Everyone has that dreaded moment when you pull the handle; the flush begins; and the bowl just keeps filling. All of us have dealt with it at least once and it’s probably the most common household plumbing issue. Instead of pouring chemicals down the commode, however, there are green, non-toxic ways to deal with a clogged toilet.
The first step is not to panic. Flush only once and if it’s not going down, don’t flush again. The bowl of your toilet is made to hold slightly more water than the tank is, so you won’t likely overflow on just one flush.
Most clogs happen for two reasons: too much toilet paper in the bowl or something too solid is being flushed. Sounds gross, but.. well, there you go.
The easiest and often most effective solution is to just leave the bowl full, close the lid, and let it sit for a few hours. If the clog is due to paper wadding up in the works, it will break down quickly on its own; under the water the force of gravity from the bowl full of water will push it through.
The plunger can be your best friend. Yours should have a flange on the end so it creates a better seal around the hole at the bottom of the toilet. Most of the action with a plunger should be with the pull-back, not the pushing motion. There is a This Old House episode that explains this well,1 but it boils down to the design of the toilet itself. The pipe built into the porcelain compresses in size before attaching to the drain to the sewer, so pushing objects into it is more likely to just make them more stuck.
Lubricant and Hot Water
If your toilet has a slow flow but not a true flush (so that the water is leaving the bowl but not quickly enough to take everything else with it), then this method will work well. Fill a container with about a gallon of hot water (no more). Tap water hot (about 100 degrees F) is good; any hotter than that could cause your porcelain to crack, ruining the toilet.
Add dish soap (eco-friendly, of course), olive oil, cooking oil, or something similar to the bowl (a few tablespoons) and then quickly pour the hot water in. Leave that for as long as you can. The hot water helps to break up whatever’s in there and the soap or oil helps to lubricate the pathway as it bleeds through the clog to the other side and out.
Use an Auger
If all else fails, use an auger to do the job. There is a tool called a closet auger (featured in theThis Old House video) made for the job. If you do your own home maintenance, however, then a drain snake/auger is probably a part of your toolbox and will do the job well. Use something to protect the porcelain at the bottom of the bowl so it doesn’t get scratched.
Whatever method you try (one or all of the above), you don’t need to use nasty chemicals to clean out a clogged toilet.
1 – How to Unclog a Toilet with Richard Trethewey, This Old House TV
2 – Unclog a Toilet by Wikihow
3 – How to Unclog a Toilet Like a Plumber by Brett and Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness