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How to Unclog a Toilet

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

Quick Answer:

The best method is to clear the blockage with a toilet snake. Alternatively, you can use a plunger or chemical drain opener, but those methods can be messy and/or cause damage to your plumbing.

The ProHowNow Way: Using a Toilet Snake

Most toilet clogs are caused by excessive debris getting stuck in the trapway of the toilet. A toilet snake is specially designed to unclog the debris without damaging the porcelain toilet or any of the plumbing downstream. It also keeps you from getting your hands (too) dirty, which is an added bonus, considering there is typically a fair amount of poo causing the blockage.

To unclog the toilet with a toilet snake, first grab the plastic handle and pull the wire snake back through the plastic sheath so that only the tip of the wire snake is sticking out of the opposite end. Next, carefully insert the tip of the snake into the toilet bowl. Rest the curved portion of the plastic sheath on the tank floor and slide it to the rear of the toilet as far it goes so that the snake tip is in the drain hole. The plastic sheath will prevent you from chipping the porcelain toilet bowl while also positioning the snake at the correct angle.

Now, grab the handle and push the snake down through the sheath until you feel it hit the blockage. Use the handle to twist and push through the blockage. Depending on the severity of the blockage, this can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more to completely unclog the trapway. When the blockage is cleared, the snake should move in and out easily and the water will typically drain out of the toilet bowl.

Remove the snake and give the toilet a couple of flushes to wash away any lingering debris and make sure the drain is completely clear. If the toilet bowl still isn’t draining, repeat the whole process.

Using a Plunger

A plunger works by creating positive and negative pressure to push the blockage in the toilet trapway back and forth until the debris breaks apart and goes down the drain. The downside to a plunger is that it can suck much of the blockage back into the toilet bowl and splash brown water all over the place. The pressure exerted by the plunger can also damage the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor, causing the toilet to leak.

To use a plunger, simply stick the plunger in the toilet bowl so that it is firmly seated over the drain hole. Holding the plunger handle with both hands, firmly press up and down until the blockage is cleared.

Using a Chemical Drain Opener

Chemical drain openers, such as Drano and Liquid Plumber as well homemade concoctions made of baking soda and vinegar, use heat or a chemical reaction to break up the blockage in the toilet drain. Depending on the severity of the blockage, this can take a while. In addition, the chemicals can cause corrosion of the toilet plumbing, particularly with older pipes.

To use a chemical drain opener, follow the manufacturer instructions on the bottle, including how much liquid to pour into the toilet bowl, how long to wait, and what safety precautions to take.

ProHowNow Tip: Preventing Toilet Clogs in the First Place

Toilet blockages consist of debris typically comprised of the following: stools, toilet paper, or other foreign matter. Stools and toilet paper dissolve relatively easy, but other foreign matter, such as wet wipes, paper towels, feminine pads and tampons do not break apart and can cause severe toilet blockages. To prevent severe blockage, throw foreign objects in the garbage, not the toilet!

As for regular toilet blockages caused by extra-voluminous stools and excessive toilet paper usage after messy bowel movements, follow this simple mantra: poo, flush, wipe, flush. By distributing the stools and toilet paper across two separate flushes, you drastically reduce the likelihood of clogging the toilet.


Conserve water with this ProHowNow tip! Keep a 1 - 2 gallon bucket in the bath or shower, and collect the water as it’s heating up before bathing. You can then use water in the bucket to flush your toilet. Simply pour the water from the bucket into the toilet bowl until you hear that signature whooshing flush noise.

Warning: do not leave buckets of water around if there are small children or pets in the home, as it poses a drowning hazard.

Cover photo courtesy of @stevepb

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