Clogged Toilet: When a Plunger Is Not Enough

A man using a red plunger to try to unclog a toilet.

The little porcelain friend has done it again, it is clogged and the plunger is not working. There are a couple of things you can try before having to take the toilet completely off the floor for some bathroom/toilet surgery.

Use the Plunger Right

First, you’ll want to make sure of a few things when trying to unclog your toilet. Check that there is enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger when you are trying to use it; otherwise, the plunger can’t create the seal it needs to work. Also, grab a bucket as you might need to empty some water. It’s true that water is necessary, but you do not want to have too much water in the bowl either. Also, put some old towels on the floor around the toilet because no matter how careful you might be, it is very likely to get water on the floor. And when doing all of this, take the lid off the tank. This will ensure that even if the toilet does start to overflow you can lift the ball to keep water from flooding the bathroom floor.

Try a Toilet Snake

Clogged toilets are no fun at all, but when a plunger is not enough, it can really get frustrating. The next best trick to try is an auger. An auger is a snake-like tool that will curve down into the toilet bowl to push free any stuck debris. The toilet has an "S" shaped curve as the water flows out of it. The toilet paper and excrement have to travel through the curve and it can sometimes very easily get clogged.

Use the auger to go as far as possible into the toilet, and then turn the handle until it gets tight. This will let you know that you have reached the blockage, and once you have it tight, you can start pulling the auger back out. The blockage should pull out with the snake for you to discard. Obviously you may want to wear gloves when handling this device

Note: Make sure you have a snake meant for toilet clogs. Regular drain snakes can do a lot of damage to the toilet bowl.

Dish Soap and Hot Water Trick

You can also try the dish soap and hot water method. Take a bucket of hot water—not boiling, just hot—and mix in about two tablespoons of dish soap. Pour the water into the toilet about half way full and let it sit for about fifteen minutes. Sometimes the heat will help release the clog. After fifteen minutes, if the water level has gone down some, put in more water and see if it will continue to go down.

When all Else Fails, Take out the Toilet

If the plunger, auger, and dish soap do not work you are only left with a couple of options. Of course, you can call in a professional but this is something a do-it-yourselfer can do and it will save you money.

You will have to remove the toilet from the floor and go into the drain from the bottom. Make sure to turn the water line off first and empty all water from the tank and bowl. Remove the little caps off the bottom of the bowl and unscrew the bolts. Take the bowl off the floor and flip it upside down. Try the auger from this end and that should work.