🕑 8 minutes read

How to Unblock a Toilet

Have you ever flushed the loo and seen the waste rising towards you instead of disappearing into the sewer and away from your property? Getting perilously close to the rim of the pan until until OMG! it overflows onto the floor. The mere thought of being flooded with loo poo (raw sewage) gives you the shivers and always happens when you least expect it. A real inconvenience (no pun intended) I think you will agree and indicating a blockage somewhere in the drainage system. If it overflows the cleaning up process must be immediate before it starts to dry. You can’t let that ‘poo pong’ linger, as it can begin to permeate into floors, carpets, etc and cause a health risk. Here is how you can unblock your toilet:

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When faced with a blocked and overflowing loo it’s best to call the professionals especially if it’s a serious blockage needing urgent attention. However, you may want to tackle the blockage yourself? With this in mind we have compiled a useful and easy to follow guide on how to unblock your toilet together with waste management suggestions to keep your loo flushing efficiently. A clean bowl is our goal! So here we go!

Here’s a simple, step-to-step guide you need to follow to carry out the cleaning procedure in the right way

Why does the toilet gets Blocked?

Prevention is always better than the cure, and always top priority. Firstly consider what you actually do flush down your loo (apart from that) as a sensible approach to avoid self inflicted blockages. Before fixing anything, it’s important to know WHY it’s blocked and take steps to avoid a repeat? 

So here are a few causes of a blocked loo:

Your toilet is old

It could be there isn’t enough water pressure to adequately flush the waste out of the property and into the external sewer. Should this be the case waste ‘debris’ (over time) builds up restricting the free flow of waste. Also check the water level in your cistern is to the minimum level required as some, in their endeavours to save water, push the limits by reducing the amount of ‘fill’ below recommended levels. Thus reducing the weight and force required to flush the waste completely away from your property. If your loo is old and not functioning with every flush maybe it’s time to replace it?

Non-Flushable Items that are a NO, NO!

There are only three things a conventional loo has been designed to efficiently dispose of i.e. Wee, Poo and Paper. There is value in respecting these three things if you want to avoid a messy unblock. Follow the these rules rigidly and you won’t go far wrong. Check the list below (be honest) and tick off the the ones you have flushed down the loo. 
  • Food scraps
  • Grease/Oil/Gee/Fat
  • Rags/Cardboard
  • Cans/bottles (yes people do)
  • Sanitary towels/tampons
  • Cotton buds
  • Disposable liners 
  • Not all nappies are flushable - disposable doesn’t mean flushable 
  • Condoms
  • Contents of a pet litter tray
  • Paint
  • Cigarettes/cigar butts
  • Confectionary
  • Cosmetic wipes (a massive, if not biggest cause of blockages) Baby wipes, check they are flushable - disposable doesn’t mean flushable
  • Hair/dental floss wind round wet/cosmetic wipes causing ‘balling’ and blockages
  • Use the correct flushable/dissolvable  2 or 3 ply loo paper - check the internet for the correct flushable 100% plastic free loo paper.
How many did you tick? That many eh? The time has come to change those ‘bad’ habits and start afresh by adopting an ‘OK and not OK’ mentality to flushing.

A common culprit of a blockage is that inner cardboard sleeve the loo roll is wrapped around. Resist the temptation to flush it away when the roll is finished. Have a disposable bin in the toilet for the non flushable items.

Also, it’s a good practise to educate little Johnny or Jennie as to the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of flushing the loo. The top 10 list of items flushed away by kids are:
  • Lego bricks
  • Toys
  • Dolls
  • Mobile phones (oh yes they do)
  • Car keys
  • Jewelry
  • Paper money
  • Crayons
  • Items of clothing
  • Watches
Anything kids don’t like it’s deposited in the porcelain squatty potty. The list is not limited to the above, no doubt you can add a few more?

Toilet Trap

Works in  the same way as a trap on the kitchen sink. A curved segment of the porcelain fixture acts as a barrier with standing water preventing nasty smells or sewer gases from entering your home. Flushing any of the above down the loo will accumulate in the trap causing a block and sewage backing -up (yuk!). 

Soil Stack Vent is blocked

The soil stack allows fresh air to enter the plumbing system allowing smells to be released into the atmosphere. It also aids the drainage system to  remain at atmospheric pressure. These vents can get clogged with leaves, sticks birds nests etc and should be checked and cleared periodically. Serviceteam’s expert plumbing team are at your service 24/7 all across London to complete this task for you.

Main Sewer Problems

If you encounter drain blockage in multiple toilets, it clearly points towards bigger problems such as issues in the main sewers. This is mainly caused by tree roots responsible for puncturing the main sweet line, consequently leading to debris build-up. To tackle this, pro help is inevitable. 

How to Unblock a Toilet with a Plunger

A very high percentage of blockages can be cured with a plunger and should always be the first tool to use. Let’s explore this option first. 

Choose the right equipment

To perform any task successfully you must have the right protection and tools and suggest the following: 
  • A Plunger.
  • Rubber Gloves.
  • Protective clothing, plastic or similar over old clothes. 
  • An old towel/s or lots of newspaper.
  • A bucket.
  • Coat hanger.
  • Vinegar and baking soda. 

Stay Safe!

Coming into contact with toilets hygiene is key so make sure you are protected from any splashes or blow backs. Make sure you wear sturdy rubber gloves, plastic apron (disposable – not down the loo) old clothes underneath, even goggles and a surgical mask if strong odours are present? The towel/s/newspaper act as a landing area for any spills or splashes.

Avoid overflow

Overflowing can cause problems. To prevent this:
  • Turn off the water supply via shutoff valve (ballofix or similar) which should be on the plumbing pipework supplying the toilet. If not find the stop cock for the water supply into your property and turn it off.
  • If you have an old model with a ball cock and float valve tie up the float arm to stop the cistern from refilling.

Choose the right Plunger

There are many on the market make sure you choose wisely. It’s unlikely a sink plunger will clear the blockage. Toilet plungers (the sturdy type) have a fold-out flange that creates a secure seal by completely covering the bottom toilet once it’s completely submerge into the water. Softening the plunger with hot water for five minutes makes it more pliable and more likely to make a decent seal.

Create a Vacuum

 Although most DIY Bravehearts know how to do it successfully, below is some handy advice for the novice.
  • Place the plunger under the water and make sure it covers the bottom of the toilet completely. 
  • Push it down slowly and gently to create a seal, then pull up to create a vacuum.
  • With a little elbow grease, It will dislodge any minor blockages effectively.
  • Keep ‘plunging’ vigorously until the water level begins to drop.
  • If the water level drops to the normal level and doesn’t back up again give it a flush, watch and observe - no sign off water backing up means you’ve probably removed the blockage. Yippee! 
  • Flush it several times to be 100% sure the blockage is on its way to the sewage farm and away from your property.

Unblocking without a Plunger

No plunger, how annoying is that? Don’t worry here’s a couple of things to use as a substitute.

Before you try this method, be sure your toilet’s water pressure is high since it is ineffective with low water pressure. Here’s what you have to do: (do you agree with this technique? I’ve never heard of it before and never tried it do we know anyone who has had success with it?)
  • Make the toilet surface area is completely dry and moisture-free.
  • Cover the toilet bowl with three layers of cling film, and ensure the whole area is well covered, run Duck Tape round the bottom of the layers of cling to ensure it stay put. 
  • Flush the toilet, the cling film will balloon upwards due to the pressure. 
  • Then with a flat bottomed tray push down slowly on the raised cling film this applies a downward force due to the air pressure to push through the blockage.

With a wire Coat Hanger

Being the easiest and cheapest tool in the toolbox and with reasonable results. The simple instructions are as follows: 
  • Unwind the hanger into a straight line, leaving the hook shape intact.
  • Insert the hook end into the toilet bowl below the water level and maneuver it round the bend (trap) until it goes no further. Then rotate 360 degrees whilst at the same time plunging back and forth.
  • Push and pull until the sewage level reduces. If it goes down to its usual level, give it a flush it. If the water level at the bottom of the bowl fills to the normal level it looks like you have been successful. This technique is really effective with minor blockages.

With 2 litre Plastic Bottle

This method would be used as a last resort if you don’t have a plunger or wire coat hanger. Only used in a worst-case scenario. It works on a similar principle to the plunger:
  • Make sure you put on thick rubber gloves, old clothes, goggles and mask.
  • Also, keep the newspaper in place or towel/s in place.
  • Bail some water out of the toilet into a bucket or similar.
  • Take a large plastic bottle (2 Litres in size) cut off the base. 
  • Replace the cap firmly to create a vacuum.
  • Push the open end of the bottle into the bowl below the water level and firmly plunge up and down.
*Please ensure that all your personal equipment and tools used in the unblocking process are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before storage. Any clothing contaminated should be disposed off as per local authority/government guidelines.  

With Washing up Liquid

  • Pour half a mug-full of washing liquid into the toilet and leave it for at least half an hour.
  • After that, pour a full hot water bucket in the toilet from a considerable height. It will help to dislodge the blockage.
  • Wait for ten more minutes and then flush.
  • Repeat the process until all the clog is dislodged. 
  • After you are sure the toilet is unblocked, put some vinegar and soda and leave it there for half an hour to clean off any of the remaining dirt.

With Cling Film

Before you try this method, be sure your toilet’s water pressure is high since it is ineffective with low water pressure. Here’s what you have to do:
  • Make your toilet surface dry with the help of an old towel.
  • Cover the toilet bowl with three layers of cling film, and ensure the whole area is well covered. 
  • As you flush the toilet, the cling film will balloon upwards due to pressure.
  • After that, push it down slowly on the raised cling film to reverse the suction. It will clean any hindrance in the drain area. 

Main Sewer Problems

If you encounter blockage in multiple toilets and you have tried all of the above without success, it could be more serious. If you can lift the inspection drain cover to your property (usually shared with semi-detached properties) you will be able to see if the blockage is backed up. If so, it will need ‘rodding’ and or specialist ‘jetting’ equipment if solid. Tree roots are a common problem as well. Any solids or non flushable materials attach themselves to the roots and will ‘grow’ overtime to a size capable of causing drainage problems and a blockage.

Preventing Blockages

Good loo management coupled with common sense always prevails. Do you really want to perform a toilet unblock, I think not! Remember there are only three things go down the loo Wee, Poo, and Paper. Anything else and you run the risk of a blockage.

Need Help?

The aforementioned methods are quite effective for the enthusiastic DIY person. However, there are certain jobs will require professional help. Our highly experienced and competent plumbers and customer-friendly staff are always available 24/7 across the London area.