10 Common Toilet Clog Issues + How To Fix Them
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Nobody wants to deal with a clogged toilet, yet, here you are. Your toilet’s clogged, and now, you need to know how to fix it ASAP. Having a non-functioning toilet becomes more than just a hassle; it also presents some health and safety concerns too.
But, if left unchecked, you could end up with an even bigger mess on your hands. In a panic, you might find yourself helplessly watching as water fills the toilet bowl, and you just can’t stop it. But not today. Toilets can get clogged for tons of reasons, from flushing the wrong things to backup problems.
Luckily, most times, with a little bit of closer inspection and DIY effort, you can unclog your toilet. In cases where it’s a significant blockage, you’ll need to call in a professional plumber. But before you do, check out some of the most common reasons for a clogged toilet below and how to fix them.
How Does A Toilet Get Clogged?
When your toilet clogs, you might assume something is stuck inside, like a clump of mistakenly flushed tissues or even a rogue bath toy. These items can get stuck in your toilet trap or build-up and cause drainage issues. But, while flushing unflushable items is undoubtedly a primary reason for a clogged toilet (and we’ll look at them in more detail in just a bit), it’s not the only one.
Several other things can cause a toilet clog, including a blocked plumbing vent and more significant issues like problems with the main sewer line. Plumbing vents to the outside, usually through the roof. These roof vents can become full of debris like leaves and sticks.
If the plumbing vent isn’t clear, it can create a pressure vacuum that hinders drain flow, resulting in a clogged toilet. If the issue is with the main sewer line, it could be because of blockages in the line or something that has damaged the pipe. For example, a tree root or some other natural element can puncture or break a sewer line, resulting in issues with your toilet.
Why Does My Toilet Keep Clogging?
If your toilet only clogs once or twice, you can probably give it a good plunge and solve your problem. It’s more than likely someone flushed something they weren’t supposed to, and it’s blocking the trap. Some effort with the plunger can help dislodge the item and get things flowing again.
However, if your toilet clogs repeatedly, you have a bigger problem on your hands. This would signify that your issue is more likely with the plumbing vent or main sewer line. You can always check out the roof vent to check for debris but do so with caution. Ensure you wear a roofer’s harness and use a sturdy ladder. It’s also advisable to have a friend nearby anytime you plan to go on your roof.
If you’re unsure of your skill level or unsteady on your feet, it’s best to call in a pro to handle the issue. You would also need to hire professionals to investigate any problems with the main sewer line. A constantly clogging toilet could indicate that over time items have built up in your plumbing system and are now causing blockages further down the pipes.
One other consideration if your toilet continually clogs is the toilet itself. When low-flow toilets first started coming on the market to conserve water, they weren’t as efficient as they are today. Many of these earlier models lacked the necessary pressure to clear the toilet trap and drain thoroughly.
You can check the date on the back of your toilet; if it’s somewhere in the mid-1990s, then this could be the culprit of your clogs. You can be a little more conscious of how much toilet paper you use and not sending unflushable items down the drain. Or, you can replace your toilet with a newer model.
Most Common Questions About Clogged Toilets
As previously mentioned, the primary reason for a clogged toilet usually ends up concerning flushed items. Either someone flushes way too much of something, or in other cases, people flush something they aren’t supposed to.
Sometimes, it might be the flapper in the toilet tank isn’t opening all the way, so you can’t get a full flush. If this is the case, just use the attached chain to adjust it.
Sometimes, you might not know precisely what is flushable and what isn’t. Some things seem like they should be able to go down the toilet, but in actuality, they’ll cause major clogs. So, here’s a look at some of the most common items you might want to think twice about flushing.
1. Can Hair Clog A Toilet?
We brush our hair in the bathroom, give ourselves a trim, wash our hair; you get the idea. Some people think sending hair down the toilet drain is a great way for easy clean-up. So, they clip their dead ends while standing over the toilet bowl, or they pull the hair from their brush and flush it away.
But, hair is one of the most common reasons for drain clogs, including sinks, showers, and toilets. Of course, a couple of stray pieces of hair are likely not to cause an issue, but the clog happens when hair, even in small amounts, keeps getting flushed. Long hair, especially, can cause clogs, as it tends to form into hairballs in the pipe and drain area, blocking waste and making it difficult for things to flow properly.
Although hair is unlikely to cause a clog in the toilet itself, it usually ends up causing issues farther down the line. Typically, it happens when hair starts getting caught on rough pieces of pipe, etc., accumulating and forming larger clumps over time.
2. Does Toilet Paper Clog Toilets?
Believe it or not, the usual culprit for a toilet clog is toilet paper. This might not make sense; after all, toilet paper is designed to break down in water, but it doesn’t do so instantaneously. Also, some brands and types of toilet paper take longer to break down than others.
Therefore, if you flush too much toilet paper, you can end up with a clog. It’s especially likely for toilet paper to clog your toilet if you use large quantities continuously and roll your paper into balls. The tight balls often become large clumps that struggle to pass through the diameter of the toilet trap.
Since you inevitably need to use toilet paper with a toilet, consider these helpful tips to avoid future clogs:
- Reduce the amount of toilet paper you use at one time.
- Fold your toilet paper instead of rolling it into balls if you want it to be thicker.
- Opt for 1-ply toilet paper; it tends to break down faster.
- If you use a large quantity of toilet paper, flush it, then do a courtesy flush to help send the rest down the drain.
3. Will Q-Tips Clog A Toilet?
Yes, Q-Tips, despite their slim size, will eventually cause problems for your toilet. Even though you may assume you can safely flush small objects without having issues, this is not the case. This is because Q-Tips don’t break down, especially the ones with plastic stems.
So, instead, thanks to their small size, they’ll likely clear your toilet trap but start to snag and build up further down in your plumbing system. The result is a blockage that will cause you lots of headaches.
4. Do Baby Wipes Clog Toilets?
While it’s tempting to toss baby wipes into the toilet, especially after a particularly dirty diaper, it’s ill-advised. Even if the packaging describes the wipes as flushable, most plumbers strongly urge to avoid the practice.
Wipes won’t dissolve in water, so instead, they tend to create clumps, especially if you flush them consistently. Eventually, you’ll end up with a clog.
5. Can Tampons Clog Toilets?
There’s a reason public restrooms post numerous signs stating not to flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet. They are major clog culprits.
Even if the brand you use says they’re flushable, they can still wreak havoc on your plumbing. By their very design, tampons are meant to expand when they absorb moisture. Therefore, it’s best to avoid sending tampons down the toilet.
It’s best to have a small trash can near your toilet in the bathroom so people can easily and dispose of unflushable items.
6. Can Condoms Clog Toilets?
Avoid flushing condoms down the toilet. They consist of latex and other materials that will not dissolve or break down and they will clog a toilet.
Again, it’s best to have a small trash available so people can discreetly dispose of such items.
7. Can Paper Towels Clog A Toilet?
Take a moment to think about what you use paper towels for–to clean up spills. This is because paper towels are super-absorbent, designed to sop up water and hold onto it.
Sure, they’re technically bio-degradable, so eventually they will break down. But the keyword here is–eventually. In other words, if you flush paper towels down your toilet, they will take forever to dissolve.
Instead, they start to create clumps that clog your system. While one or two random towels likely won’t cause an issue, they will if you make a habit of it. Or, if you flush a bunch of them at once, a clog is pretty much inevitable.
8. Can Dental Floss Clog A Toilet?
Dental floss can cause a bunch of problems for your plumbing system. It basically becomes a tangled mess inside of your pipes as it isn’t biodegradable.
Therefore, it potentially causes a clog by itself and becomes a web that can catch other items coming down the drain. Additionally, If you have a septic system, the stringy floss can get wrapped around different components and burn them out.
9. Can Cotton Balls Clog A Toilet?
Similar to Q-Tips, cotton balls can also cause toilet clogs despite their small size. This is because they don’t break down and can build up and clump together or snag on rough edges inside pipes.
10. Can Bandages Clog A Toilet?
Bandages, gauze, band-aids, and similar first-aid items can all cause toilet clogs. Whether they’re made from plastic, cloth, latex, or any other material, it’s best to toss these items into the trash.
Tips On How To Fix A Clogged Toilet
Of course, the best way to deal with toilet clogs is to try and prevent them in the first place. Your best course of action is to not flush anything down the toilet except for toilet paper, pee, and poo. Even items that claim to be flushable, like certain wet wipes and tampons, are better off going in the trash can.
Lucky for you, you can tackle many common toilet clogs with a bit of DIY know-how and effort. Plus, you only need a few simple items. Here’s a look at some of the best ways to fix your clogged toilet.
Grab The Plunger
A plunger can do the trick when it comes to many toilet clogs, but it’s all about the right tools and proper form. The best plunger for toilet clogs is a flange plunger. The flange goes into the toilet drain to create a perfect seal.
For a plunger to work, you need to be able to submerge the bell in water. So, shut off the water supply by turning the valve on the wall behind the toilet clockwise. The water level in the toilet bowl should be about halfway.
If there isn’t enough water, add some. If there’s too much, scoop some out with a cup or bucket. Then fit your plunger over the drain, making sure you have a good seal. Then, move the plunger up and down for about 20 seconds, without breaking the seal, to release the clog.
Try A Toilet Auger Or Plumbing Snake
A toilet auger can also work to fix a clog, grabbing hold of the obstruction and pulling it back up into the toilet bowl. Then, you can grab whatever was clogging your toilet and toss it in the garbage. You can purchase a toilet auger at a home improvement or plumbing supply store.
Typically, you feed the auger down the drain using a hand crank. Once you reach the clog, move the auger around to try and snag the clog, then use the crank to retract the auger. Make sure the auger doesn’t scratch the porcelain of your toilet bowl.
Plumbing snakes can work well on clumps of hair, cotton balls, condoms, bandages, and similar materials. It can grab on to these items and enable you to pull them back up.
An auger can also potentially fix clogs from things like tampons or paper towels. Even if it can’t grab the item, the corkscrew tip can potentially break these types of items up.
For serious clogs, especially things like dental floss that can gather together all sorts of debris, use a heavy-duty, 6-foot auger. It takes some practice and some strength, but it’s a surer bet than a cheaper, shorter alternative.
Unclog Your Toilet With Baking Soda And Vinegar
Using a baking soda and vinegar mixture can help handle several types of clogs. It’s especially effective on clogs involving soft matter, like excess toilet paper, organic matter, and gunk build-up.
If you want to attempt the baking soda and vinegar method for unclogging the toilet, follow these steps:
- Gather hot water, baking soda, vinegar, face mask, rubber gloves, and a bucket or cup.
- Wear your safety gear and make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated.
- Ensure the toilet bowl is about half full. If it is too low, you’ll need to add some; too high, take some out with the bucket or cup. The water level is essential for when the chemical reaction takes place between the baking soda and vinegar. Otherwise, you either won’t accomplish your task, or you’ll end up with a massive mess in your bathroom.
- Pour a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and let it sit for roughly five minutes. If the clog is severe, you may need to add a bit more and wait a few more minutes.
- Pour one cup of vinegar into the toilet. Make sure you pour the vinegar slowly to avoid a major mess (kind of like the volcano experiment you did in second grade).
- Let the mixture fizz in your toilet for about 20 minutes. If the water level starts to go down and you notice bubbles, these are signs the clog has cleared. Simply flush the toilet.
- If the clog remains, repeat the process.
- You can also attempt a similar method using hot water and vinegar instead of just vinegar. You would follow all of the steps above, but instead of just adding vinegar, you would mix two cups of hot water with two cups of vinegar.
- Pour it into the bowl and let it fizz and bubble for 30 minutes.
- If the clog still doesn’t resolve after a couple of attempts, it’s best to call a pro. There are likely issues further down the line that you need to address.
Pull/Remove The Toilet
In some cases, it might be that the clog is just out of reach, and you need to remove the toilet. If you’re up for a little more involved DIY work, ask a buddy to assist; toilets are heavy and awkward to move.
Shut off the water at the supply valve and then empty the toilet bowl as much as possible with a bucket. Use an adjustable wrench to unscrew the bolts holding the toilet in place and move it to the side.
Wear some rubber gloves and see if you can reach the object clogging your toilet drain. If not, use a toilet auger, feeding it directly into the drain line.
Call A Plumber
When all else fails, or you just aren’t sure about your plumbing skills, call a pro. Many times, a plumber can resolve a clog extremely quickly. If the clog involves an issue further down your drain line or in the main sewer line, you definitely want to call in a professional.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Toilet Clogs
Can Bleach Clear A Clogged Toilet?
Bleach can potentially clear a clog if the clog is something soft that can break down. For example, if you’re dealing with the build-up of waste or toilet paper, etc. But, it is not recommended to use bleach for a clog. Plus, if you have a septic system, using bleach can cause a lot of problems.
But, if you’re determined to give bleach a try, it’s imperative to ensure your bathroom is well-ventilated and you protect yourself by wearing gloves and a face mask. Bleach creates strong fumes that can irritate your eyes, nose, and more, plus you don’t want to get bleach on your skin.
Also, it’s vital not to use bleach before or after using other cleaners as this could potentially cause harmful reactions and create toxic fumes. If you want to attempt to resolve the clog with bleach, pour about two to three cups of liquid bleach into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then flush.
However, a safer alternative and more effective is the baking soda and vinegar method.
Can I Put Drano Down The Toilet?
Plumbing professionals strongly advise pouring Drano down the toilet. The harsh chemicals can cause more damage to your pipes, corroding metal parts, and more. Plus, it can be unsafe to handle between the corrosive qualities and strong fumes.
Is It Bad To Leave A Clogged Toilet Overnight?
If your toilet clogs, it’s best to address the issue within a few hours at most. Leaving a clogged toilet unattended overnight can pose a few potential problems, and although not a definite, why risk it?
A few possible risks associated with leaving a clogged toilet overnight are:
- You can deal with overflow problems, even if you aren’t flushing the toilet anymore. This is because some clogs cause water to seep into the bowl in tiny amounts. After happening all night, the bowl becomes full of water with nowhere else to go but onto your bathroom floor. Plus, this water is contaminated, so it’s unhealthy to have it flowing back into your house.
- Leaving a clog in place overnight gives bacteria more time to grow, plus you’ll start smelling some nasty odors.
- The clog could potentially get worse the longer it sits there.
- A more obvious problem is if the clogged toilet is your only one. You’ll be without toilet access all night. Plus, what happens in the middle of the night, when you stumble to the bathroom half-asleep and forget your toilet is clogged? You flush, and suddenly you’ve got a huge mess on your hands.
What Toilet Is Best For Not Clogging?
To avoid clogs, look for toilets that showcase a large trapway. This is the part of the toilet that goes from the toilet’s base to the drain. Also, find a toilet with a large flush valve, at least 3 inches or more.
Some top toilets known for not clogging are the TOTO Eco Ultra Max and the Kohler Santa Rosa with AquaPiston Flush Technology. Other good options are the Swiss Madison Well Made Forever Tropez Toilet, featuring gravity flush, and the American Standard Colony Toilet.
Can One Clogged Toilet Affect Another?
If one of your toilets clogs, it doesn’t directly affect another toilet. But it could cause a blockage or backup that could eventually cause problems elsewhere. If you notice more than one toilet in your house is clogging at the same time, it’s likely an issue with your main drain line.
If your main drain line has a blockage, it will cause a backup, affecting other toilets in the home. If you have multiple toilets clogging at once, your best bet is to call a plumber ASAP.
How To Unclog Toilet When Nothing Works
If you’ve tried a plunger, plumbing snake, baking soda and vinegar, hot water, and even bleach, but nothing works, it can get really frustrating. Especially if you’ve even attempted removing the toilet and reaching down the drain line. But, there are a few last-ditch efforts you can try.
There are enzyme-based cleaners that don’t contain any harsh chemicals. These cleaners, when poured down the toilet, could potentially dissolve and break up organic waste. However, they won’t tackle other forms of clogs.
Another trick some plumbers recommend is using dish soap. Pour a small amount into your toilet bowl, then follow with a rush of hot water. Fill a pan with hot water, hold it up about waist-high and dump it into the toilet.
It’s a good idea to wear oven mitts and ensure you avoid splashing hot water onto yourself. Wait about 30 minutes, but if it didn’t do the trick, don’t persist.
There are even special vacuums and pumps you can use to try and unclog a toilet. They basically work in a similar concept to plungers. But honestly, if you’ve reached this point, it’s time to wave the white flag and call in a professional.