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How to Declog a Toilet

The Toilet
The Toilet

Whether you should use a plunger (AKA the plumber's friend) or have a professional plumber unclog your toilet, may depend on what has caused the blockage. A visit by a plumber can prove expensive, but it may pay to call one anyway; most plumbers dislike making house calls just to clear a homeowner's commode and often will offer over-the-phone advice for free with the hope you'll call again if you have a really serious plumbing problem. If you have no plunger and choose not to hire a plumber, the following tactics may help you bring your toilet back to a functional component of the household. This unpleasant do-it-yourself project may require considerable patience.

Warm Water and Soap

Whether you utilize this solution to the problem or one of the following, as your first step turn off the water to the toilet tank. Secondly, remove as much as possible of the water from the toilet bowl. You want to leave room for about a bucket of warm water (to which you have added 1/4 cup of liquid dishwashing soap). Pour the water quite rapidly into the toilet bowl from about two feet above the level of the water. This will have a twofold effect on the blockage: 1) heating the bowl, the water and the clogging material in the trap and 2) agitating the water in the trap around the clog. The warm water and soap application hopefully will begin loosening the clog. You should repeat this procedure two or more times before giving up and trying another method.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

If the water-and-soap method fails to free the clog, you might want to try vinegar and baking soda before advancing to more rigorous techniques. Start by pouring the contents of a box of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Pouring with deliberate slowness, add the contents of a bottle of cheap vinegar. As the soda and vinegar intermix, a foaming chemical process takes place. You want to disperse this foaming concoction down into the trap where it can work on the clog, so pour in a bucket of warm water. If possible, let the treatment exert its magic on the clog overnight.

A clogged bathroom toilet can have a traumatic effect on the entire household.

Coat Hanger

If you do not have a plumbing snake, or auger (see below), you may want to try the coat hanger method of freeing the clog. Coat hanger wire, being quite stiff, can be twisted into a fairly rigid "auger" you can use to work the clog free. First, unravel the coat hanger and straighten it. Pliers help. Form an open hook on one end and twist the other end into a "handle." Gently poke or work the hook end down into the toilet bowl until you feel resistance. Now, while pushing downward, turn the hook around and around to break up the clog or capture it so you can pull it free.

Plumber's Snake

A plumber's snake (auger, flexible cleaning tool, closet auger) lets you prod deeper into the recesses of the toilet. The snake, constructed of coiled wire, has the flexibility to bend and twist its way down through the curvatures of the toilet's sewer channels. The plumber's snake has a handle that resembles the crank once used to start automobiles. As you turn this handle the snake worms its way down through the obstruction.

The Plumber's Friend
The Plumber's Friend

Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

If you purchased this type of shop vacuum, now you know why. You can use the vacuum in the preliminary step of emptying the toilet bowl of excess water. Wrap old towels or shirts around the end of the vacuum's hose, from which you have removed all attachments, to create a seal as you push the hose down into the toilet. Turn on the vacuum to extract the clog. You have the messy job of cleaning out the vacuum, but the toilet should function properly now.

Plastic Bottle

As a last resort, you can try the plastic bottle approach to solving the problem. For this method, you definitely want to wear plastic gloves; the more success you have, the messier the job will become. Push the bottle quickly and forcibly down into the toilet opening. Alternately squeeze and release the bottle much as you would a syringe, forcing air down toward the clog on the squeeze and sucking water into the bottle on the release. After the first squeeze and release of course the bottle will spew and suck in water, not air. Once you have gone through this routine, you will do everything in your power to avoid future clogs.

Mirror. Mirror.

Finally, the mirror trick. In the case of a recurring clog, you might suspect some strange object has somehow made its way down into the toilet's outlet. With the water removed from the toilet bowl, place a small hand mirror down into the outlet so you can see around its first curvature. Something in the nature of a comb, a pen or a small paintbrush may have become lodged there, causing intermittent clogging. With persistence, you should have luck in removing the object with the aid of your coat hanger hook, which you can aim with more precision now that you can see the offending article.

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