How to Unclog a Toilet

A toilet with a blue plunger inside it.
Avoid repeatedly flushing a clogged toilet, as it will overflow. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Although no one is eager to talk about it, everyone knows the dread of having a clogged toilet. When the toilet drain fails to deliver that dynamic flow we usually take for granted, we tend to freeze in a momentary panic. Sure, most bathrooms have a customary tool on hand to tackle this issue, but how many people really know how to unclog a toilet with a plunger?

Many people improvise with a toilet plunger until they get lucky and the toilet bowl empties. However, there are set strategies that take luck out of the equation. With the right approach, you can remedy a clogged toilet without getting "flushed" yourself!


What To Do When Your Toilet Clogs

The toilet has been around for a long time, yet we still haven't mastered exactly how to use it. If your toilet is clogged, don't flush it repeatedly. The toilet bowl can't hold much more than a tank full, so it's likely to overflow it you flush it more than once. Rather, try unclogging the toilet by plunging, lubricating, or snaking.

If the toilet is clogged from too much toilet paper, simply letting the full bowl sit for a few hours will sometimes do the trick. The paper will break down on its own and then you can flush it away [source: NaturalNews].


The Best Tools For Clogged Toilets

Having the right household tools can make the task much easier and efficient. The most essential tool is a high-quality flange plunger. This type of plunger creates a better seal and produces more force to dislodge clogs.

In cases of more stubborn blockages, a toilet auger, also known as a toilet snake, is invaluable. It reaches deeper into the toilet to break up or retrieve obstructions that a plunger can't reach. Additionally, having a pair of rubber gloves is crucial for hygiene and safety, protecting your hands from germs and chemicals.


How To Deal With Small Clogs

For minor clogs, a mixture of hot water, baking soda, and vinegar can be effective. Pour this mixture into the toilet and let it sit for several hours or overnight to break down the clog.

Keep a bucket and some old towels handy to manage any overflow or spills during the unclogging process. Again, make sure you're wearing rubber gloves, as you may encounter waste water.


How To Deal With Big Clogs

If the clog source is bigger or more serious, the first thing you should try is plunging the toilet with a flange plunger.

  1. Cover the drain with the toilet plunger.
  2. Quickly pull the plunger off the drain opening. Repeat this several times, until the clog is pulled out.
  3. Be careful to plunge in a way that will pull out the clog rather than pushing it deeper down.

If the water is draining too slowly, you can try lubricating the drain.


  1. Mix a gallon (3.8 liters) of hot (not boiling) water with a few tablespoons of lubricant, such as dish soap or cooking oil.
  2. Pour mixture into the toilet.
  3. Let it sit for a few hours.
  4. Try flushing [source: NaturalNews].


To Auger Or To Snake?

If you need to "snake" out the toilet, use a closet auger; not a snake. A snake will scratch up your toilet bowl's porcelain, while an auger has a soft, flexible sleeve that will prevent scratching [source: This Old House].

  1. Open the tank lid and feed the tip of the auger gently into the opening.
  2. Crank clockwise while pushing down, until you feel resistance.
  3. If the auger gets stuck, crank it counter-clockwise while pulling back. Once it's freed, you can resume cranking clockwise until the auger is as far down as it can go. Its sleeve should be at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Continue cranking as you pull the handle up.
  5. If the auger jams, push gently and then pull again.
  6. Remove the auger when the blockage is cleared.
  7. Use the plunger on the drain just in case there's still some leftover debris.
  8. Flush to check that the water is draining freely.

If you find yourself without a plunger, check out these two methods for getting it unclogged.


Things You Should Avoid When Trying To Unclog a Toilet

When attempting to unclog a toilet, there are several actions you should avoid to prevent further damage or creating a bigger mess. Firstly, do not use excessive force when plunging, as this can damage the toilet tank or weaken the pipes.

Secondly, avoid chemical drain cleaners; they can be harsh on your plumbing drains and harmful to the environment. Overusing them can also lead to deterioration of the pipes, making you much closer to your sewer system than you'd prefer!


Do not flush the toilet repeatedly in an attempt to clear the clog, as this can cause overflowing and potential water damage. If using a plumbing snake or auger, be gentle to prevent scratching the porcelain of the toilet bowl. It's also important not to ignore the clog for too long, hoping it will resolve itself, as this can lead to a more severe blockage.

Finally, don't try to dislodge the clog with inappropriate objects like coat hangers or sticks, which can damage the toilet or get stuck. If the clog is stubborn and doesn't respond to your efforts, it's better to call a professional plumber rather than risk causing more damage.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.