How to Unblock a Toilet

Unblocking a clogged toilet may not be the most pleasant of tasks but it’s a very necessary one.

Whether a foreign object has fallen into the toilet bowl or it’s become clogged with too much toilet paper, knowing how to unblock a toilet quickly and efficiently is an important life skill that can save you time, money and a lot of mess.

That’s why we’ve created this handy step-by-step guide on how best to unclog a toilet using a variety of different methods. First things first, let’s make sure you’re clued up on the important safety precautions you should take before going near the offending toilet.

Unclogging a Toilet: Safety Precautions

Once you’ve confirmed that it’s definitely your toilet that’s causing the problem, and not the drains or a wider plumbing issue if you live in a block of flats, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Put on some old clothes that are easy to wash.
  • Find some long rubber gloves and put them on. If you don’t have rubber gloves to hand, you can use sturdy plastic bags instead.
  • Cover the floor surrounding the toilet with old towels or newspaper to absorb any spilled water.
  • Open the window. Ventilation is very important not only for getting rid of any bad smells, but also to protect you from any dangerous gases.
  • Turn the water off as this can help to avoid overflowing.
  • Find some protective glasses to shield your eyes from any splashes or chemical spray.
  • If you’re using a chemical product, make sure to read the instructions carefully before using it.

What’s the Best Way to Unblock a Toilet?

Now that you’re kitted out with all the important safety gear, it’s time to get down to business and remove the blockage but the question is, how?

There are several different methods to choose from depending on what equipment you have to hand and the type of blockage that’s causing the problem. You can opt to manually remove the blockage manually with your hands, use suction to dislodge it, break it up with a chemical product or, alternatively, leave it to the professionals. Let’s begin with the simplest option: the manual approach.

Method One: The Manual Approach

You should only opt for this method if you know what is causing the blockage and think that you can remove it with your hands.

What you will need:

  • Long rubber gloves or two strong plastic bags
  • A strong black bag with no holes
  • A wire coat hanger (optional)
  • A basin of hot water

Step One: Don’t flush

Don’t be tempted to flush the toilet as this can make things even worse. Flushing allows the water to rise up, causing the toilet to overflow and covering your bathroom floor with dirty water. So, resist the urge to flush and try to remove the blockage first.

Step Two: Suit up and get stuck in

Put on your protective gear (gloves, old clothes and protective glasses if desired) and reach into the toilet bowl. Have a feel around for the blockage and see if you can loosen it with your hand. If you manage to dislodge it, great! Proceed to step four. If not, see step three.

Step Three: Reach for the coat hanger

Put on your protective gear (gloves, old clothes and protective glasses if desired) and reach into the toilet bowl. Have a feel around for the blockage and see if you can loosen it with your hand. If you manage to dislodge it, great! Proceed to step four. If not, see step three.

Step Four: Remove the blockage

Once you’ve successfully dislodged the blockage, you should dispose of it in the black bag. Be careful to avoid drips on your bathroom floor and make sure that the bag has no holes.

Step Five: Flush from a height

Now that you’ve disposed of the blockage, it’s time to check that the canal is totally clear. Take the basin of hot water and pour it from a height (around waist-level) into the toilet bowl, being careful not to splash or scald yourself. The gravity creates a more powerful flow of water than a normal flush and the hot water helps to dissolve any remains of the blockage. Avoid pouring boiling water into a cold, porcelain toilet bowl as this can result in cracks.

Method Two: The Power of Suction

A plunger is perhaps the most popular way of unblocking a toilet, but did you know that you can use suction to dislodge the obstruction using household items? If you don’t have a plunger, you can use a mop wrapped in a plastic bag or even a toilet brush to create suction and unclog the toilet. Remember that there must be water in the toilet bowl for the suction to take effect.

What you will need:

  • Long rubber gloves or two strong plastic bags
  • Protective glasses
  • A strong black bag with no holes
  • A plunger/mop and plastic bag/toilet brush
  • A basin of hot water

Step One: Get your gear on

Put on your gloves and old clothes as well as some protective glasses to protect your eyes from any splashes.

Step Two: Start plunging

Get your plunger, or your toilet brush/mop wrapped in a plastic bag, and lower it into the toilet bowl until it covers the toilet canal. Slowly push down to create a vacuum over the hole – this is the key to effective suction – then quickly pull the handle up to try and loosen the obstruction. Repeat this step as many times as needed to clear the block.

If you are using the mop method, you can use a cable tie to secure the top of the plastic bag around the mop handle, creating a watertight homemade plunger.

Step Three: Dispose of the clog

Now that you’ve successfully removed the obstruction, do the same as in method one and dispose of it in the black bag. It’s worth plunging the toilet a few more times to make sure that the blockage is completely gone.

Step Four: Flush away

As in method one, you can simulate flushing by pouring a basin full of hot water into the toilet bowl from a height. You can also put a few pieces of toilet paper into the toilet and try flushing normally to check that your toilet is back to normal.

Method Three: A Chemical Solution

If you’ve tried the manual and suction approach with no success, then a chemical drain cleaner may be the answer. You should use this method if you are certain that the waste is organic and not metal or plastic. If it is metal or plastic, then proceed to method four.

What you will need:

  • Long rubber gloves or two strong plastic bags
  • Protective glasses
  • A drain cleaner of your choice (make sure it’s suitable for use with toilets)
  • A basin of hot water

Step One: Protect yourself

Make sure that you’re wearing long gloves, protective glasses and preferably a long-sleeved top with full-length trousers to avoid any chemical splashes landing on your skin. It’s important to ventilate the bathroom if you’re using any kind of chemical as the gases can be harmful, so open all the windows to let the air in.

Step Two: Pour the drain cleaner into the toilet

Read the instructions very carefully before using the product and pour only the amount specified by the manufacturer into the toilet. Close the toilet lid to stop any fumes from entering the bathroom. Leave the drain cleaner to take effect for the time stated in the instructions and stay out of the bathroom for the time being.

If you don’t want to use drain cleaner, you can opt for an enzyme toilet cleaner – which can be kinder on the environment – or you can even make your own drain cleaner with a mixture of hot water, baking soda and vinegar.

Step Three: Flush it out

Once the specified time is up, use a basin of hot water to flush the toilet as per methods one and two. You can try a normal flush after this step to check that the clog has been successfully dissolved.

Method Four: Call in the Experts

If none of the above methods have worked and your toilet is still clogged, then it’s time to put down the plunger and call out a local plumber. With years of training and a variety of tools at their disposal, a qualified plumber will be able to clear the obstruction quickly and efficiently.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful and that the next time your toilet becomes blocked, you can refer back and get it cleared in no time!