We’ve all been there: You flush the toilet, and instead of a powerful noise, the water just starts to run. You open the lid to find that the bowl is filled with water, and nothing is going down the drain.
What do you do in this situation? And what if you’ve tried all the basics, but nothing is working?
First of all, don’t panic. There are tons of different ways to deal with toilet clogs.
And if you find that no DIY solutions are helping, that’s what professionals are for.
9 Ways To Unclog A Toilet When Nothing Works
If your toilet simply won’t flush, these are some of the first methods you should try. In most cases, using these tools and mixtures will loosen a clog.
If the situation is more serious, that’s when it’s time to get a plumber involved.
1. Use A Plunger
A plunger is one of the most useful tools to have around the house. It’s a good idea to have two plungers in your bathroom: one for the toilet, and one for the shower and sink.
That way, you don’t have to put the same tool in your toilet and shower.
Some toilet plungers have special shapes that let them conform more easily to the drain. That way, they get a better seal.
Before you get started, you should put on some rubber gloves to make sure the toilet water doesn’t splash onto your hands.
Now pick the plunger up and put it into the toilet bowl. Fit it over the drain and push down until it is fully sealed around the drain.
This airtight seal will create a vacuum that will dislodge the clog.
Push down slowly on the plunger, adding more and more force. Then pull it all the way out.
Do this two or three times, then try to flush the toilet. The push-pull suction should loosen the clog and make it easier for the contents to move down the drain.
Plungers are usually the first method that people try to unclog their toilet. So if you’ve tried this and it hasn’t worked, you may need to move on to another option.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the right solution for you might depend on the type of clog. For example, some of these methods won’t help with hair-related clogs or non-degradable items being flushed down the toilet.
2. Use A Plumbing Snake
When the plunger doesn’t work, a plumbing snake might be the next most surefire way to dislodge the clog. This is especially helpful for clogs that are fairly deep in the pipes, which might be difficult to dislodge with a plunger.
But a snake is a relatively heavy-duty tool. Because of this, some people might prefer to try the other methods first.
It’s a good idea to own a plumbing snake just like you own a plunger. You probably won’t need to use it very often, but it can be a lifesaver during those rare moments when it’s needed.
Plumber’s snakes are flexible wiring that can be inserted into a drain to remove a clog. In addition to working on the toilet, you can also often use them in your bathtub, shower, or sink.
Since the wire is flexible, it can thread deeply into the pipes until it finds the clog. It will wind around every curve and bend in the piping.
Most plumbing snakes have a rubber fitting to help protect the porcelain of your toilet, sink, or bathtub. If you know that you need to get deeply into your drain, this should definitely be your next step after the plunger.
Like with the plunger, you should wear rubber gloves to make sure that you aren’t splashed by the toilet water or other waste.
Using the snake is simple. You’ll just put one end into your toilet.
Depending on the model, you will either push the wire or turn a crank to feed it deeper into the pipe. You want to push the snake down until you feel it meet resistance.
This is the clog.
Push it a little further and twist it. This will snag the end of the wire on the clog and plug the drain.
Keep pushing and breaking up the clog until you aren’t feeling any resistance anymore.
At that point, you can flush the toilet to see how well the water flows.
If the water flows quickly, the clog has been resolved. If you’re seeing slow and sluggish movement instead, that means that you’ve only dealt with part of the clog.
You’ll need to use the snake again.
3. Use A Wire Coat Hanger
Maybe you don’t have the time or the money to invest in a plumber’s snake. If that’s the case, this DIY solution is more inexpensive and might appeal.
Many people already have wire coat hangers in their closet.
Grab one that you aren’t using. Unwrap the wiring so that you have a long, flexible piece of wire.
This is a bit like a DIY plumber’s snake. It won’t reach as deep as an actual plumbing snake, but it works very well if you know that the clog is just a few inches into the drain.
Keep in mind that if the clog is deeper in your pipes, your coat hanger wire won’t be long enough to dislodge the clog.
After you’ve unwrapped the wire, you should wrap one end in an old washcloth so that it doesn’t scratch your porcelain. Use duct tape to secure the washcloth to the wire, making sure that you get a good seal with it.
You can then put the fabric-covered end into the bowl. Push the end into your drain, twisting it slowly.
Like with a plumbing snake, you’ll use the wire to break up the clog until you don’t feel any resistance anymore.
At that point, you can flush the toilet. Like with the drain snake, you should repeat the process if the water is draining slowly.
But again, this method will only be effective if the clog isn’t too deep in the pipes. A wire coat hanger is not nearly as long as a proper drain snake.
4. Use A Mix Of Vinegar and Baking Soda
You might be tempted to turn to heavy chemical cleaners if you’re having trouble dealing with a clog. But most of these products won’t be very effective, and they can also seriously mess up your pipes.
A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is one of the best ways to clear your pipes, though. And there’s a good chance that you have both of these ingredients in your pantry already.
Get out some cups, a container, the baking soda, and the vinegar. One important note is that you won’t be mixing the components before putting them in the toilet.
When mixed, these ingredients create a cleansing foam, which can make a big mess of your bathroom!
You will mix one cup of baking soda with two cups of water in your container. This won’t have a chemical effect, but it will make it easier to disperse the baking soda in the pipes.
Pour the baking soda and water mixture into your toilet.
Then measure out two cups of vinegar. Pour these after the baking soda into the toilet.
You should leave the solution to do its work for at least 20 minutes to a half-hour. This allows the vinegar to penetrate more deeply into the pipes.
The chemical reaction should loosen the clogged materials, making it easier to flush the toilet.
For many people, this is the first step they take after they’re unable to unclog the toilet using a plunger. You’ll know that the solution is working when you see bubbles at the mouth of the drain.
5. Use A Suction Cup
Did you know that some suction cups are specifically designed to unclog toilets? If your plunger didn’t work, a suction cup might.
There are cases in which you might not be able to get a tight enough seal with a plunger, especially if it’s not a flange plunger.
You can buy suction cups for drain clogs. These are made to suck out small clogs.
Typically, they have a long handle, similar to a plunger.
Using the suction cups is about as simple as using a plunger. Put the cup over the drain in the toilet bowl.
Make sure it seals and creates an airtight vacuum.
Now lower and lift the suction cup using the handle, the same way you would a plunger. This can help to dislodge small non-degradable debris from your drain.
Just keep in mind that if your plunger had a proper seal and didn’t work, a suction cup is unlikely to work either.
6. Use An Enzyme Product
Is your biggest problem that your toilet is full of solid waste? Enzyme products are designed to liquefy that waste.
They make it much easier to flush the toilet or to use your plunger on the remaining clog.
You can find enzyme products in hardware stores and grocery stores. In most cases, they are meant to liquefy the contents of septic tanks.
One note is that this method is only effective on organic waste. If the waste isn’t organic or degradable, the enzyme product won’t have any effect on it.
Make sure that you follow all of the instructions printed on the product. Using these products tends to be simple.
You just pour the required amount into the toilet bowl, sometimes after diluting it in water. Then you wait for it to work.
After some time has passed, you should flush the toilet. This will tell you whether the clog has been properly broken down or not.
7. Use Soap and Boiling Water
You might be surprised by how simple this solution is. But in some cases, it really works! Hot water and dish soap make a great combination.
The first step is to boil several quarts of water on the stove.
Then pour some dish soap into the toilet, along with the water. Wait for ten minutes, and then flush.
This will allow the solution to move deeper into the pipes and dislodge more of the clog.
People appreciate this solution because of how cost-effective it is. Oftentimes, this method will soften the clog enough for you to successfully plunge the toilet.
Or it might loosen the clog entirely by itself!
8. Use A Shop Vacuum
You can actually use a Shop-Vac or another wet and dry vacuum to try to unclog the toilet. Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t use your normal household vacuum for this.
It’s essential that you’re using a tool designed to work with water.
The first step is to empty the toilet bowl using the wet vac. Then wrap a washcloth around the hose to keep it from scratching the porcelain.
Put it against the drain, similarly to how you’d use a plunger. Keep pushing until you have the most airtight seal possible.
At that point, you can turn the vacuum on. You might be able to hear it become unclogged.
If you think that the clog has been dislodged, you should turn the vacuum off and see whether the toilet drains. Keep repeating the process until the clog is truly dislodged.
This method might be a little unsanitary if you want to use your Shop-Vac anywhere else. You’ll want to sanitize the hose that was in the toilet bowl.
But it will often give you better power than you get with a plunger.
For very stubborn clogs, you might alternate using a plumbing snake and using a vacuum to break the mass up.
9. Call A Plumber
It would be very unusual for none of the previous eight solutions to work. But if you’ve tried everything and are still at a loss, it’s time to call a plumber.
Other solutions, like using harsh chemical drain cleaners, are unlikely to work. And they’ll just harm your plumbing.
If you’ve done everything on this list and still can’t unclog the toilet, there might be a deeper issue with your plumbing. A professional can determine the cause of the issue.
They can also check your plumbing for issues like leaks and rust.
Some people might not be able to try all eight methods on this list. For example, maybe you don’t have a Shop-Vac or a plumbing snake.
If you’ve done everything that you reasonably can, then calling a plumber is a good idea.
It’s better to work with a plumber than to exhaust yourself with solutions that might not work, especially if you don’t know what’s causing the clog.
Will A Toilet Unclog Itself?
Toilets will unclog themselves in certain circumstances.
For example, you might discover that your toilet is clogged in the middle of the night. But when you flush it the next morning, the clog disappears without issue.
So when is it worthwhile to wait and hope the clog resolves itself? Sometimes you simply don’t want to bother with a plunger or boiling water.
If the toilet is clogged by toilet paper, feces, or other biodegradable materials, it will unclog itself. Sometimes it will unclog itself within an hour, and sometimes it will take more than 24 hours.
You don’t want to have your toilet out of commission for more than 24 hours! But if you’re having trouble unclogging it with a plunger, you might want to leave it for a few hours.
When you come back, the clog should have degraded somewhat. This will make it easier to dislodge using a plunger.
Unclogging a toilet can be frustrating, especially when it feels like nothing works. There are multiple ways to unclog a toilet... and multiple things that you should never do.
For example, bleach and other harsh chemicals are more likely to do harm than good.
If you’ve done everything that you can with your plunger, home remedies, and a plumber’s snake, it’s time to get in contact with a plumber. There might be a problem with your piping that can only be diagnosed and fixed by a professional.