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How to Unblock a Toilet

A blocked toilet can be a nuisance, but what’s worse is, it’s a problem many of us won’t have a clue how to fix. If the question you’re asking is, how do you unblock a toilet? The good news is, when a toilet backs up, there are a few different ways you can unblock it. Once you’ve learned how to conquer this issue, you’ll be equipped to tackle future blockages.

Unblocking a toilet yourself can be fairly straightforward. And it could save you time and money, too – so why not give it a try? Below, we explore a variety of different ways you can unblock a toilet, and uncover the reasons why your toilet won’t flush. Plus, get advice on how to prevent blockages from happening again.

Why Won’t My Toilet Flush?

There could be a number of reasons behind a faulty flush. Finding out why your toilet won’t flush, and how it relates to the blockage, could help prevent future issues.

Here are a few different reasons why your toilet won’t flush:

  • The toilet’s handle breaks. This happens when the flushing mechanism and the handle of the toilet disconnect.
  • The water level is low in the tank (the upper part of your toilet, above the bowl).
  • Limescale has built up, blocking water flow.
  • The toilet is clogged with items that shouldn’t be flushed down it. Wet wipes and similar items that aren’t toilet paper don’t flush well, so you might find that they end up clogging the toilet.

Telltale signs of a blockage that can be behind why your toilet won’t flush include:

  • The toilet bowl doesn’t properly refill with water after flushing.
  • The water level in the bowl is higher than normal.
  • Gurgling sounds.
  • A lingering, bad smell coming from the bathroom or toilet indicates sewer waste has built up in the pipes.

How to Unblock a Toilet With a Plunger

You can unblock a toilet with a plunger by following these simple steps – but first, gather up the tools you’ll need for unblocking the toilet.

  1. Get your equipment ready –  this includes a toilet plunger, old towels, and cleaning gloves.
  2. Prepare your space – place the old towels on the floor area surrounding the toilet. They will soak up any dirty water that spills over the bowl during the process. We suggest putting on cleaning gloves to help protect your hands from water spillages. 
  3. Plunge the toilet – take the plunger and place it in the toilet. Make sure it covers the hole in the toilet bowl before you push down on the plunger handle. This will create a seal around the hole, at which point you should then pull the plunger in an upward motion. Keep repeating this movement until the blockage dislodges and the toilet’s water level returns to normal. 

Once you’ve unblocked the toilet, you’ll need to clean the equipment. It’s also worth giving the toilet a flush after it’s become unblocked, helping to clear any residue left along the bowl after the dirty water has drained away.

How to Unblock a Toilet With a Plunger

While a plunger can be effective in unblocking a toilet, you may not always have one to hand. If a plunger isn’t available, you’ll want to know the best way to unblock a toilet without one. Here are some other cheap ways to unblock a toilet when you don’t have a plunger.

Washing-Up Liquid

It might sound strange, but it’s possible to break up a blockage in your toilet using washing-up liquid! Follow our step-by-step guide on how to unblock a toilet this way:

  1. Prep your equipment – make sure you have washing-up liquid, a bucket, old towels, and access to warm water. Don’t forget your protective gloves.
  2. Cover the floor around the toilet – put old towels down on the surrounding area, helping to avoid a mess if the toilet water spills over.
  3. Pour washing up liquid down the toilet – pour this directly into the toilet bowl. After you’ve done this, leave the toilet for half an hour, giving the washing liquid time to dislodge the blockage.
  4. Pour warm water down the toilet – fill your bucket with warm water and tip this down the toilet, being careful not to overfill the bowl. The force should help dislodge the blockage further. Once you’ve poured the water in, leave the toilet for ten minutes.
  5. Flush and check for signs of improvement – after waiting, try to flush the toilet and see whether the blockage has cleared. If it’s still blocked but the water level in the toilet bowl dropped during the ten-minute wait, try the whole process again a second time.

Coat Hanger

Coat hangers can also help you unblock a toilet – that is, provided you use a wire coat hanger. For those wondering how to unblock a toilet with a coat hanger, follow the steps below:

  1. Find your equipment – for this method, you’ll need cleaning gloves, some old towels, and a wire coat hanger. 
  2. Prepare the space – place the old towels down on the floor surrounding the toilet to help soak up spillages. Next, pop the cleaning gloves on to stop your hands from touching the toilet water. 
  3. Bend the coat hanger into shape – take the wire coat hanger, straighten it, then bend it so it has a slightly curved shape. Reshaping the hanger will help it to fit through the toilet bowl and better access the blockage. This will ruin the shape of the hanger, however, you probably won’t use it again after going down the toilet! 
  4. Push the wire through to the blockage – guide one end of the coat hanger through the toilet bowl until you reach the blockage. Once you hit it, nudge away until it breaks up and clears.

Cling Film

Not just a winning (but frankly messy) prank, cling film can also be used on a toilet to help unclog it. See below for steps on how to unblock a toilet with cling film:

  1. Gather your equipment – for this method you’ll need cling film and some old, dry towels. Place the old towels on the floor surrounding the toilet to soak up any spillages, and put one towel aside for the next step.
  2. Prep the toilet bowl – lift the lid and the seat of the toilet and dry the rim of the bowl with the old towel. Take the cling film and wrap this around the bowl, covering its entire opening, making sure it’s airtight.
  3. Flush – once the cling film has been properly applied, flush the toilet. Flushing will cause the cling film over the bowl to inflate.
  4. Push down on the cling film – once flushed, push down on the inflated cling film. This will reverse the suction in the bowl and hopefully dislodge the blockage.

How to Prevent Toilet Blockages

There are a number of different things you can do to help prevent a toilet blockage, including the following:

  • Only put toilet paper down your toilet. Items like sanitary pads and wet wipes can very easily cause blockages.
  • Don’t flush excessive amounts of toilet paper down the toilet all in one go.
  • Keep your toilet clean to prevent build-ups of dirt that could contribute to a blocked toilet.
  • Look out for the signs of a clogged (or clogging) toilet, helping you to prevent the situation from worsening. 

A blocked toilet can be stressful at the best of times. By learning how to unclog a toilet, and following measures to keep it working properly, you can help minimise and prevent blockages.

Your toilet isn’t the only item in your house that can become clogged. If you’re also having issues with a blocked drain, head over to our guide on how to unclog a waste drain. Plumbing and drainage insurance can help to protect your plumbing further, and can cover issues like emergency repairs and clearing blocked drains. Explore our drainage care plans for more information on how to keep your home covered.

Unblocking a toilet is usually a simple process. However, some blockages can be more complicated to sort out. If you’ve got a blocked toilet, and haven’t been able to solve it, you can get a Hometree plumber to help – available through our boiler cover. We’ve got fast, cost-effective solutions to suit your budget. Find out more by exploring our Hometree Boiler Cover & Central Heating Plans.

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