It happens to the best of us: a clogged toilet. Whether it be the result of old, backed-up pipes or just too much of a foreign substance blocking things up, a toilet can become clogged for a number of reasons. Fortunately, getting them unclogged and working properly can usually be achieved in a few minutes by following a couple basic, simple steps.

Clean, white bathroom toilet with the lid closed
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How to Unclog a Toilet

How to Unclog a Toilet

The best way to unclog a toilet is by using a plunger, which will force materials through the pipe using suction. Plungers come in three shapes – cup, flange and accordion. When restoring flow to a toilet, your best bet would be to use a flange or accordion variety, both of which are designed to form a tight seal at the bottom of a toilet bowl. To use a plunger, make sure the water level in the bowl is low enough that it won't spill over when pushing up and down on the plunger. If it has risen up near the lid of the toilet, use a bucket or old container to remove about half of the water. Then, place the plunger over the hole at the bottom of the toilet and do your best to keep it flush (pun not intended) along the ceramic surface to prevent air from escaping. Once a seal is formed, firmly push down on the plunger repeatedly until the clog is cleared.

Unclogging Without a Plunger

For tough clogs, a plunger may not cut it. In these cases, you can use an auger or a snake designed for toilets to clear the clog. When using an auger, be sure that the guide tip faces the curve in the drain. Crank it in one direction until it won't go anymore, then crank it the other way to gently remove anything stuck in the pipe.

If you don't have a plunger or an auger tool to unclog your toilet, you may be able to use common household items to remove clogs, but only if they're safe for plumbing. A generous squirt of dish soap or shampoo may be able to break down materials like excess toilet paper, especially if left in the toilet bowl overnight. You can also try flushing the clog out with hot water, just be sure it's not too hot as boiling temperatures can sometimes cause toilet bowls to crack. To make your own DIY auger-type device, unravel a wire coat hanger and try shoving it down into the pipe, which may help push stuck materials through.

Clog Prevention Tips

To prevent clogs, be sure everyone who uses the toilet knows not to flush foreign items, such as sanitary pads or paper towels, down the drain. While toilet paper should be the only material that gets flushed down a toilet, make sure you're not using too much, which can lead to clogs. As with any home repair concern, if you can't seem to unclog your toilet using these methods, you should consider calling a plumber to come and take a look in case it's a sign of a bigger issue.