper plumbing/toilet snake has a plastic sheath that covers the metal as you insert the snake to reduce the chances of scratching the toilet.
Many of them also have a handle that enables you to turn or rotate the coil as you push the snake down. It’s a simple yet remarkably effective tool to keep handy.
There are a number of reasons for a clogged toilet to occur. 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.
However, if time is of the essence, we would advise you to call one of technicians to come and professionally unblock your toilet.