How to Unclog a Toilet that Won’t Unclog


How to Unclog a Toilet that Won’t Unclog:

  1. Stop Flushing: If you notice that the toilet is clogged and water is rising, do not flush again. This can lead to an overflow.
  2. Safety First: Put on rubber gloves and place old towels or newspapers around the base of the toilet to catch any potential spills.
  3. Use a Plunger:
    • Place a toilet plunger over the drain hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl.
    • Press down gently but firmly, then pull up quickly to create suction.
    • Repeat this plunging motion several times. It may take several attempts to dislodge the clog.
  4. Hot Water and Dish Soap:
    • Boil a pot of water.
    • Add a few drops of dish soap to the toilet bowl.
    • Carefully pour the hot water into the bowl from waist height. The combination of soap and hot water can help break up the clog.
  5. Use a Toilet Auger:
    • If the plunger and hot water don’t work, consider using a toilet auger (also known as a plumbing snake).
    • Insert the auger into the drain hole and turn the handle clockwise to break through the clog.
    • Carefully retract the auger and dispose of any debris.
  6. Chemical Drain Cleaners (Caution):
    • As a last resort, you can try a chemical drain cleaner, but use it with caution, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Be aware that these chemicals can be harsh on your plumbing and should be used sparingly.
  7. Seek Professional Help:
    • If all else fails, or if you suspect a severe blockage deeper in the sewer line, it’s advisable to contact a professional plumber to assess and resolve the issue.
  8. Prevent Future Clogs:
    • To avoid future clogs, be mindful of what you flush down the toilet. Avoid flushing items like paper towels, baby wipes, and excessive toilet paper.
    • Consider using a bidet or wet wipes for personal hygiene to reduce the risk of clogs.

If you have tried everything but your toilet will not unclog, remove the toilet and put it aside. Since toilet drain lines have a big diameter (usually 4-inch), snaking the drain or pulling the clog from the bottom of the toilet trap will be easy and fast.

Removing and reinstalling a toilet may sound like a lot of work but in actual sense it is very easy. Most homeowners can actually do it but you will need an extra pair of hands to help with the lifting.

Why Your Toilet Won’t Unclog

Before proceeding with the steps to remove a toilet and pull out the clog, let me tell you why you are having problems unclogging your toilet. You may actually learn that you don’t even need to remove the toilet after all.

1. Using the Wrong Plunger

There are 2 types of plungers. These are:

  • Cup plungers
  • Flange plungers

A cup plunger is the plunger with a flat base which looks like a cup. It is used to clear clogs in sinks, tubs and other types of drains. If you use this plunger to unclog a toilet you will little success.

If you look at the drain opening in a toilet bowl, you will notice that the design makes a cup plunger an unsuitable candidate for the job. And that is where the flange plunger comes in.

A flange plunger is bell-shaped. The bell part of the plunger fits nicely on the toilet bowl opening creating a watertight seal. Plunging with this plunger is more effective than a bell plunger.

2. Wrong Plunging Technique

To plunge effectively, the lower part of the plunger (the rubber part) needs to be immersed in water. You therefore need water inside the bowl to plunge properly.

Another thing you need to do is to make sure that the initial plunges are gentle ones, since that is when the plunger is sealing around the bowl drain opening. After that plunge aggressively until the water inside the bowl drains out.

3. Not Giving the Clog Time to Break Down

A question I am often asked is “Will a clogged toilet unclog itself”? The answer to that is “It depends”! It depends on what is clogging the toilet.

If it is too much toilet paper or soap that is clogging the toilet, then it may just unclog itself after the clog has dissolved in water. On the other hand, if it the clog is a toy, comb or other solid materials then the toilet will not unclog itself.

Sometimes just waiting and giving the clog time to dissolve and break down is all you need to do.

To unclog a toilet that won’t unclog without a plunger, drain all the water from the bowl then pour a cup of baking soda followed by 2 cups of vinegar. Wait for about 30 minutes then dump a gallon of hot water to flush down the clog.

The above method as I said will only work if the clog can be dissolved in water. Otherwise you will need to snake the toilet or remove it and pull out the clog.

How to Unclog a Toilet that Won’t Unclog

If you are to be successful in unclogging a toilet that won’t unclog, it will help you to first understand how your house drain-waste-vent system works.

You have several fixtures in the house (toilets, sinks, tubs, shower, washers etc.) and each of them has a separate drain line. However, all the drain lines are then connected to the main drain stack.

The main drain stack is then connected to the underground sewer line in your yard which connects to the city’s sewer lines or septic tank.

Image credit: Red Cap Plumbing

The first think you need to do is ask yourself if the clog is only affecting your toilet or other fixtures in the house. Are the sinks and bathtub draining slowly or not draining at all?

If that is the case, you are dealing with a clogged main drain stack or even sewer line. On the other hand, if the clog is only affecting the toilet, the clog is somewhere inside the P-trap or toilet drain line.

A toilet trap is the curve at the bottom of the toilet which goes up and then down to connect to the drain line. It has 2 important functions:

  • It allows the bowl to hold water, which acts as a barrier prevent sewer gases from coming up through the toilet.
  • Its shape allows us to pick up things when we accidentally drop them in the bowl. Otherwise our toilets would clog every now and then.
  • That is where the flushing actually takes place. The descending leg of the trap is longer than the ascending one, which helps to create a siphon and suck waste out of the bowl.

As important as it is, the toilet is very susceptible to clogs. Its shape makes it clog easily, especially when you flush something that you are not supposed to flush. It is also not easy to unclog with a snake.

With a badly clogged toilet, no amount of plunging or snaking will help to remove the clog. And that is why you need to remove the toilet and pull out the clog.

To remove a toilet and unclog it you will need the following:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Bucket
  • Cup
  • Sponge
  • Putty knife
  • New wax ring
  • Screwdriver (optional)
  • Old newspapers
  • Drain snake
  • Rubber gloves

I put a new wax ring up there since a wax rings cannot be reused. They are however quite cheap and you can as well decide to use a rubber gasket instead which is less messy compared to a wax ring.

Here is how to unclog a toilet that won’t unclog by removing the toilet:

1. Drain the Toilet

  • Turn off water to the toilet. The shut off valve is on the wall behind the toilet. Turn it all the clockwise.
  • Lift off the toilet tank lid and place it away in a safe place where it won’t fall off and crack.
  • Use the cup to scoop water from tank and pour it out in the bucket. You can also siphon it using a hose. The water is clean unlike the one in the bowl.
  • Once most of the water has been removed, use a sponge to soak up the remaining water until the tank is dry.
  • Use the cup and sponge to soak up the water inside the bowl until all of it has been removed. Failure to do so will have it spilling all over once you lift off the toilet. Make sure you have your gloves on though.
  • Disconnect the water supply hose from the tank. Check if the connection is hand-tight before resulting to using a wrench. Have a towel or small container to drain the water inside the hose.

2. Remove the Toilet

If you have a one-piece toilet (the tank and the bowl are one solid body), you have no option but to remove the toilet whole. On the other hand, if you have a two-piece toilet, you can decide to first remove the tank then the bowl later.

The tank is connected to the bowl using 2 or sometimes 3 bolts. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts from underneath the toilet bowl then lift off the tank and put it away.

This is how to remove the toilet:

  • Look for 2 bolts, one on each side of the bowl. These bolts secure the toilet firmly on the floor. Sometimes the bolts are covered using plastic caps. Pry them off with a screwdriver.
  • Loosen the nuts with a wrench and remove them. In instances where the nuts are badly corroded, you may need to cut them off using a hacksaw blade.
  • Grab the toilet bowl and rock it about to break the wax ring seal.
  • Lift it off and gently lay it on its side on top of the old newspapers.

3. Remove the Clog

  • First use a putty knife to scrape off old wax from the top of the closet flange and the toilet bowl’s drain outlet.
  • Look inside the toilet trap (from the bottom) or even stick your hand and try to see if you can feel a clog there. Pull it out if any.
  • If the toilet trap is fully open, the clog is somewhere inside the toilet drain line. Since you now have a 4-inch drain opening, snaking will be very effective.
  • Get hold of a drain snake and feed it down the drain line until you encounter resistance.
  • Lock the cable and gently start to turn the handle clockwise and counterclockwise until you go past the restriction.

Two things will happen here. You will either hook and pull out the clog, or it will be broken down into smaller pieces that will flow down the drain line easily.

4. Install the Toilet

  • Set the new wax ring nicely on top of the closet flange.
  • Lift the toilet and bring it just above the wax ring.
  • As you lower it down gently, have your helper align the toilet bolts with the holes on the bowl and then set it down.
  • Push the toilet down to engage the wax ring but don’t rock it about.
  • Put a washer and nut on each bolt and tighten it until hand-tight. Use the wrench to tighten them further and alternatingly to make sure the toilet stays level. Don’t overtight the nuts lest you crack the bowl.
  • Install the toilet tank if you had removed it.
  • Connect the water hose back to the tank and turn on the shut off valve. Make sure that the toilet tank parts have not shifted, especially the flapper. It should be sealing nicely on the flush valve.
  • Flush the toilet just to be sure it is draining as fast as it should.
  • Put back the toilet tank lid.

And basically that is how to unclog a toilet that won’t unclog. I hope this guide was helpful.

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