It happens to the best of us. You go into the restroom to do your business, but the toilet doesn't cooperate. And after flushing, you're left with what you started with. What to do?
There's more of an art to unclogging a toilet than you might suspect. Over at the delightful The Art of Manliness
blog, a writer claims that because men are no longer needed "to ride out in defense of the tribe," they are now relegated to "do battle in the bathroom." But we women know that the call to unclog a toilet doesn't discriminate -- sometimes we
have to rise to the challenge too.
To ferret out the tips and tricks used by plumbers and civilians alike, we searched through the wisdom at The Art of Manliness, This Old House
, Planet Green
, and various plumbing sites.
Here are some tips if you're the one on clog duty:
• For your first strategy, if the bowl is not already full, try pouring cold water into it, about a gallon or two.
Pour it in as quickly as you can without splashing. This will help break up the stuff in the toilet to help you with plunging later on, and it just might unclog it then and there.
• If that doesn't do the trick, try pouring in a mixture of one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar into the bowl.
This is a strategy used to unclog blocked drains, as well. However, it will not be effective if the bowl is already full.
• Next, if success has still not arrived, try the hot water and dish soap strategy.
Pour about 1/4 cup of dish detergent in the bowl and some hot water (not boiling, or you could crack the china)**. Pour the water slowly into the bowl, directly into the water without splashing yourself.
• Still no luck? It might be time to try a plunger.
Of course, this could also be your first line of defense. Use a good-quality plunger with a flange. The flange is the narrow part of the plunger below the cup. If you've got a cheap and flimsy plunger, make it your goal to replace it with a sturdy and high quality plunger as soon as possible.
• Run hot water over the plunger flange to soften it up.
(Left) This plunger may not have a flange, but we couldn't resist; it's so stylish! Photo: Bobby Berk Home. (Right) This Brasscraft Heavy Duty Plunger is more like it; the flange at the base helps suction effectively. Photo: The Home Depot
To do good plunging, you need a good seal between the bottom of the plunger and the bottom of the toilet bowl. A softened plunger flange will seal better than a stiff one.
• After you insert the plunger into the bowl and get a good seal, don't just pump it up and down with fury. Rather, slowly push the plunger down, then pop it up quickly.
Why? The reason is that your clog is likely at the very beginning of the narrow channel the waste travels to get into the sewage system. By pumping your plunger, you may be simply compacting the blockage a little further into the channel. By popping it out, the suction will likely pull the clog free, and then it can be flushed away normally.
• If plunging fails, as it sometimes does, you can use what's called a closet auger.
This is kind of like a snake that a professional plumber might use, but in this case you never receive the $150 bill in the mail. A closet auger is a cable with a wide end on it that you will use to push the clog through the channel. There is a protective sheath on the cable housing so you don't scratch your porcelain toilet bowl.
If all else fails, and you're out of tricks? Swallow your pride and call the plumber.
How about you? What is your favorite strategy to unclog a toilet?
Coke Can Clean Your Toilet in a Pinch (Lifehacker)
Do You Have a Dual Flush Toilet? (CasaSugar)
** Editor's Note:
Thank you to our vigilant DIY Life readers for pointing out that boiling water can potentially crack a porcelain bowl. The author and I would like to emphasize that hot tap water -- as opposed to water boiled in a kettle -- is the best strategy, if you choose this method of unclogging.