Everything You Need To Know About Unblocking A Toilet But Were Afraid To Ask

04/01/2016

There are some things we use every day that we just don’t know much about, and toilets are one of those things. The chances that you will encounter a clogged toilet in your lifetime are pretty high. In fact, the chances that your toilet is currently clogged, which brought you to this article, are pretty high, too.

Before you call out your local Bristol Plumber, you might want to try fixing a blockage yourself. So without further to do, here is everything you need to know about unblocking your toilet. But first, let’s get back to the basics.

How do toilets work, anyway?

The best way to learn how to fix something, e.g. unclog a toilet, is to learn how it functions. There are many varieties of toilets on the whole the flushing mechanism is similar across most. Look at and listen to your toilet as it flushes to get a hands-on understanding of the process. Here’s how it goes:

When you “flush” a toilet by pushing down on the handle, it pulls up on a chain that is connected to the flapper. The flapper sits between the tank and the bowl of the toilet, and when it is pulled up, water is released from the tank into the bowl and out through the trapway, taking everything in the toilet bowl with it - out of your bathroom and into the sewage.

The tank is then empty, which causes the flapper to float back into a closed position, forming a seal again between the tank and the bow. The empty tank also activates the fill valve, which carries water into the tank through the base of the valve, and into the bowl through the refill tube and the overflow tube. The water raising in the tank lifts the float, which shuts off the fill valve once it floats to the top of the tank (now full).

This process allows for continual flushing. Unless, of course, you run into a block.

What does it mean to unblock a toilet?

When a toilet is clogged, there is something stuck in the trapway, which interrupts the flushing-refilling cycle. Unblocking the toilet involves pushing the blockage through the trapway so that it can pass into the sewage, allowing the tank to refill properly.

What it doesn’t mean: flushing repeatedly until the blockage passes. In fact, when you find a toilet won’t flush, flushing again will only make the situation worse. It will leave you with a toilet so full of water that bringing in a plunger will make a mess you won’t want to clean up.

So, how do you unblock a toilet?

If your toilet bowl continues to fill up but won’t empty out, get into your tank and close the flapper (Remember, it’s the rubber piece attached to the chain). The water inside the tank is clean water, so don’t be afraid to stick your hand in and shut the flapper.

The next step is to plunge. If you’re not reading this in emergency mode, investing in a high quality plunger will save you much hassle when your toilet does clog. Look for a plunger with a fold-out rubber flange, or one that looks like an accordion.

In any case, you’ll need to create a seal between the plunger and the trapway. Place the plunger at the bottom of the toilet bowl so there are little to no gaps. If you’re having trouble creating a seal, run the end of the plunger under hot water to soften the rubber, or wrap an old rag around it.

Submerge the end in water, cover the hole of the trapway, then push down and pull up on the plunger briskly to loosen the clog. Repeat this motion vigorously until the water begins to drain. Flush to check for easy passage, and repeat the whole process again if necessary until the toilet is flushing freely.

There are other methods you can use if the plunger isn’t for you. Mix baking soda and vinegar in your toilet to create a fizzy potion that will help dissolve the blockage as it sits overnight. You can borrow a plumbing snake to push the blockage through and out the trapway, or make your own using a wire coat hanger and a piece of rag tied tightly to the end. With a heavy duty vacuum, you can suck the blockage out, and of course, there are chemicals you can buy that might do the trick (but don’t forget that your semi-toxic waste must go somewhere).

Whatever method you choose, knowing how your toilet works will allow you to unblock any toilet without having to ask a soul.

Casn't quite manage it on you're own? Look up a local plumber in our online directory.

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