How to Unclog a Toilet
The complete guide from a professional plumber.
By Andrew Henderson
Sorry to hear you have a clogged toilet. Now let’s get you prepared to tackle the task of unclogging your clogged toilet.
This can be a messy job, and not recommended for people with a weak stomach.
Safety first - Gloves, Goggles, and possibly a respirator if it smells real bad.
(Not judging, just facts. Be prepared if the smell is going to bother you).
Do not flush the toilet. The bowl of the toilet is clogged with sewage. You might just make a bigger problem.
(Trust me, no one wants sewage on the floor, especially your insurance).
Control the situation and turn the water off to the toilet. This way only the water in the toilet tank is available to flush with. The tank won’t fill again. Let other people in the house know of the issue. Even ask if anyone dropped anything in the toilet.
(Take a deep breath, relax, communicate, gather information and isolate the problem).
Make sure you have the lid off the tank and you're prepared to push the flapper closed with your hand to stop the water entering the bowl.
(Roll up your sleeves and see Step 1: Gloves).
But also keep in mind the water in the tank of the toilet is clean.
(I would argue it is potable water, some would say it is gray water, but it’s definitely not sewage).
Assess the situation and get the right tools to do the job. If the toilet bowl is completely full you will want to use a wet vacuum to remove some of the water. Once the water level is below the rim of the toilet you can use a plunger or toilet auger to try and clear the blockage.
(Look if you are already up the creek without a paddle you could use a bucket to remove some water. Just be careful sewage spills are not good).
Proper technique. Knowing how to properly use a plunger or toilet auger will stop you from making a huge mess. We will cover how to use a toilet plunger as it is the most common.
How to use a Plunger:
Inspect the plunger and make sure the flange is not folded inside the cup.
Slowly place the plunger into the toilet bowl so you don’t spill any sewage.
With the cup of the plunger completely submerged, slowly press the plunger down against the inside of the bowl to remove any air from the cup.
(This is the most important part. Air is bad! Air compresses and water does not).
Align the cup of the plunger with the drain in the toilet bowl. Make sure the plunger cup covers the toilet bowl drain completely.
Slowly press the plunger onto the drain and slowly depress the plunger.
(You want to feel a small amount of suction when the plunger is depressed, that’s how you know you have a good seal around the toilet bowl drain).
Once you feel some resistance or suction when you depress the plunger you know you have a good seal to the toilet bowl drain.
(You feel like you actually need to pull the plunger back to some degree).
Continue to press and depress the plunger on the toilet bowl drain several times. While maintaining the seal to the toilet bowl drain.
(You want to focus on feeling the suction of the plunger to the toilet bowl drain while you plunge, not the speed or power you use to plunge).
Pull the plunger away and see if the bowl drains.
(Don’t worry if the water does not drain away. Try steps 3 - 8 again).
After 3 attempts of repeating steps 3 - 8 and the bowl still won’t drain. We would recommend trying a toilet auger or removing the toilet.
(Look it sucks and is not cheap but it also might be time to call it quits and call a professional plumber).
Congratulations!! Your toilet is unclogged!
(If not, then I guess continue down this rabbit hole and see step 8).
Try a toilet auger, because the alternative is removing the toilet.
(As a professional plumber this is the tool I use to unclog a toilet, don’t get me wrong a plunger does the job for most toilet clogs. But when faced with toilet removal or trying a toilet auger. I auger first and just skip the plunger altogether).
How to use a Toilet Auger:
Unclasp auger head from holder and extend handle to pull auger head and snake into the auger tube with the auger head just sticking out.
Place the auger head into the toilet bowl drain and allow the auger to tilt up into the drain.
(We want to make sure the toilet auger guard protects the inside of the toilet from scratching by the auger head or snake).
Hold the grip handle and spin the crank handle slowly while applying force to the crank hand towards the toilet bowl drain at the same angle the auger was put in the drain at.
Make sure to check that the auger head and snake didn’t get tangled and come back out into the toilet bowl.
(Once again just checking so we don’t scratch the inside of the toilet bowl).
Continue to spin and push down on the crank handle. The handle should move towards the holding handle as the auger enters the toilet. Spin and press down on the crank handle until the handles touch again.
Once the auger is fully extended into the toilet, pull back the crank handle to remove the auger head from the toilet. Check if the toilet bowl drains away.
After 3 attempts of repeating steps 1 - 6 and the toilet bowl still won’t drain. We would recommend removing the toilet.
(It really might be time to call a professional plumber).
Congratulations!! Your toilet is unclogged!
(Well it still might not be. Removing your toilet to reverse auger it, is a total pain in the butt. It can make a huge mess and is heavy. I think it is time to call a professional plumber).
If you still have issues after you have tried using a plunger or an auger to clear your clogged toilet. Please feel free to use unclog.it to book a drain cleaning expert in your local community. unclog.it works with thousands of plumbing contractors across Canada and the USA. Providing on-demand emergency plumbing services, including drain cleaning.