If water is taking a long time to drain out of the toilet bowl, or it isn’t draining at all, you could have a blocked toilet. A blocked toilet can be unhygienic, dangerous and, obviously, smelly, making it something you will want to fix quickly and effectively. Before calling out a plumber, it is worth trying a few methods to unblock a toilet.
Thankfully, you can unclog a toilet quickly and effectively both with or without a plunger using a number of household tools and ingredients, such as washing up liquid, cling film, baking soda and vinegar, even just hot water.
Here at VHL, we have created this guide outlining a range of methods you can use to unclog a toilet with or without a plunger. We’ll also explain why a toilet can become blocked and how to prevent it from happening in future.
Toilets can become blocked for a variety of reasons, from the build-up of limescale and toilet paper over time to flushing larger products, such as wet wipes, that aren’t flushable. Knowing the cause of the blockage will make finding the right solution a lot easier.
Recognising the type of blockage you have is important to determining the right solution to use. There are three common types of blockages in your toilet, to find out which one you have, observe what happens when you flush your toilet.
If the water drains from the toilet bowl very slowly, this means that a blockage is forming.
If the toilet bowl remains almost empty after flushing there is a problem with air circulation in the waste pipe.
If the water level rises towards the brim and does not fall after the flush has completed there is a complete blockage that is preventing the toilet water from passing.
Avoid trying to flush repeatedly, especially if the water is already rising. This will only leave you with a wet bathroom floor and a blocked toilet. Instead, you should try to cut off the toilet’s water supply by locating the valve, usually to the right or left of the cistern, and turning it clockwise. Or, remove the tank lid and find the floater (plastic ball) or flapper (rubber contraption at the bottom of the tank). These both are responsible for causing the tank to refill after a flush, so preventing them from moving prevents more water from entering the toilet.
Plungers are often a plumber’s favourite tool as they can easily unblock waste pipes of all kinds. Plungers are highly effective, as long as the blockage is not solid, and are the go-to tool when it comes to plumbing and blocked toilets.
First, ensure that the plunger you are planning on using is a toilet plunger that is big enough to cover the hole and create a vacuum. Toilet plungers have a fold-out flange that creates a secure seal by completely covering the hole. Once you have your toilet plunger, you will also need the following:
A pair of rubber gloves (ideally long gloves that reach your elbows)
Old towels or newspapers to put around the toilet to stop any spilt water from splashing on the floor.
A bucket to add or remove excess water when necessary.
Good ventilation from an open window or fan and a face mask to avoid any unpleasant smells or splashes.
Before starting to unclog your toilet, you should put down the towels and/or newspapers and put on your mask and gloves to protect yourself and the surrounding area from any water that might spill during the process. It is also a good idea to wear some old clothes, just in case you get splashed with excess water.
It is also important to make sure the toilet won’t overflow. There should be a shutoff valve in the pipe coming out of the wall behind the toilet cistern. Turn it clockwise gently to stop the water supply from refilling the toilet tank, be careful not to force it or over-tighten it. If you have an older toilet or don’t have a shutoff valve you will need to remove the lid from the cistern and locate the float.
The float looks like a ball and is responsible for opening the water valve to refill the tank when the water level drops. Use a coat hanger or something similar to keep the float upright so the tank can’t keep refilling when flushed.
Place the plunger under the water, completely covering the pipe. A toilet plunger needs to be completely submerged in water to work, so if the toilet doesn’t have enough water you may need to add some with your bucket. It is also a good idea to run your plunger under the hot tap first to soften the rubber, which will make it easier to use.
Push down with the plunger slowly and firmly to create a seal, before pulling back up to create a vacuum that will dislodge the blockage. Start with a gentle action to avoid pushing the blockage further down.
You will then need to repeat this process at an increasing speed to completely dislodge the blockage. Gradually increase the force with which you push and pull, until the water starts to recede. This can take up to 15 minutes. If the water drains, but not all the way, then add more water to the toilet bowl with your bucket and repeat the procedure.
Once the water has receded, remove the plunger and flush the toilet to see if the flow has returned to normal. If so, give your plunger and toilet a clean with your regular toilet cleaning product before using it again.
No matter how prepared you are at home to tackle a blocked toilet, disaster can strike when you are out at a restaurant or at a friend’s house with no plunger in sight. If you are unfortunate enough to have a toilet clog without a plunger to hand, don’t panic, there are a range of ways to unblock a toilet without a toilet.
Which method is best will likely depend on the items you have to hand, as you can only try what you have available. Thankfully we will break each of our toilet unblocking hacks down to ensure you have all the information needed to unblock a toilet without a plunger.
Sometimes, all you need to do is wait. The water in your toilet exerts pressure on the clog in the drain and over time, this pressure can dislodge any clog or blockage on its own. However, this could take some time, potentially overnight. In addition, be ready to stop the flow of water if you attempt to flush the toilet the next day and discover the toilet is still clogged.
Washing up liquid or dish soap is made to break down grease and grime, making it great at breaking down solids, which makes it an effective tool for clearing blockages. Washing up liquid is especially effective against blockages caused by toilet paper. If you don’t have a plunger, washing up liquid should be the first thing you try.
Take a regular bottle of washing up liquid and a bucket of water. Squeeze around half the bottle into the toilet bowl so that it forms a ring around the waterline and then crisscross the water itself. Leave it for half an hour so that it sinks to the bottom. Then, fill the bucket with water and empty it into the toilet to flush the washing up liquid down.
Wait another ten minutes before trying the flush. Hopefully, this will help clear the blockage. If not, you can repeat the process again with more washing liquid or try one of the other methods below.
If household washing up liquid doesn’t work, you can try drain cleaning chemicals. Be sure to choose a non-corrosive cleaner that won’t damage your drain and always follow the directions on the cleaner. Be sure not to pour bleach down your drain when attempting to remove a clog. It can react with other substances in your pipes and create dangerous fumes or damage your plumbing system.
This method often depends on the water pressure of your toilet system. However, with a high-pressure system, you can use clingfilm to clear a blockage. In addition, it is a non-invasive method, which might be preferable to you.
Lift the toilet seat and make sure the surface of the toilet rim is completely dry. Then, add three layers of cling film over the top of the toilet bowl. Make sure it is pulled tight and covers the whole area with a good seal.
Next, flush the toilet. The clingfilm should balloon upwards because of the pressure of the flush. Gently press down on the bubble to reverse the suction and force the pressure to encourage the blockage to travel further down the waste pipe.
The next thing you could try uses water from a plastic bottle to force the clog through the trap, which is the basic function of a plunger. Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and rubber gloves to keep your hands clean.
Fill an empty 2-litre bottle with warm water before covering the opening with your thumb. Invert the bottle and position it deep in the toilet drain at the bottom of the bowl. Then remove your thumb and use both hands to squeeze the bottle to force the warm water into the drain, hopefully dislodging the clog.
The plan here is to try to dislodge the blockage by threading something down the toilet. A drain rod or toilet auger is ideal for this as they are designed for the job. A Toilet auger is a long bit of wire that plumbers put through channels as toilet unblocker tools.
If you don’t have a drain rod to hand, then a wire coat hanger makes a great stand-in. Unwind the metal coat hanger until you have one long piece of wire. Then bend it into a curve to allow it to navigate the curves within the waste pipe. Guide the wire into the toilet and wiggle gently to push the blockage clear, but be sure not to scratch the ceramic.
If the blockage is visible at the bottom of the toilet bowl, then you can make use of a toilet brush to try and dislodge the clog. Wrap the brush in a plastic bag first to prevent it from becoming dirty. Force the brush into the drain hole and move it back and forth vigorously. Don’t use too much force, though. You don’t want to cause any damage to your toilet. You may want to get changed before you attempt this method and make sure that you put on some rubber gloves and some goggles.
If your toilet isn’t badly blocked, you can try pouring hot water into the toilet bowl. The addition of hot water might be enough to loosen the clog and dislodge the blockage. Keep in mind that while the water should be hot, it shouldn’t be boiling. Pouring boiling water into your toilet bowl can cause it to crack.
Make sure the water level inside the toilet bowl is low before beginning, so remove any excess water with a bucket if necessary. The pressure applied by the hot water pushes the blockage away while the heat can dissolve any build-up of grease causing the blockage, making it a more environmentally friendly way of unblocking your toilet.
Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is a natural product that you might have at home, making it a handy product for cleaning as well as cooking. Baking soda comes in both powder and crystal form. To unblock a toilet, mix it with white vinegar and water to start a chemical reaction. This mixture is great for cleaning, descaling and removing soap residues. It’s also a really effective way of deodorising waste pipes.
The toilet bowl needs to be around half full of water for this to work, so remove or add water if necessary. Pour half a cupful of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Then add boiling water and white vinegar to the toilet bowl before closing the lid. The warm white vinegar should cause a chemical reaction with the baking soda that should fizz and foam, helping to dissolve the blockage. Then flush the toilet.
Similar to baking soda and vinegar, Epsom Salt creates a fizzy reaction when it’s added to water and should help to break things up to clear the clog. Let the mixture sit for about an hour before you try to flush.
There are a range of waste removal products that contain enzymes that are often used in commercial septic systems to liquefy organic waste materials. These products are often available in your local hardware stores and have the added benefit of being far less harmful to the environment compared to chemical-based drain cleaners. Keep in mind that these products will only be effective against organic materials.
If all the other methods fail, you can try using a pressure washer to unblock your toilet. This method is particularly effective if the blockage is located far down the waste pipe. You will need a pressure washer fitted with a special pipe-cleaning kit consisting of a long hose with a special nozzle at the end.
Insert the pressure hose, nozzle first, into the toilet. Then switch the pressure washer on. The hose will be pulled along the pipe by a rearward jet of water produced by the nozzle. When the hose reaches the blockage, the water jet will push on the clog and dislodge it.
If one of the above methods have helped you to unblock your toilet and your flush is back to normal, it is a good idea to give your toilet and the surrounding area a thorough clean. The easiest way is to wash it off in the toilet while flushing the toilet a few times. After this is completed, ventilate your bathroom before using it again.
If you think you have a blockage or clog in your toilet but there isn’t anything visually blocking the toilet bowl it is likely a blockage in your toilet pipe. To unclog a toilet pipe you will need to make use of a plumber’s rod or drainage rod, also known as a Toilet Auger.
You can also use a DIY rod, like a wire coat hanger or a long piece of stiff wire, to push into the toilet to unblock it if you don’t have a drainage rod. Simply move it around gently so you don’t scratch or damage the ceramic to try and clear the blockage.
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent your toilet from becoming blocked, including regular cleaning and avoiding flushing items that are not flushable. Regular cleaning will prevent the build-up of dirt, toilet paper and limescale, which will help prevent blockages from forming. Clean your toilet with your regular toilet cleaning product or a cup of white vinegar poured around the toilet bowl and down the waste pipe.
It is important that you don’t flush products that are not intended for toilet use and don’t attempt to flush too much toilet paper at once. Instead, flush toilet paper in increments to prevent a blockage from forming. Remember, it’s far better to prevent these issues from happening in the first place rather than having to solve them later on down the line.
If you are suffering from a blocked toilet all of the time it might be due to what you are flushing down the toilet. Toilets often get clogged because they have something brown down them that they are not able to deal with. So the easiest way to prevent your toilet from becoming blocked is to avoid flushing the following items:
Lots of tissues
Cotton pads, balls and earbuds
Wet wipes (even the “flushable” ones can cause blockages)
Coffee grounds and other food
Cigarettes and cigarette ash
Paper, plastic and cardboard (including straws)
Large quantities of fat (such as chip fat)
If all else fails and your toilet is still clogged, or you have recurring issues that are causing your toilet to become clogged or blocked, you may need to call in a professional plumber to assist. Our friendly, professional and experienced team of plumbers are available to offer a range of bathroom plumbing services in London, including unblocking clogged toilets.
We offer leading customer care and plumbing, boiler and domestic heating services with some of the most competitive rates in London and the surrounding areas. Whatever your plumbing needs, we can take care of it. Get in touch with us by phone on 020 8102 9898 or Book Online to arrange for a visit and same-day quote.