How to Unblock a Toilet

A blocked toilet can be unhygienic, dangerous and, obviously, smelly - so how do you unblock it?

You’ll know your toilet is blocked if, when you flush it, water either takes a long time to drain from the bowl, stays there or rises upwards to the brim. Before you reach for your phone to call a specialist, there are some techniques you can do to unblock your loo.

Plumbworld has made this comprehensive guide on how to unblock your toilet with a variety of tools and techniques. We’ll also explain why a toilet can become blocked and how to prevent it from happening in future. The last thing you want is your toilet to overflow all over your flooring, bath mat, or even your bathroom furniture.

Read on to find out about unblocking your toilet to avoid potentially dangerous and expensive consequences…

Why do toilets get blocked?

Toilets can become blocked for a number of reasons, most related to constant use over time or through a potential accident. If you know the cause of the blockage, it’ll make finding the correct solution easier when it comes to solving your problem.

Often, toilet paper and the build-up of limescale can lead to a blocked toilet - both of which can be dealt with by regular cleaning or use of a drain cleaner product. Using too much toilet paper can cause a blocked toilet while some toilet papers do not dissolve easily.

Read more: How to Remove Limescale from a Bathroom

In other cases, wet wipes, cotton balls and other hygienic products can be flushed down the toilet without knowing these items either do not flush easily or at all. You can check the packaging for this advice.

Other causes can include construction waste if you’ve recently had work done in your home or even children’s toys if they’ve dropped something in the bowl and flushed it.

What do I need to unblock a toilet?

When it comes to unblocking a toilet, there are essential pieces of equipment you’ll need to complete the job, these include:

  • A plunger
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mop to clean-up afterwards
  • Bucket
  • A mask, if the smell is very bad

What if I don’t have a plunger?

Not everyone owns a plunger - which isn’t a problem - and this won’t stop you from unblocking your toilet.

In its place, you could use these tools and methods from items in your home:

  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Wire hanger

How to unblock a toilet

With our step-by-step guide, you should be able to unblock your toilet without the need to call in a professional.

We’ll be focusing on the use of natural products, where necessary, so you are being environmentally-friendly while unclogging your loo. We’ve even broken the process down for different equipment for the job.

No matter which equipment or action you take below, always wear protective rubber gloves.

How do I identify the type of blockage?

This is an important question before starting, and one tip is to see what happens when your toilet flushes, as there are usually three types of blockage:

  1. If water drains from the toilet bowl very slowly, this means that a blockage is forming.
  2. If, after flushing the toilet, the bowl remains almost empty, this means that there is a problem of air circulation in the waste pipe.
  3. If the water level in the toilet bowl rises towards the brim and does not fall again, this means that there is a complete blockage that prevents water from passing.

If you have the first type - slow drainage - it is easy to clear. However, don’t wait for your toilet to become blocked. Early action and regular cleaning are vital for avoiding blockages.

If you are dealing with a type 3 blockage, transfer as much water from the toilet bowl into a separate bucket before attempting to unblock it.

How to unblock a toilet with a plunger

Plungers are the go-to tool when it comes to plumbing and blocked toilets. These easy-to-use and effective tools can be used to unblock all kinds of toilet waste pipes.

Firstly, seal the outlet pipe from the bowl - where the water usually drains when flushed - with the plunger so that neither air nor water can pass through. Doing so will create a vacuum, the pressure needed to unblock the toilet, and prevent any possible mess.

Once the plunger is in place, start with a gentle action to avoid pushing the blockage further down the pipe. Push gently downwards and then pull up towards yourself. Increase the amount of force you use to push and pull gradually until the water starts to recede.

Add more water to the bowl if you need to and then repeat the process. You can do this by pouring water into the bowl or by flushing the toilet to see if it works and flows as normal.

Try running the plunger under hot water before you start as this will soften it up and make it easier to use.

Unblocking a toilet with baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda is a natural product that is a bathroom staple thanks to its use for cleaning and maintenance. Whether it’s for removing stains or clearing drains, baking soda is a must-have.

To unblock your toilet with baking soda, mix it with white vinegar and water to start a chemical reaction and create a powerful, natural cleaning agent. A baking soda-vinegar mix can clean and descale pipes as well as remove soap residue, making it an all-round bathroom cleaner.

Firstly, pour half a cup of baking soda into your toilet bowl and then pour half a cup of white vinegar on top of it. Though this could work on its own, pour between two and three litres of warm water to help with the reaction.

Close the toilet lid and leave it for up to 30 minutes while the reaction between the baking soda and warm vinegar takes place. When you come to check, you may find the water level has returned to normal thanks to the reaction. Then flush the toilet to clear away any foam.

Alternatively, you could mix the baking soda and vinegar together in a bowl and then pour directly into the toilet.

Unblocking a toilet with warm water

When it comes to partially blocked toilets, this is the easiest way to remedy the problem. To ensure this works properly, the water level in your toilet bowl will need to be low.

Pressure and heat applied by hot water forces the partial blockage away while, at the same time, dissolving blockage-producing products, such as fat or grease.

Firstly, remove any excess water by transferring it into a bucket and close your water supply to prevent the cistern - or tank - from refilling. At the same time, add some washing up liquid into the toilet bowl and wait for a few minutes.

Then, pour up to three litres of warm or hot water into the bowl. You’ll need to do this quickly, so, be careful not to scald yourself. Once you’ve done this, wait for a few minutes before coming back to check the water level. Repeat if necessary. If you need to do this more than twice, try using the plunger method above.

Boiling water could damage your toilet bowl, especially the porcelain, which is why hot or warm water is best.

Unblocking a toilet with a hanger

If you don’t have a plunger, a wire coat hanger is an excellent alternative. Ideally, you’d want one with a plastic coating, so you don’t scratch the toilet. Wrap it in tape if you need to.

To do this method, you’ll need to unwind the hanger, so you’re left with one long piece of wire. Then, bend it into a curved shape. Gently, push the wire up and into the waste pipe and move it around, working on the clog to push and force it clear. 

As you’re using a wire hanger, remember to do this gently, as you don’t want to scratch your toilet. You may need to do this for a few minutes before the blockage has been removed. Flush the toilet to check it fills to the normal level and then put the hanger in the bin.

Again, as you’ll be getting up close to the toilet, as you would with a plunger, remember to transfer water into a bucket where necessary.

Clean your toilet once you’re done

Hopefully, one of these methods have done the trick and unblocked your toilet. Once your loo is flushable again, give it and the surrounding area a thorough cleaning with mild products. After this is done, ventilate your bathroom.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Bathroom Ventilation

When to call a plumber

If your toilet is still blocked, or you have recurring issues that cause blockages, you’ll need to call in a professional. This may be the case if the above methods haven’t worked or if there’s an actual object causing the blockage that you can’t move or reach.

How to prevent toilets from blocking

There are a number of steps you can take to avoid your toilet blocking, including regular cleaning and avoiding items being flushed by accident or through poor knowledge of what can and can’t be flushed.

Clean your toilet with either or cleaning product you can purchase from a shop regularly. You could also do this with white vinegar by pouring it around the toilet bowl and down the waste pipe. Regular cleaning will prevent the build-up of dirt, toilet paper and limescale.

Take care not to drop small items into the toilet, such as sanitary towels, cotton wool balls or buds, and hygiene products. Keeping your toilet lid shut is a handy way to avoid some items falling in by accident. Also, only use as much toilet paper as is necessary, as large amounts can be difficult to dissolve and then build-up with waste.

If you found this useful, you may also be interested in - How to Replace a Toilet Seat - DIY Home Improvements - How to Unblock a Bathroom Sink.

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