You'll need a plunger, a pair of gloves, and some patience.

By Lauren Wellbank
September 01, 2020
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We've all been there: You flush the toilet, but instead of watching the water recede, it begins to rise, causing your blood pressure to rise as well. Anything from a simple clog to a full-on plumbing emergency can prevent your toilet from fully emptying when you flush. And the latter can come with a significant price tag.

Fortunately, if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and put in a little work, a clogged toilet can easily be fixed with a few standard household items. We spoke with three plumbing pros to find out why toilet bowl clogs happen, how to fix them yourself, and when it's time to call in a professional.

Why do toilets clog?

There are many reasons why your toilet might be clogged, according to Jeff Slipko, co-founder and CMO at NestEgg, but in his experience, it's normally because something is in your toilet that shouldn't be. "One time [my] tenant's son accidentally flushed one of his toys," he explains. "[But] usually, it's because of too much toilet paper."

What should you do?

If you find yourself with a clog, the first thing you should do is turn off the water at the angle stop, which is located behind the toilet against the wall, according to Alexander Neiman, co-owner and head of plumbing and HVAC at Allstate Service Group. Next, you should take your plunger and place it into your toilet in a way that creates a seal with the hole in the bottom of the toilet bowl. Give it a few strong plunges and see if that removes the stoppage. If the bowl is too full of water to get the plunger in without splashing water out, you can manually remove some of the water with a bucket or a bowl. Put on a pair of disposable gloves to avoid getting sewage water on you.

If that doesn't work, you can use a drain snake or plumbing auger.

Avoid chemicals.

When your toilet clogs, it may be tempting to reach for a chemical solution but Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, says you should avoid using drain cleaner. "Unfortunately, many of these products are extremely harsh and contain chemicals that can harm pipes and fixtures over time," he explains. "Instead, use gentle cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar, and warm water at least once a week."

Know when to call in a professional.

If none of these methods work it may be time to call the professionals, otherwise you run the risk of doing more harm than good. "If plunging doesn't work, stop," Neiman says. "You can damage the wax ring by continuing to plunge," he says, adding that you can avoid getting to this point by never putting anything in your toilet other than small amounts of toilet paper. "The most common source of blockages is baby wipes, likely because the packages say 'flushable' (which they are not), followed by Lysol disinfecting wipes (recently, due to this COVID era), tampons, too much toilet paper at once, and toys."

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