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Unclog a Toilet

A clogged toilet is an inconvenience that can lead to a major mess. Learn how to use simple tools to get your toilet flushing again.

How To Unclog a Stopped-Up Toilet.

Tools & Materials

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Tips for Unclogging a Toilet

Sometimes a clogged toilet you can't clear with one method may open if you use a combination of techniques.

Fixes can get messy — wear rubber gloves and have a bucket, cloths and a sponge close at hand.

To learn about different types of drain chemicals and tools, read Lowe's Drain Cleaner and Drain Opener Buying Guide.

Good to Know

Toilet clogs are apparent right after a flush. Quickly turn off the water supply valve — located at the base of the wall behind the toilet — to keep the bowl from overflowing.

Caution

Wear the appropriate safety gear and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and safety when using any drain-opening product. Use caution when clearing clogs in older pipes. Some products may not be suitable. If you have older or corroded pipes, you're concerned about damage, or you can't clear a clog, contact a professional plumber.

Using a Plunger

Toilet Plunger.

A plunger can force out clogs in the toilet trap and other clogs that aren't too deep in the drain.

Good to Know

A toilet plunger — which has a funnel or cone extending from the bottom of the cup to fit into the drain opening — will be more effective than a sink plunger.

Step 1

If standing water isn't already present, add 2 to 3 inches, but be careful to keep it from overflowing. As you use the plunger, the water helps force the obstruction out of the way.

Step 2

Cover the drain hole with the plunger cup and work the handle up and down repeatedly. After 15 to 30 seconds, see if the water drains from the bowl properly. Try again if the toilet is still blocked.

Step 3

After you clear the clog, turn the supply valve back on. Flush the toilet to wash away any remnants of the obstruction.

Using a Toilet Auger

Toilet Auger.

A toilet auger — also known as a closet auger — can break up stubborn clogs that a plunger won't clear. This tool is different from a standard auger — it has a shorter cable and a housing to prevent the cable from damaging the porcelain finish on a toilet.

Step 1

Pull back the handle to retract the cable into the protective housing. Then insert the tip of the auger into the drain opening, with the bend in the auger pointed toward the back of the bowl. Keep the tip clear of the bowl to avoid scratching the porcelain.

Step 2

Push in the handle and extend the cable into the drain until it reaches the obstruction. Turn the handle clockwise and push the cable to dig the auger tip into the clog and break it up.

Step 3

When the water in the bowl drains, pull back the handle to retract the cable and carefully remove the auger. Turn the supply valve back on and flush the toilet to wash any remnants of the clog.

Caution

Don't use drain-opening tools if you used a chemical drain cleaner. You could come into contact with chemicals that may still be present in the water.

Tips to Prevent Drain Problems

  • Don't flush heavy paper products down the toilet.
  • Consider using a drain maintenance treatment, designed to reduce buildup in pipes. Make sure it's suitable for your system.
  • If you have a septic tank, have a professional inspect it every two to three years, or as required in your area.
Good to Know

Plumbing vents on the roof of a house draw air into the pipe system to allow household drains to function properly. If a vent is blocked by leaves or other debris, drains may run slowly or stop completely. A clogged plumbing vent can often be cleared with an auger. If you're not comfortable working from the roof, contact a professional plumber.

Watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Unclog My Toilet?