How do I know if my toilet is blocked?
If it’s taking a long time for water to drain out of your toilet bowl after you flush, or if you’ve got a permanently high or rising water level, it means your toilet is clogged or completely blocked.
Obviously, a blocked toilet is an urgent issue for homeowners and tenants alike – you don’t want your toilet to flood your bathroom or be out of action for long. But don’t panic. Before you call out a professional to unblock your toilet, there are some relatively easy fixes you can try yourself.
Is a blocked toilet really bad?
Well, there are three types of blocked toilet:
Type 1: The impending blockage
Symptoms: Water is draining from the bowl really slowly after you flush. This is a sign that a blockage is imminent. If this is you, act now rather than later. Try flushing the toilet one more, it may just need one extra flush.
WARNING: Do not attempt to flush if the water level is high.
Type 2: The empty vessel
Symptoms: The bowl stays almost empty after you flush it. The ‘item’ that’s clogged is completely stopping water from coming up the pipes rather than down, also creating an airlock in your waste pipes.
Type 3: The Titanic
Symptoms: The water level is almost near the top, or steadily rising, and doesn’t fall again. This means there’s a complete blockage that’s impossible for water to pass down over, and the water is trapped.
What caused my toilet blockage?
Knowledge is power. So if you know what’s got clogged up in there, you’ve got a better chance of finding the best way to clear it. Here are some of the items that can build up:
- Toilet paper
- Human waste (obviously)
- Build-up of limescale
- Wet wipes (don’t do it!)
- Deodorant blocks
- Children’s toys (yes, this can happen depending on your child’s age, this is very possible)
4 ways to unblock your toilet
No. 1: How to unblock your toilet without any tools
- Can you see what’s causing the blockage? If the answer is yes you should be able to reach in to clear it out.
- Roll up your sleeves and put on some long rubber gloves
- Put your hand down into the bowl and pull out whatever is causing the blockage
- You may need to do this a few times, to clear it all.
- Flush the toilet to check the water is draining properly.
- Remove any other bits that may come to the surface, so they don’t get stuck again.
No. 2: How to use hot water to unblock your toilet
- Make sure your water level is low before you start.
- Put on some rubber gloves.
- Shut off the water supply at the valve (to the side or underneath the cistern).
- If there’s excess water, remove as much as you can with a bucket and pour it down your outside drain.
- Pour some washing-up liquid (about 50ml) directly into the toilet bowl to lubricate.
- Wait 10 minutes.
- Carefully pour 2-3 litres of hot (but not boiling) water into the bowl very quickly, to create pressure against the blockage.
- Wait a few minutes.
- If the water level doesn’t fall and there’s enough space inside the bowl, repeat.
- If the blockage is still there, move on to using a toilet plunger.
- Remember to turn the water supply back once the job is done.
No.3: How to use a toilet plunger to unblock your toilet
Tip number 2 (pun intended) is one of the most effective ways to unblock your toilet. Be mindful that the devil is in the detail here – you’ve got to get the correct type of plunger and get your plunging method right for the best chance of success:
- This job is best done with a fairly full bowl, not an empty one.
- Make sure you use a specialised toilet plunger (its rim is made specially to create a seal on the toilet waste pipe outlet).
- Important: Make sure you cover the waste pipe outlet completely with the plunger’s rim so that neither air nor water can pass. If there are gaps, you can use some old rags to plug them.
- Push gently downwards and then pull up. Start gently – you don’t want to push the blockage further down.
- Gradually increase the force until the water starts to recede.
- Add more water to the bowl if you need to, then repeat.
- Take the plunger out then flush the toilet to see if the flow has returned to normal.
No.4: How to unblock your toilet with a plumber’s snake
A plumber’s snake is a long, flexible metal cable that’s built for stubborn blockages and they’re about £20 from the DIY shops. At the end of the cable is an uncoiled spring (auger) that, once the cable is inserted into your waste pipe, you can wind round with a handle to break up the blockage and hopefully get the water flowing again.
3 steps to snaking a toilet waste pipe
- Insert the snake manually down into the waste pipe
- Rotate the handle slowly and carefully to uncoil the snake
- As it uncoils, the snake will move deeper into the waste pipe until the auger penetrates through the blockage and breaks it up
What if a plumber’s snake doesn’t work?
If a plumber’s snake doesn’t work, the blockage is likely to be even further down. Your last DIY hope, before getting the pros in to have a look, is water pressure.
How can I stop my toilet from getting blocked?
There are a few things you can do to make sure avoidable blockages don’t happen:
1. Don’t throw sanitary towels, wet wipes or decorating waste (plaster, glue, paint, etc.) into the loo
2. Keep the lid closed when you’re not using it
3. Clean the inside of the bowl regularly and make sure the waste pipe is clear.
4. If you get limescale, descale your toilet as regularly as you can.
If you find that your toilet still isn’t flowing or flushing after using these methods, get in touch with us and one of our Home Experts will be able to help.