How to fix a blocked toilet
A clogged or blocked toilet is believed to be a catastrophe by many people that requires a visit (an expensive one) from an emergency plumber. No matter how careful you are sometimes something gets flushed down the toilet and creates a blockage. However often the problem can be solved fairly easily and without calling the plumber or drainage services company. This is a fairly simple diy exercise.
Stage 1: Identify the problem
The first stage is to try to find where the blockage is that is causing the blocked toilet. Check to see if there is an inspection chamber for the drains by your house. If you have one, lift the cover and first have a look there to see if the water is running freely. Pour a bucket of water into the chamber. If the water is running freely at this point it means that the blockage is between your toilet and where the soil pipe (the main waste pipe) connects with the inspection chamber. However if the inspection chamber is blocked you need to push something along it to dislodge the blockage. Maybe you or a friendly neighbour have a set of drain cleaning rods or sometimes you can push a garden hose along the drain and when you feel it hit a blockage turn on the hose and the sudden water pressure may clear it.
Find where the blockage is (source)
However the majority of blocked toilet problems are actually in the bathroom. Sometimes the blockage is visible in the bowl of the toilet. Often the blockage is in the bend in the pipework that connects the toilet to the main soil pipe. I would recommend wearing rubber gloves and you might find it helpful to wear goggles to protect your eyes.
Stage 2: Clearing the toilet
To clear the blocked toilet and bend there are several methods but first if there is excessive water in the toilet bowl bail it out into a bucket, otherwise you will end up splashing it around. Also tipping some boiling water down the toilet may also help to loosen the blockage. However now to get your hands dirty:
The toilet Plunger (source)
- Use a toilet plunger. These are fairly cheap and available from hardware stores and supermarkets. Simply push this into the toilet bowl and push it vigorously backwards and forwards. The pressure should dislodge the blockage.
- Use a mop wrapped in several plastic bags. This is a substitute for a plunger. Take a Mop and cover the head with several plastic bags until it fits tightly into the toilet bowl. Then use it like a plunger.
- Use a ‘toilet/drain auger’, in its simplest form this is a length of flexible metal pipe with a hook on the end. More expensive versions can be rotated by a hand crank. The aim is to push the blockage out-of-the-way or hook it and pull it out.
- A simple alternative to the auger is to take a wire coat hanger and uncoil it into one long length of wire leaving a hook at one end. Carefully push the hooked end into the toilet and around the bend. Wriggle it around and hopefully the blockage will be released or you can pull the ‘material’ back towards you, fish it out, and then hopefully the toilet will flush normally.
You can see this in action on the video below:
Hopefully using a combination of these methods will have solved the problem of your blocked toilet. You may be a bit wet and dirty but you will have saved a large plumber’s or drainage services company bill. Remember to clean up and disinfect any tools you have used.
One other word of advice, if you have regular blockages then consider the following points:
- Although many bathroom products may be labelled as ok to flush down the toilet if you have tight bends in your pipework you may have problems. So don’t put used diapers, sanitary towels, cotton wool, cotton buds etc down the toilet. In some older homes the pipework may be of a smaller diameter than for modern building standards so you are more likely to have blockages.
- If you are still experiencing problems it is maybe because there is a problem with the pipework. In one house that we lived in we kept having blockages. Eventually we became so frustrated with this that we got a drainage services company to do a CCTV (closed circuit TV) survey of our drains. They put a camera on the end of a flexible tube. This showed that the rubber seal between the toilet ‘U’ bend and the soil pipe was out of alignment so the used toilet paper kept getting caught there, causing a blockage every few days. This was simple and cheap to fix.
A blocked toilet is always a nuisance and a problem but most blockages can be easily fixed. However if you are unfortunate enough to have frequent blocked toilet problems I am afraid you need to call out a plumber or drainage services company.