Paper towels, while they may appear to be similar to toilet paper, do not make an acceptable substitute to flush down a toilet's drain. When your toilet becomes clogged with paper towels, you do not need to pick up the phone and call your plumber. Removing the clog only requires a few plumbing tools and less than an hour of your time.
What Goes In
Toilets are not designed to handle materials like paper towels, which you should dispose of in the garbage and not your toilet. Toilets are made to handle human waste and toilet paper, but only in certain quantities. Do not put other materials, such as feminine hygiene products, wipes and tissues, down the toilet either, since doing so will lead to a partial or complete clog in the toilet. Toilet paper is designed to start breaking apart as soon as it contacts water, making it less of an obstruction in the toilet's pipes.
The paper towels you flushed down the toilet may have appeared to flush without a problem, disappearing from the drain opening and your view. In reality, the paper towels may have become stuck in the toilet's trap, or the curved pipe located in the toilet's base below the toilet bowl. The next time you or anyone else uses the toilet, the water will not pass down the drain quickly or at all, even though you cannot see the paper towel obstruction in the trap.
Preventing Further Damage
Once you are aware that the toilet has a blockage, you need to stop using the toilet. If the drain pipe is blocked completely, shut off the water to the toilet by turning the handle on the toilet's water control valve clockwise until tight. The water control valve comes out of the bathroom wall and is located either below or to the side of the toilet. If the toilet overflows, you must clean up the spilled water immediately using towels. Water that is left on the bathroom floor can seep into the subfloor and cause damage to the finished flooring in the bathroom, the subfloor and floor joists, as well as the light fixtures and ceiling in the room directly below.
Removing the Clog
If you can see the toilet paper clog in the drain opening, put on rubber gloves and reach into the drain opening to remove the clog. With clogs that are further down the toilet's drain pipe, try a funnel-cup plunger first. Funnel-cup plungers are curved on the underside of the cup, allowing them to fit better into the toilet's drain opening. After you have pumped the plunger's handle at least a dozen times, turn to a toilet auger to break up the paper towel clog. An auger, or toilet snake, moves through the toilet's trap and goes down the drain pipe in the floor. As you push the auger down the toilet's drain, turn its handle clockwise so the tip of the auger bores through the paper towel clog. Depending on how bad the clog is, you may have to use the auger up to three times before the toilet functions normally.