Flush only once. If it's not flushing the first time, don't flush again. This will cause more water to be pumped into the toilet bowl. If the toilet becomes clogged the first flush will not cause the bowl to overflow, but the second flush might!

Put on a pair of rubber gloves. Toilets are inherently unsanitary places to work, but a good pair of rubber cleaning gloves will protect you from any germs within. If you can see the cause of the clog, remove it from the toilet if possible.

Protect the floor. What's worse than a clogged toilet? An overflowing toilet. Minimize the potential damage by placing newspapers or paper towels on the floor to soak up liquid. Besides, minor splashes and spills are bound to occur when you're unclogging the toilet. The paper will make for easier clean-up later.

Make sure the water supply to the toilet is off. It should be located right behind the toilet, and looks like a regular faucet knob. Do not shut off the supply for the house, since this will prevent others from using water. If the water is off to at least the toilet, this will prevent the bathroom from flooding.

Ensure that the bathroom has good air circulation. Turn on the ventilation or open a window to minimize foul odours, and to protect against potentially toxic fumes from any chemical products you may need to use.

Plunger Method

If you know there's an object (such as a child's toy) causing the clog, skip the plunging and go straight to another method.

Be sure to use the right plunger. It is important to use a large heavy-duty rubber plunger, either the ball-shaped type or one with a fold-out rubber flange on the bottom which forms a seal. Do not use the small cheap suction-cup type of plunger––these will often not work. Remember, the larger the plunger, the more force you can apply down into the clogged drain. The plunger should have a shape which ensures that the water you force out of it when you push down does not shoot back up into the toilet bowl instead of pushing into the drain.

If your plunger is not making a tight seal, try wrapping an old rag around the end of the plunger and press down on any leaks. Run the plunger under hot water before using it. This will soften it up, which will help with creating a seal.

Insert the plunger into the bowl and press down firmly but slowly. Make sure you're covering the hole completely. The plunger should be submerged in water to be effective. It is important to be pushing and pulling with water, not air.

Add water to the bowl if necessary. Sharply pull up on the plunger to create suction in the drain, then push in to create pressure. Remember, the clog got jammed going in, so don't be too aggressive with your pushing because you might just jam it further. It is more the suction than the pressure, constantly disturbing the clog in both directions that will gradually cause it to be loosened.

If the plunging eventually drains the bowl but the clog is still blocking a free flow down the drain, leave the plunger in the bowl and fill the bowl with water again. Fill it to the point it is normally after a regular flush. Then plunge again. Stubborn clogs might require you to do this a number of times.

Should plunging fail to unclog the drain, a wire coat hanger may clear the obstruction. This will generally work if there is an obstruction in the first few inches of the drain.

Unravel the hanger, twisting the top ends apart until they are no longer connected. (To avoid damaging the porcelain tightly wrap one end with a rag). Stick the wrapped end of the wire into the drain. Once the wire is in the drain, twist it, push it, and manoeuvre it in a circular motion to clear the drain

Plumbing Snake Method

Purchase or borrow a plumbing snake. A plumbing snake (also sometimes called a "flexible cleaning tool" or "auger") is a flexible coil of wire that can "snake" through the curves of a drain and get deeper than a wire can. The best snake is a "closet auger" which is designed specifically to clear toilet clogs without damaging or staining the bowl. A plumber would likely use a closet auger.

Insert one end of the snake into the drain. Push down, feeding the snake further into the drain until you feel an obstruction. Twist and push the snake through the obstruction until the water begins to drain

Snake in reverse, as it may become necessary to remove the toilet and run the snake through in the opposite direction. This is especially true with hard obstructions that may have been flushed by a curious child. If a hard obstruction is known, and you are not comfortable removing and replacing the toilet, contact a plumber.

- Mark Lewis

 

Mark Lewis is the Plumbing Course Development manager at Access Training. If this blog has interested you and you would now like to learn more about the plumbing trade, you might want to consider one of our extensive plumbing training courses. These range from DIY courses for enthusiasts to professional courses that will give you the qualifications you need to become a plumber. If you would like to find out more give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 and we'd be happy to explain in greater detail.