How to Deal with a Clogged Toilet

Maybe if you just try to flush one more time … You do, and then the toilet bowl begins to fill with water. It approaches the brim; you freak out and grab the nearest clothes hanger to use as a makeshift plunger.

You begin furiously prodding at your toilet hole to dislodge the blockage. Next thing you know you are standing in an inch of toilet water with a mangled wire hanger firmly entrenched in your toilet’s lower intestine.

This is not a pretty picture.

And yet, this may be more common than you realize. According to a recent survey, the most common problem that renters have to call their landlords to fix is a clogged toilet, regardless of whether it’s the landlord or tenant’s responsibility. It also happens to be the one thing renters are most embarrassed to call their landlord about.

Read: Most Embarrassing Moments in Apartment Maintenance

Let’s spare everyone the embarrassment by going over a whole host of different ways you can unclog a toilet without involving your landlord. No matter what the “blockage” may be, there are a number of tools and strategies that you can use to get your plumbing in working order.

The Plunger Method

The most common, and obvious, way of clearing a clogged toilet drain is to use a plunger. For those of you who have been living in an igloo in the Yukon for the last 50 years and are unfamiliar with what a plunger is, it sort of resembles a rubber suction cup on a stick.

The only thing you really need to know about how to use a plunger is this: It works on the principle of brute force to kind of blast through whatever is lodged in your apartment toilet.

Read: Handy Bathroom Maintenance Tips

When choosing a plunger, opt for the heavy-duty kind that can appropriately seal over your toilet hole. Insert the rubber end into the bowl, seal it over the hole by pressing out any air, and then give the thing a few good jabs. This will push and pull water and air into the pipe with enough force to dislodge the clog. At least that is the idea. Before you plunge, make sure to turn off the water to the toilet by turning the valve behind the bowl. This will prevent an overflow from overzealous flushing.

The Finesse Method

If plunging proves ineffective, you may have a “deeper” problem on your hands. Run your bathroom sink and tub and listen for distressed sounds in the pipes – that could be the sound of a much-deeper water backup. In this case, it is time to opt for a method with a bit more finesse. Using a toilet snake to clear a drain is the preferred method of many a working plumber. This tool, despite sounding like a character from a bad monster movie, is actually a flexible precision instrument.

Gently insert it into the clogged drain and use it to nudge along the obstruction. Also known as a closet auger, the toilet snake can get at clogs that are deep in the curves of a toilet’s plumbing.

The Chemical Warfare Method

Sometimes you have to call in the big guns. Using chemical drain cleaners should always be a last resort. They are made to essentially melt away any (ahem) “organic material” that may be too large to pass through the pipes of their own accord (no judgment). So, as you can imagine, they are pretty damaging to the environment, and potentially, to your porcelain.

If you must resort to waging all out chemical warfare on your toilet (again, no judgment), do so intelligently. Chemical drain cleaner can be purchased at most department stores and each have their own specific instructions.

Read the directions before you open the bottle. These products are incredibly dangerous if they get on your skin or in your eyes. Heck, even just a whiff of the stuff is liable to cause some unfortunate nose damage. Ergo, it would certainly behoove you to read all the labeling before taking action.

Additional Tips

These above three methods are the most tried-and-true ways to unclog a stubborn apartment toilet. Some important things to remember are:

  1. If your toilet is clogged, don’t keep flushing it. Doing so will turn your nice tiled bathroom into a toilet-water kiddie pool.
  2. Protect yourself. Your toilet is a nasty place, so wear gloves and goggles before you go scrounging around in there.
  3. Don’t use excessive amounts of toilet paper, and never flush wipes. Even wipes that are supposedly “flushable” can be slow to biodegrade, increasing the chances of a clogged apartment toilet.
  4. Don’t be afraid to swallow your pride. The only thing more embarrassing than calling your landlord to fix a clogged toilet is calling your landlord to replace a broken toilet because you clogged it and then proceeded to destroy it.

Go forth with this advice in mind. And if you repeatedly find yourself in need of toilet assistance, maybe it’s time to consider fiber supplements.

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