When Plunging Doesn't Work
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 or if using a plunger doesn't work, consider your unclogging options before hiring a plumber. There are a number of ways ways to take care of a toilet overflow or toilet clog, many of which require nothing more than the 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).
When you notice a nasty clog, your best bet is to fill a pan with hot water. Heat it up on the stove or use the tap, 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, the hot water is enough to break up whatever is causing the backup.
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If you need to kick the unclogging process up a notch, borrow 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 give it some time to sit. In most cases, the dish soap will act as a lubricant and grease the clog in the toilet drain to get everything moving again.
It’s time to channel what you learned in elementary school science! If your toilet bowl is already filled to the brim, either empty out some of the water or be prepared for a little overflow. Next, pour one cup of baking soda and one 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 thirty 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.
This may seem a little unpleasant, but if you’re really in a bind and there’s no 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 for your next clog, here are our recommended plungers.)
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.
Don't run out to buy Drano, create your own DIY de-clogger instead by mixing together the following ingredients: 2 cups baking soda, 1/4 cup Epsom salt, and 8-10 tablespoons of dish detergent (add one 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 four cups of water, and let it sit for a few hours to see results.
Last resort: Rent a wet/dry vacuum from your local hardware store—do not, we repeat, 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!
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