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How Do I Unclog a Toilet?

Unclog a Toilet

To unclog a toilet, start with your easiest, least expensive options first.

  1. Toilet PlungerFirst, try an accordion style toilet plunger.
    • Accordion-style toilet plungers can be purchased online and in hardware stores for around $10.
    • Look for a high-efficiency plunger that's designed just for toilets, with a narrower, extended flange (that is, a round, lip-shaped reducer) at the bottom of the plunger to seal against the drain opening at the bottom of the toilet bowl.
    • Before you begin, you may need to use a bucket to partially drain the toilet if the water level is close to the rim.
    • Check to make sure the bottom of the plunger seals tightly against the opening at the bottom of the bowl.
    • Use extra caution and wear fluid resistant gloves and eye protection when working on any plumbing fixture where chemical drain cleaners may have been used.
    • Note: if several plumbing fixtures in different rooms are clogged, see our tips to unclog a main sewer drain.
  2. Toilet AugerNext, try a toilet auger (or "closet auger") if the plunger doesn't work.
    • A toilet auger is a hand-held snake, typically with 3 to 6 feet of cleaning cable, and a curved, plastic elbow sleeve to help you avoid scratching the visible ceramic surface inside the bowl.
    • A toilet auger with a cable that can telescope to 6 feet in length can be purchased online and in many hardware stores for under $50.
    • To unclog a toilet with a toilet auger:
    • Use care to insert the plastic sleeve into the opening at the bottom of the bowl before you extend the cable, and always keep the protective sleeve pressed firmly against the opening to avoid scratching the visible ceramic surface inside the bowl.
    • Press down and rotate the toilet auger handle to extend the auger cable through the toilet trap. Avoid using too much force so that you do not kink or knot the cable.
    • It may take several attempts to fully clear the clog. Falling and siphoning water in the toilet bowl is an indication that the blockage may have cleared.
    • Use extra care as you pull out the cable to avoid scratching the visible ceramic surface inside the bowl.
    • Use caution when working on any plumbing fixture where chemical drain cleaners may have been used to avoid splashing liquid on yourself and surrounding areas.
  3. If other solutions don't work, and you can find an alternate, clogged drain opening that's upstream of the toilet (like a sink, a clean out opening in a wall, or a shower floor drain), try using a Handheld Drum Auger handheld drum auger to clear the drain.
    • Important: to avoid scratching the visible ceramic surface inside a toilet bowl, do not insert a handheld drum auger directly into the toilet.
    • A 25 foot handheld drum auger can be purchased for around $30.
    • This is a good next choice, since the auger can break through many clogs that are further away from the toilet.
    • To unclog the bathroom drain line using a handheld auger:
    • Read and follow the drum auger safety instructions, then put on work gloves and eye protection.
    • Expose the alternate drain opening that's upstream of the toilet and then feed the auger into the drain by locking the cable, turning the drum in a clockwise direction, and then unlocking and feeding the cable as needed to pass the auger tip through elbows and obstructions.
    • After you have inserted the drum auger all the way into the drain, pull out the auger cable as you feed it back into the drum. It may take several attempts before the sink is unclogged.
    • Use extra caution when working on any plumbing fixture where chemical drain cleaners may have been used to avoid splashing liquid on yourself and surrounding areas.
    • Note that removing the toilet, checking for solid objects stuck in the toilet trap, running a drain snake or sewer jetter through the drain opening in the floor, and then reinstalling the toilet is usually the most time-consuming option but might be necessary if no good, alternate drain opening can be found or if a solid object like a toy or travel bottle is stuck in the toilet.
  4. Needle Nose Drain CleanerTry cleaning the drain with a sewer jetter if the clog keeps coming back.
    • A Needle Nose™ drain cleaner is a sewer jetter with a tougher, braided steel jacket and a special compact nozzle tip that allows it to pass through almost as many drain elbows and transitions as a hand-held auger.
    • Important: you should try a Needle Nose drain cleaner only if you were able to insert the handheld drum auger its full 25 foot length into the alternate drain opening.
    • Note: to avoid scratching the visible ceramic surface inside a toilet bowl, do not insert a sewer jetter directly into a toilet.
    • Needle Nose Sewer Jetter VideoUnlike a mechanical auger, the Needle Nose sewer jetter scrubs the sides of dirty pipes and flushes out greasy residue so fewer clogs come back. You can see the differences between a mechanical auger and the sewer jetter as they both take on a greasy clog in this 2 minute video.
    • To clean a bathroom drain line with the Needle Nose Drain Cleaner:
    • Put on fluid resistant work gloves and eye protection. Use extra care if you believe the drain might contain drain cleaning chemicals.
    • Needle Nose Drain CleanerMake sure the work area is well ventilated. And, if you're using a gas-powered pressure washer, only operate it outdoors.
    • Connect the drain cleaner to your pressure washer trigger gun. Then, to avoid getting water on indoor floors, while you're outside check your trigger gun and supply hoses for leaks.
    • Start your pressure washer, and then guide the nozzle about a foot into the alternate drain opening before you squeeze the trigger to start the flow of water.
    • After you have finished cleaning the drain, pull the drain cleaner out. Use care to release the trigger to stop the flow of water before the nozzle reaches the drain opening. Then replace any drain cover or trap that you may have removed.
  5. If you're not comfortable performing any of these steps, hiring a good, licensed plumber could save you money in the long run. To find a good plumber in your area:Licensed Plumber
    • Start by asking family, friends and co-workers to recommend a licensed plumber who has performed similar services for them.
    • If you are unable to find a good recommendation from someone you know, search local directories like Google Maps, Yelp and CitySearch for licensed plumbers nearby who have good online reviews. Don't always trust reviews from individuals who published very few other reviews, or from people who give only positive reviews to everyone. Be aware that good service providers sometimes get a small number of negative reviews for reasons that might not be relevant to your situation. Look for a company with several reviews that tell a positive, believable story about repairs that are similar to yours.
    • After you find one or more licensed plumbers who seem to have a good reputation, search online for the company name and the names of individuals at the company, if known. Take into account both the positive and negative information that you find about the company.
    • Be aware that good plumbers sometimes have a backlog of several days during peak times when there are low temperatures, heavy rainfall or holidays. Sometimes heavy demand can be a sign of a company with lots of repeat customers.

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