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What To Do When Your Toilet Clogs

If an overflowing toilet hasn’t already happened to you, chances are it probably will at some point in your lifetime.

The good news is that prevention is half the battle. Read on to learn how to stop a clog from turning into the dreaded overflow.

First, let’s talk about toilet bowls. A standard toilet bowl is usually meant to be able to hold the entire amount of water that resides in the toilet tank. This means that after the first flush, even if the water in the bowl is swirling precariously upwards, the bowl will generally stop filling with water before it gets to the rim. The trouble starts with the second flush.

It’s a common misconception that flushing the toilet again will somehow allow the water pressure to clear whatever is lodged in the tube below, but this is not always the case. If your toilet is left clogged after the first flush and the water level is higher than normal, DO NOT flush again until the water level has gone down. Flushing when the water level in the toilet bowl is higher than normal is the surest way to cause a toilet to overflow.

There are various methods to unclogging a toilet, but here are two simple options to try:

1. Plunge. A plunger works by creating a seal around the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl. Align the plunger with the hole, apply pressure, then pump the plunger up and down. Pull the plunger upwards to break the seal. Repeat as necessary.

2. Get the dish soap. Pour a teaspoonful of liquid dish soap into the bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes. While the soap is sitting, heat up a bowl of water – just not so hot that it’s boiling (pouring boiling water into your toilet can potentially crack the bowl in the right circumstances). Pour the heated water into the toilet bowl from about 2 feet up. The pressure of the water combined with the soap’s ability to break down substances. Allow the water time to drain before flushing.

But what if your toilet still overflows despite your best efforts to unclog it? First, don’t panic. It can be easy to let your anxiety rise quickly along with the water, but a cool head is a necessity.

  • Begin by turning off the water under the toilet tank by turning the valve on the pipe counter-clockwise.
  • If you can’t turn the valve or are unable to locate it, take off the toilet tank lid and lift the float cup or ball until the water stops running.

If both of these options fail, turn off your house’s main water supply and call a plumber. You’ll usually find the water valve next to the water heater in your home. At this stage, it’s usually best to bring in an expert to resolve the clog and make sure it isn’t a more serious plumbing problem, like a sewer issue.

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