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Home: Plumbing and Drainage: How to Unclog a Toilet

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How to Unclog a Toilet

Written by; Fraser Boone / TCCN Staff Writer
Added on: Fri Sep 18 2009


It is perhaps the least glamorous home repair, but it's one everyone should be familiar with. Toilet clogs have a way of only happening on weekend nights or major holidays, when calling a plumber would most likely entail an emergency fee on top of the regular costs.

Before you ever even think about having to unclog a toilet, go to your local mega-retailer or home improvement or hardware store and buy a plunger and a 3-foot toilet auger. Buy one of the newer, flanged plungers. The narrow end fits down into the opening at the bottom of the toilet, allowing you to concentrate your plunging power where it matters. You may not need the toilet auger, but having one on hand will save you the trouble of having to interrupt your repair to go get one. They cost about eight dollars.

Determining where the Clog Is

Sometimes this is easy. If you have a toddler, he may have tried to flush a toy (or more likely his sister's toy) down the commode.

If this is the case, gross as it may sound, you're better off reaching in and trying to retrieve it rather than trying to plunge it through the waste pipes. If this is the case and you’re able to retrieve it, then count yourself lucky, because it could be much ickier.

Plunging the Toilet
If the bowl is full enough that the plunger will cause water to slosh everywhere, put on a pair of gloves and start bailing water out of it until it is about half full. Conversely, if the bowl is empty, add water to get it half full.

Place the plunger in the bowl to completely cover the drain opening. This is where you hone your technique. With the business end of the plunger completely under water, press and pull several times, rapidly. Do this for about 15 seconds.

If the water drains from the bowl, add water to get it half full again, then give it another 15 second round of plunging. If water appears to be behaving normally, go ahead and flush to make sure everything is working as intended.

Bringing in the Big Guns

If plunging doesn't work, you'll have to use the toilet auger. This is a remarkable little piece of technology that is semi-rigid so that it can bend and work its way through the turns in the toilet drain.

There is also a guide tube and hand crank. When you turn the crank, the spiral tip on the other end moves along and (hopefully) clears the obstruction.

It is important that you use a toilet auger and not some other kind. If you use the wrong kind, you could damage your toilet and be faced with an even bigger problem.

Some toilets drain to the front, and some to the back. Guide the guide tube in with the curve facing the direction it drains. Crank in one direction until you feel it get hard to crank. Then crank in the other direction.

Eventually, you'll have the auger in as far as it will go. Now you crank the auger to clear out whatever's blocking the drain. Gently pull the guide tube out of the toilet. Don't try to force it if it feels stuck, or you could break the toilet bowl.

Once you have the auger out, do the plunging routine again. This should take care of the problem. After a round of plunging, if it appears to be draining normally, flush to make sure.

If none of this works, you'll probably have to go ahead and call a plumber. Use the local directory search here at and you'll definitely find yourself a pro!


Copyright: 2009

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