7 Clever Ways to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

When your toilet is stopped up and you don't have a plunger, it's time to get creative. Here's how you can unclog a toilet using materials you already have in your cabinets.
plunger toilet clog 1
Photo: istockphoto.com

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It’s never an ideal situation: A quick trip to the bathroom followed by a single flush and, boom, you’re dealing with a clogged drain or—much worse—a nearly overflowing toilet. If you find yourself without a plunger, you don’t know how to plunge a toilet,  or if you’ve tried using a plunger and it didn’t work, you have a few unclogging options before resorting to hiring a plumber. You can usually take care of a clogged toilet or toilet overflow using items you already have in your bathroom or kitchen cabinets. Read on to learn how to fix a clogged toilet (and be sure to wear protective gloves).

1. Pour in Some Hot (But Not Boiling) Water

unclog toilet hot water
Photo: fotosearch.com

When you notice a nasty clog or your toilet won’t flush, your best bet is to pour in some hot water. You can turn the tap in your bathroom sink or tub to the hottest setting or heat the water up a bit on the stove, but don’t let the water get to boiling point. Pour it down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes to see if it loosens the clog. You’ll know if your efforts were successful if you see the water start to drain. Then, give the toilet a flush or two. In many cases, hot water is enough to break up whatever is causing the backup.

(Pro tip from a Bob Vila editor who recently used this technique: Cupfuls of hot water don’t help much, but larger quantities do. Fill a water pitcher, small bucket, or even your bathroom wastebasket with hot water—if the water level in your toilet isn’t already precariously high—and pour the water in while standing up. Repeat, repeat, repeat.)

RELATED: How to Use a Plunger the Right Way

2. Swish in Some Dish Soap

unclog toilet dish soap
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If you need to kick the unclogging process up a notch, fetch some dish soap from the kitchen and squeeze a generous amount, about a 1/4 cup should do, into the toilet bowl. Let the soap sit for 5 to 10 minutes so it has time to move down the drain and reach the clog. Then, add hot water (again, not boiling water) to the bowl and let the soapy mixture sit. In most cases, the dish soap will act as a lubricant and grease the clog in the toilet drain enough to get everything moving again.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: Best Toilets

3. Mix in Baking Soda and Vinegar

unclog toilet baking soda and vinegar
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Who knew that something you learned in elementary school science would help with unclogging a toilet? Don’t try this hack in a toilet bowl that is already filled to the brim—you’ll want to either empty out some of the water first, or wait until the water level recedes. Here’s what to do: Pour 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar down the toilet drain. When the vinegar and baking soda combine, the natural chemical reaction will bubble up and loosen the clog. After about 30 minutes, follow up with some hot water and see if it drains. If it does, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, repeat the process once more.

RELATED: 10 Ingenious Home Uses for Baking Soda

4. Use the Toilet Brush

toilet brush unclog
Photo: istockphoto.com

This may seem a little unpleasant, but if you’re really in a bind and there’s no toilet plunger in sight, grab a toilet brush and angle the bristles down the drain. Pumping up and down a few times should be enough to loosen things up so the clog clears in no time. (If you want a plunger handy in case your toilet clogs again, you’ll find some good options in our researched guide to the best plungers.)

RELATED: The 8 Easiest Ways to Eliminate Bathroom Odor

5. Unwind a Wire Hanger

unclog plunger wire hanger
Photo: fotosearch.com

If you don’t have access to a drain snake, you can fashion your own using a wire coat hanger from your closet. Simply unwind the hanger so that it’s completely straight with the exception of the hook. Then, wrap a small rag around the hook to help prevent any scratches or damage to the porcelain and, while wearing rubber gloves, gently angle the hanger down the drain until you find the clog. When the water starts to drain, flush the toilet a few times to clear it out.

RELATED: 9 Clever Things You Can Do with a Wire Hanger

6. DIY Your Own Drain De-Clogger

unclog plunger bath bomb
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Don’t run out to buy a commercial drain unclogging product. Instead, create your own DIY de-clogger by mixing together the following ingredients: 2 cups baking soda, 1/4 cup Epsom salt, and 8 to 10 tablespoons of dish detergent (add 1 tablespoon at a time). Pour the combination into individual muffin liners, then let them dry and harden overnight. The next morning, drop one into the toilet bowl, add 4 cups of water, and let it sit for a few hours to see results.

RELATED: DIY Toilet Repair: 5 Common Commode Problems and How to Fix Them

7. Bust Out the Shop Vac

unclog plumber wet dry vac
Photo: amazon.com

Last resort: Rent a wet/dry vacuum from your local hardware store—do not try this with a regular vacuum. First, use it to empty the water from the bowl. Next, wrap the hose in an old rag to create a seal, then stick the wet/dry vacuum a few inches down the drain. When you turn on the vacuum, it should suck out the clog. Again, don’t forget the rubber gloves!

RELATED: How to Use a Shop Vac for Floods, Spills, and Other Liquid Messes