You never want to deal with a clogged toilet, but as a homeowner, it will happen eventually. If you are experiencing frequent toilet clogs, it is likely something you are doing through mishandling that could worsen the problem at high expense. Knowing that the porcelain throne is part of your everyday life, it is something you should feel confident in repairing and handling.
How to Prevent and Avoid Toilet Clogs: The Ultimate Guide will cover:
- What Causes the Toilet to Clog?
- How to Prevent and Avoid Toilet Clogs
- How to Troubleshoot a Clogged Toilet
- How to Fix a Clogged Toilet
- Things You Should NEVER Flush Down a Toilet
- When Is It Time to Call a Professional Plumber?
- Final Tips for Preventing Toilet Issues
Toilet problems can quickly become difficult to control, so in this case, the best advice will be the prevention of clogs
. This guide will review what you’re possibly doing to cause clogs, how to troubleshoot the issue, and tips for preventing toilet clogs in the future.
What Causes the Toilet to Clog?
Household plumbing can be an intimidating topic for a novice. Still, with some basic understanding, you will be able to spare yourself the expense of calling a plumber at every clog.
If you’re looking for the root of preventing future toilet clogs, it can be invaluable to understand actions of yours that might be contributing to the problem.
The main factors that lead to a premature or over-actively clogging toilet are:
- Flushing items that are too large – Your toilet is designed to flush toilet paper and organic compounds, not thick paper towels, feminine products, or diapers. This may be old news to you, but even the wet wipes that say ‘flushable’ can often be too thick for your plumbing.
- Your Toilet Paper’s Too Thick (and/or) You’re Using Too Much – Yes, even toilet paper can clog your toilet if it is overused. Use only as much as you need in that session, and if you’ve purchased thicker toilet paper, use it more sparingly than you would a thinner brand.
- You Have an Old Toilet with Low Water-Pressure – Having old-style plumbing comes with its own difficulties in the form of a low-flow toilet. Any toilet made before the year 2000, is likely low-flow. If the water pressure is too low to handle the amount you’re trying to flush, your old plumbing may not be able to handle it.
- You Have a New Toilet with Low Water-Pressure – Also possible depending on the age of your main pipelines.
- The Trap is Impaired – The S-shaped drain that leads below your toilet bowl can easily become backed-up. Often a plunger is the most straightforward fix for this kind of block. It is important to repair this as the trap is responsible for keeping foul odors from rising into your home.
- You’re Flapper Isn’t Opening – This is the pipe between the tank and the toilet bowl. You will see the flapper (or rubber stopper) not opening fully.
- Sewer Issues – This factor is out of your control, but common clogging issues can indicate a sewer line problem. This issue could be originating from external sources interfering with the larger sewage system (such as tree roots growing into the pipeline). If the sewer line appears to be clogged, you should call a professional plumber to clear out the sewer lines.
How to Prevent and Avoid Toilet Clogs
There are many steps you can take to minimize these issues.
Although a few of them are out of your control, most are not.
As stated, the best repair for a bad toilet is the act of preventing issues in the first place. Our recommendations for how to prevent and avoid toilet clogs are as follows:
- Avoid harsh chemicals – Many will advise to use a chemical drain-clogging product that includes lye. This is a misconception that the harsher the ingredient is, the more effective it will be. In all actuality, chemicals are slowly breaking down your pipelines and weakening your plumbing.
- Clean Your Toilet Regularly – You should clean your toilet regularly, just don’t exclusively use harsh chemicals. Opting for natural cleaning ingredients such as baking soda or a gentle soap will function ideally with cleaning porcelain.
- Avoid Flushing Anything Besides Toilet Paper and Waste – You may feel inclined to flush certain things, especially the ones that say, ‘flushable,’ or ‘flush-friendly.’ However, your toilet is only intended for organic compounds and thin toilet paper. Anything beyond these substances should be considered a risk to your toilet.
- Inspect Your Toilet Regularly – If you don’t examine your toilet, you could mistake a leak for water from your bathtub/shower/sink, etc. Since toilet leaks are often silent and slow-moving, many homeowners don’t notice anything is wrong until they see their water bill is significantly higher than usual.
Checking your toilet’s status can allow you to catch issues more quickly. This can be done while you clean around the bathroom and inspect while you go to ensure everything is secure. You can:
- Take the lid off
- Check the water levels
- Confirm the flapper is sealing
- Confirm the entire toilet is sealed to the ground and not wobbling
- Be sure the jets are cleared for full water-pressure
- Do a minimal inspection each time you clean the toilet and do a comprehensive inspection (such as this) at least twice a year.
How to Prevent Toilet Clogs – Toilet-Paper Related Tips
There are enough tips recommended by plumbing specialists regarding toilet paper that it warrants a devoted section. The ways to avoid
toilet clogs that come down to TP factors are:
- Use Less Toilet Paper – As The True Plumbers say in their piece, ‘Do You Use More Toilet Paper Than the Average Person?’:
“Approximately 57 sheets per day of toilet paper are used, with 8.6 sheets being used per trip to the bathroom. Most people use about 20,000 sheets of toilet paper per year (or about 100 rolls). Each person uses roughly 50 pounds of toilet paper a year.”
Anything you can do to lower this will extend the life expectancy of your toilet.
- Switch to Thinner Toilet Paper – This is an easy fix that could cut your usage in half quite easily. You may love the cushioned pads of ultra-deluxe, but with an older toilet especially, it cannot withstand this concentrated amount of material to break down.
The thinner the toilet paper is and the less you use of it, the easier time your toilet will have in breaking down that material to maintain clear and high-functioning pipelines.
- Teach Children Proper Toilet Care – Other members of your home could be contributing to the problem. It is important to take the time to clarify with each home-resident, even the little ones, and be certain that everyone is on the same page concerning what can (and cannot) be flushed. Make certain that children know that toys, food, and objects do not belong in the toilet bowl.
How to Troubleshoot a Clogged Toilet
Even by taking all of these precautions, issues still arise, and your toilet will inevitably clog at some point.
If your toilet is clogged or not flushing as it is supposed to, here are the steps you should take before reaching for that plunger:
- Remove the lid and check the flapper – Examine how tightly it is sealed and hit the flush handle to move the flapper up and down.
- Check that the flapper is releasing water – This can be done by trying to flush and seeing if it can’t grasp full-power. Try jiggling the chain to be sure that everything is attached correctly. Frequently, the chain has come loose on your flapper, and this is preventing it from raising successfully, and therefore flushing.
- Check your water-supply line – If you notice that the water is not filling fully or not quickly, this could be a major water-supply issue that reaches beyond your toilet, or even your home.
- Cut off Water-Supply – If your toilet is leaking or overflowing, you’ll need to cut off the water supply to prevent the toilet bowl from overflowing or leaking further. This can be done at the shut-off valve, which is behind the toilet bowl near the ground.
There will be a small handle or knob that you can turn to shut. You should audibly hear a cut-off sound of any water-flow. Keep this shut while you’re troubleshooting the toilet. It will only cut off the water supply to this one fixture. If you don’t want to turn the water off to the toilet, you can just cut off the water to the bowl, which can be done by securing the Flapper tightly.
- See if there is an easily–accessible Object – If you see a child’s toy or diaper, or something easily attainable, attempt to reach it out for yourself. Purchase Waterproof Latex-Free Gloves to prevent the spreading of germs and harmful bacteria to your hands and throughout your home.
How to Fix a Clogged Toilet – With a Plunger
If none of these troubleshooting issues lead you to a solution, it’s time to pull out the plunger. The plunger functions by creating a vacuum force that magnetizes the clog outwards. Changing the current and airflow of your pipes can break the clog free. Often, plunging alone is the necessary-fix, and a professional plumber does not need to be called.
The steps to plunge your clogged toilet are:
Always clean your plunger with a disinfectant after use. If you want to be environmentally friendly, you can use apple cider vinegar.
- Select a plunger that suits your toilet bowl. Oftentimes, you will want a flange plunger that contours to fit the shape of your toilet bowl.
- Confirm again that the flapper is pressed down, and no waterflow will move within the top tank or bowl.
- Run your plunger under hot water or dip in boiling water. Heat will always assist in creating faster-moving molecules that are more responsive to movement than cold temperatures (which tend to freeze things in place). You can also add boiled water with a bit of mild soap to add some slipperiness that could free the object, causing the clog. Many plumbing experts recommend combining the hot water tactic with a properly fitting plunger. It can help to increase the suction of plunger rubber to the toilet bowl.
- Place it around the circular hole at the bottom of your toilet bowl and press it firmly. You will need water to cover the rim of your Plunger to ensure it will adequately suction. If water is lower than this, a dry suction will not adhere properly.
- Keep the Plunger at the water-level while pulling back slightly. You should be able to feel the toilet bowl gripped in a tight seal by the plunger. If you cannot get a grip or suction, you likely have an improperly-fitting plunger for your specific bowl shape.
- Push the plunger up and down and create a suction. Keeping the grip against the bowl, lift an inch per upstroke. Move patiently, and don’t risk the integrity of your plumbing system. By repetitiously creating this movement, you should be able to vacuum force the clog out of your drain.
- Try flushing the toilet after the first 5-10 flushes. It could be loose, and it should only take around 5-15 plunges to sufficiently loosen the source of the clog.
- This should work, but if it does not – Repeat as needed.
A non-toxic option is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Multi-Surface Cleaner
If the Plunger Doesn’t Work – Snake the Drain
The plunger can only reach so far. If the plunger isn’t reaching the target, the clog is too deep. At this point, you’ll require a snake, such as X-Protector’s Drain Clog Remover 28”
These are reusable, affordable, and can do the job when your Plunger can’t.
To use your snake or flexible wire coil, the steps to take will be as follows:
- Feed the end of your snake into your toilet while retaining leverage and a grip over the majority. Be mindful not to scratch your porcelain toilet bowl if using a stainless steel or scratch-capable tool for snaking.
- There will be a handle to crank in a clockwise direction, which will keep the screw-like texture propelling forward in your drain.
- Crank this handle until you feel a block, or as if an object has interfered with moving forward.
- Clear the obstruction through further cranking and pull out the auger (which is shaped similarly to a drill-like mechanism). Think of a fisherman pulling up on their rod to hook it, and then reel it in.
- Be sure to clean your auger or snake with a safe disinfectant.
If you want to use an at-home item – Your wire coat hanger will function to:
- Snake a clogged drain
- Reattach your tank’s chain to the flapper
- Remove build-up from your jets, which increases your water pressure
Things You Should NEVER Flush Down a Toilet
Before offering you closing tips, it is important to clarify precisely what should never be flushed down your toilet
Some of which might surprise you.
Just a few of the most popular objects found clogging drains are:
- Baby Wipes or Wet Wipes (even if they say flushable)
- Diapers (very commonly flushed)
- Paper towels
- Dental floss
- Cigarette butts
- Kitty Litter (clumped like a rock. Terrible idea)
When they say things are ‘flushable’ – what that means is that the product will break down – eventually
. However, in the meantime, you could experience many toilet clogs and plumbing issues before that Q-tips or paper towel dissolves enough to move forward. Objects like pads, clumped litter, and diapers are inexcusable to flush down your toilet. These will almost always
result in an overflowing or clogged toilet.
When Is It Time to Call a Professional Plumber?
Most of the above troubleshooting and repair tactics will resolve the issue before a professional is needed. However, sometimes, the job is too big for a novice lacking the proper equipment and expertise.
Once you’ve stopped the leak, troubleshot the issue, and done everything within your ability – It might be time to accept defeat and call a professional plumber.
The situations in which it might be time to call a professional plumber include:
- If you believe this is a sewage-line issue – Or something beyond your property, you should call a professional. There could be tree roots or branches clogging the sewer line along with non-flushable materials.
- If it requires a tool you don’t own – A plumber will have thin cameras to shimmy into the pipes and discover the obstruction’s origin. If the issue is far beyond your main toilet bowl, you will require more complex-equipment for access.
- If you are experiencing issues with multiple toilets – Likely a sewage line obstruction.
- If brown water is rising upwards through faucets – This can occur through your faucets and other plumbing lines such as through the sink or shower. This means the mainline is clogged, and it is beyond your handy DIY abilities.
- If you smell gas – Increase air-circulation and ventilation by opening windows for fresh air. This could be a gas-related issue affecting the plumbing.
- If you’ve already tried everything else!
If you’re uncertain on how to repair your tank, have a professional do it correctly the first time. This could be cheaper than attempting to repair it yourself.
If Using Chemical Clog Remover–Health Risks are Involved
With so many non-toxic options available, we recommend and advise you not to use harmful chemicals.
Some of the reasons to avoid harsh chemicals that are most frequently found in cleaning products include:
- With especially harsh products – Skin irritation, chemical burns, and 3rd degree burns possible with direct skin contact
- With moderately-harsh products – Skin irritation such as rashes or redness
- Eye irritation, foggy vision, and potential blindness
- Throat irritation such as burning or difficulty breathing
- Respiratory issues such as the increased risk for asthma (as discovered by a study done by CMAJ). Related to VOCs, which are linked in multiple studies to generating cancerous cells).
Fumes are often poisonous and should be used safely or not at all. The Organic Consumers Organization stated in their piece, ‘How Toxic are Your Household Cleaning Supplies?’ that:
“In 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10%
of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. poison control centers.”
Most clog removers are too chemically corrosive for your pipelines. You should make the lifestyle switch for natural cleaning products in the toilet, as well as around the entire house due to:
- Long-term health concerns
- Environmental concerns
- The protection of your overall plumbing system
Avoid popular toilet-bowl cleaning ingredients that are toxic to inhale and linked to respiratory issues and increased risk for cancer. The toxic ingredients to avoid are:
- Formaldehyde (Linked to the onset of ALS)
- Sodium Hydroxide
Final Tips for Preventing Future Toilet Clogs
There are more natural, holistic, and odd methods for clearing a toilet and keeping
it free of clogs. A few of the best hacks
- Utilize Pantry Ingredients – Some of the safest cleaners for you to inhale also possess the most potent disinfectant properties and cleaning-strength. Based on the health concerns listed above, opt for cleaner disinfectant ingredients such as:
- Baking soda
- Tea Tree Oil
- Gentle soap
- Citric Acid
- Boiling Water
You should start with boiling water and mix a small amount of White Vinegar into the solvent. You can also try adding a bit of mild soap and boiled water.
- When Plunging – Move in a vertical motion and reduce the air in your cup for a tighter seal. An Accordion Toilet Plunger is recommended to make this process even more simple and efficient.
- Hard Water Build-up Could be the Culprit – Hard water build-up will increase the difficulty of your toilet each time it flushes. This will only get worse and worse without proper scraping. Check around the portholes of your toilet (which are where water emerges from under the rim). You can clean this build-up with an old wire hanger or thin metal scraping tool.
- When Using a Snake/Auger – Any kind of drain snake can get messy so lay out towels, newspapers, and be sure to wear gloves.
- If Only One Toilet – This is not an issue with the mainline, so luckily, you might have other toilets available. Sometimes the best course of action is to allow gravity to work its magic. Morning’s flush could cure the clog.
- Switch to Rapid–Dissolving Toilet Paper – There are many products that are biodegradable, thinner, or will offer rapid-dissolving for reduced clogging. A brand that comes highly recommended is Scott Rapid Dissolving.
Eventually – You Will Need a New Toilet
If all else fails and you have an outdated toilet with terrible water-flow, or it’s just time (which will inevitably occur) – you may require the purchase of a new toilet.
It will be more affordable than paying repeated fees to a plumber and should last you (on average) up to 50 years
! You can also look into cheaper models with plastic bolts instead of metal, which will last around 15 years
Some advice on selecting your new toilet and the steps to take will be:
- Determine your style, budget, and what you’re looking for in a new toilet.
- If clogged toilets have been a significant issue in your home, select a toilet that specialized in being a no-clog toilet. One that is listed as a Best No Clog Toilet of 2020 is the TOTO Elongated Sanagloss Toilet. There are many brands worth considering, and we would recommend reading reviews to understand if the value of that product aligns with your expectations and preferences.
- Consider the most prevalent toilet fixtures/amenities which are available to choose from (that will also lessen clogs) such as:
- Gravity-assisted toilets
- Dual flushing toilets (with two buttons on top)
- Power-assisted toilets
- Vacuum-assisted toilets
- Pressure-assisted toilets
Questions to Consider
- Does it have any anti-clogging properties, amenities, fixtures, or selling points to remedy my problem of a frequently clogging toilet?
- Is it the correct height for my seating-level? (measure)
- What shape do I like in a toilet seat?
- Do I prefer porcelain or materials which are more of a statement piece?
- What is the rough-in that I require? (This is the distance the toilet will be placed from the wall which will need to be measured from bolt cap to wall, not including baseboards).
Understanding what you need beforehand will help you to measure the right space, fit the model to size, and hopefully offer you fewer toilet clogs in the future
Most toilet clogs you will be able to fix by yourself with some vinegar, boiled water, and a plunger.
Sometimes the job will be bigger than you can handle alone, and that will be the time to determine if a professional is required or an entirely new toilet.
If you are interested, go check out the toilet section on Amazon
for any great deals.