6 Ways to Unblock a Toilet

Out of order toilet

It’s 5 pm and you’ve got friends coming over for dinner – but the toilet has just been blocked and we’re left wondering, “What do I do?”

Firstly, let’s acknowledge two fundamental toilet truths:

  • Firstly, we know it wasn’t you!
  • Secondly, most blockages can be fixed using everyday materials that you already have in your house. So let’s see what we can do with Insight’s 6 Ways to Unblock a Toilet.

If time is short, jump straight to any of the 6 tips on how to unblock a toilet:

  1. Using a plunger
  2. Using hot water
  3. The acid-base mix
  4. The trusty hook
  5. Cling wrap
  6. Using a wet vacuum

Call us on 0475 685 681 if you need a reliable plumber to unblock your toilet quickly in Melbourne’s South East.

Please note that Insight Plumbing And Gas takes no responsibility for any damage caused by DIY attempts to unblock your toilet. If you need a plumber to professionally unblock your toilet, call us and we’ll ensure your toilet joins our 100% unblocking success rate! For those not in South East Melbourne, you can call your local professional plumber.

The culprits

It's not a toy-let
Please! It’s not a toy-let!

Before we begin our plunge into the pipes, it’s always good to understand what caused the block in the first place.

The best way to unblock a toilet is to prevent it from getting blocked in the first place. However, there are multiple reasons that a toilet struggles to pass waste through, from low water pressures to trying to pass incompatible waste.

Things that should be kept away from toilets and disposed of in an alternative fashion include:

  • Hair
  • Toys
  • Sanitary products (tampons and pads)
  • cotton materials
  • Nappies
  • Paper towels and wet wipes

Additionally, dropping a simple Epsom salt bath bomb from time to time goes a long way to preventing build-ups of waste in the piping and preventing future headaches.

The 6 fixes

Now that we know what’s likely caused our block and how to prevent blocks in the future, it’s time to go on bowl patrol and figure out how we can clean out our pipes!

1: The plunger

It’s time to break out the time-tested classic that is the plunger.

Using a plunger to unblock a toilet

Most households have one sitting around somewhere, and if not they can readily be picked up from any local hardware store such as Bunnings.

However, we strongly suggest purchasing a plunger that’s specifically designed for plunging blocked toilets, such as a Bellow plunger.

A bellow plunger
A bellow plunger.

To use the plunger follow the steps below:

  1. Ensure the bowl has enough water to cover the full head of the plunger when submerged, ensuring the head of the plunger will have a good seal and can therefore push and pull the blockage effectively.
  2. Ensure that your trusty plunger completely covers the bottom well of your toilet.
  3. After your positioning is good with sufficient water, whilst maintaining the seal vigorously pump the plunger at least 6 times. This creates a pushing and pulling movement on the blockage, hopefully breaking it apart and hurtling down the pipe.

If the back pressure from the plunger seems to have dropped, the clog has dislodged! However, if the pressure is still high and the clog is still present, we have another suggestion in the next section!

2: Hot water

The next step involves very hot, but not boiling water. So if you’ve boiled the water, wait for a few minutes to cool somewhat, otherwise, you may accidentally crack the porcelain!

hot water can help unblock a toilet
Hot water can help unblock a toilet but be careful – boiling water can crack porcelain!

Also keep in mind, if the bowl is already full or even overflowing, we don’t recommend adding more water.

This technique in itself may not be super-effective but adds noticeable effectiveness when combined with other methods mentioned here.

  1. Slowly pour the hot water into the toilet, followed by dish soap. The combination of heat and a detergent should work gradually to soften the blockage.
  2. Let the water and detergent mix sit for at least 15 minutes, possibly longer if the water isn’t yet draining.

A cupful or two of hot water is effective – you need a large amount of hot water, such as a bucket’s worth.

If the water has drained by itself, congratulations the clog has been removed! We recommend flushing a couple of times, just to ensure that any remaining gunk has also passed completely.

If, after a like 15 minutes, the hot water hasn’t worked, we can always add other ingredients to increase effectiveness!

3: The acid-base mix

As we mentioned before we can add dishwashing liquid to the mix. This helps to breakdown the clogging mass and helps lubricate the piping. There is, however, a few more things we can add.

A natural solution that’s effective in clearing piping is as follows. Just a side note, this may make you feel like a mad scientist!

  • Mixing 1/3rd of a cup of baking soda with 1/3rd of a cup of vinegar creates an acid-base reaction. You’ll notice it’s working when you see fizzing.
  • After the reaction starts, pop it into the toilet and leave it for a little while, the bubbling will break down hair, grime, and other materials.
Baking soda and vinegar can help unblock a toilet
Mix ⅓ of a cup of baking soda with ⅓ of a cup of vinegar.

Despite being highly effective, this may need more time than the other methods to work, potentially needing to be left overnight.

A word of caution, because this creates bubbles and movement of water, if your toilet is already close to overflowing we recommend removing some of the water to prevent bubbling over! Since we’re dealing with reactive chemicals, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wear gloves to keep yourself safe!

4: The trusty coat hanger

If you’ve applied the aforementioned tips without success, try the trusty coat hanger!

This is a more direct approach, but it’s effective if the blockage is nearby.

The trusty coat hanger

It’s time to pull out the fabled drain snake. A drain snake is a long flexible auger that can physically dislodge a blockage from afar, akin to a much longer pipe cleaner!

However, if you don’t have one, fear not! A re-purposed wire coat hanger can accomplish the task. Basically, our goal is to go fishing for clogs and either pull them out, dislodge them or break them into small pieces.

A bent wire hanger, depending on the make and sturdiness can either be unraveled into a 1 straight line with a hook at the end or can be cut on one end with wire cutters to create a similar apparatus.

Cutting the coat hanger
Cut the wire so it looks like a fishing hook!

A word of caution,  rubbing a sharp pointed object on porcelain can cause damage to the bowl, so we recommend putting a small amount of duct tape around the edges before you go dunny diving!

In summary:

  • Cut/Unravel the hammer until it’s straight, but maintain a hook/bend on one side for fishing purposes!
  • Add a small piece of tape/or material to prevent scratching to the porcelain.
  • Before diving in, chuck on some rubber gloves, and ensure you’re entering the drain at a relatively shallow angle with the hook end going in first.
  • Repeatedly rotate and pull the hook in an attempt to grab the blockage.

On a side note, some people also use the toilet brush to mechanically dislodge the blockage, with gloves on and the right angle the brush can work too!

5: Cling wrap plunging

We’re never short of ideas at Insight Plumbing & Gas, so we’ve got another suggestion. By using Glad wrap over the top of a toilet we can create a seal that we can turn into a larger plunger!

Glad wrapping a blocked toilet
  • First, lift the lid of the toilet bowl, that way we’re dealing with a sealed, flat surface.
  • Afterward, wrap the mouth of the toilet in cling wrap. Keep it taught over the top of the bowl, this will create a tight seal. Add multiple layers so the material won’t tear when you apply a modest amount of pressure.
  • After laying out the wrap, push firmly down on the wrap to apply pressure, and then release. This can be done multiple times to create waves of pressure that will push and pull on the blockage and shear it into pieces.

On a side note, one the rare occasion there’s not enough water you can always flush the toilet to add more into the bowl.

Remember not to flush down the cling wrap you’ve used otherwise you might end up right back where you started!

6: Wet vacuuming

If nothing has worked so far, playtime is over and it’s time to get serious…

It’s time to break out the vacuum cleaner.

Don’t use your ordinary vacuum cleaner.

Wet vacuuming a blocked toilet

We’re referring to a specialized wet/dry vacuum that is built to handle icky situations such as this.

  • First using the vacuum suck the excess water out of the bowl.
  • Second, wrap an old rag or towel around the hose, again we’re looking to create a good seal.
  • Insert the vacuum hose down the blocked toilet a few inches and let her rip! By creating a seal and sucking, your hose should be as effective as possible in extracting the block.

Still not winning?

If these 6 suggestions haven’t worked, you may have lost the battle, but you haven’t lost the war! It’s time to call in the big guns!

At Insight Plumbing And Gas, we use the latest tech including a drain snake camera and jetter. Our cameras are able to see into your drains and find out firsthand what the problem is – then we can unblock your toilet guaranteed*!

If you live in Melbourne’s South East, call us now and we’ll be right out to help you. If you live elsewhere, you can call your local plumber for help.

*We can guarantee unblocking your toilet if the blockage is inside the pipe system. At times, external factors such as roots or broken pipes may be involved, in which case we’ll provide you advice on the best course of action to get it fixed properly.

Enjoy the free flow again!

Hopefully these 6 suggestions on how to unblock your toilet have helped you avoid embarrassment and inconvenience.

Please reach out to us if you have any other hacks on unblocking your toilet or if you found this article useful!

Blake is a thorough 4th generation plumber focused on top-notch workmanship and customer service throughout Melbourne's South East. Founding his family owned business, Insight Plumbers And Gas, Blake enjoys prioritising quality results and attention to detail in all aspects of plumbing - and no one can tell him otherwise!

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