A blocked toilet…it’s something we’ve all got to deal with at some point!
Most modern toilets are pretty resistant to blockages where the water flow is also high. But, older toilets are prone to blockages. Of course, any toilet can block if enough toilet paper is flushed down it or if there are other obstructions in the plumbing.
A blocked toilet won’t flush properly and may even overflow. Usually, enough water can escape to let the water level drain a bit, which makes clearing the blockage easier.
So, let’s cover the main causes of a blocked toilet and how to sort them out.
Cause of a blocked toilet
There are a few possible causes of a blocked toilet; here they are:
1: Too much toilet paper
Toilets are obviously designed to take a quantity of toilet paper, but too much toilet paper will block any toilet. Toilet paper blockages are generally easy to clear.
This type of blockage is easy to diagnose - if you flush the toilet with toilet paper and it blocks right away, then the toilet paper is almost definitely the issue.
2: Wet wipes, baby wipes and other non-flushable items
Most wet wipes, baby wipes and similar items are non-flushable, especially in older toilets. Flushing any of these can cause a stubborn blockage.
These can build up further down the toilet drain pipe and are tricky to clear if so. Toilet paper is the only paper designed to be flushed!
3: Limescale and mineral build-up
If your toilet is already weak, limescale build-up may be sufficient to prevent it from properly flushing. If this is the case, you’ll probably find the flush becoming more effective over time.
Blockages from toilet paper may also become more frequent. This is a particular issue in hard water areas.
4: Slow or faulty septic system
If you have a septic tank, the issue with your toilet may lie in the tank. Slow-moving septic tanks can lead to blockages and poor flushing. Moreover, not all toilet paper and cleaning products are compatible with septic tanks.
How to unblock a toilet
Let’s move on to the best techniques to try to unblock a toilet.
1: Use a plunger
The humble plunger is an effective tool for unblocking toilets and other drains. Use a plunger if there’s some standing water in the bowl.
There are three types of plungers:
- Standard plunger: A simple cup on the end of a wooden or plastic handle.
- Accordion plunger: A longer plunger with a special accordion-like attachment, suitable for toilets.
- Water plunger: Instead of manually moving the plunger back and forth, it has a handle you pump up and down to create suction.
Any of these can work. However, before starting, you’ll need the water to cover the plunger completely.
- Place the plunger over the drain.
- Ensure the flange fits snugly to create a seal.
- Move the plunger back and forth.
- Remove to see if the toilet drains.
- Repeat as necessary.
2: Hot water
If the plunger fails, try adding some hot water to the bowl. To do this, you’ll need some space in the bowl, so remove water if necessary. You want to reduce the water level as much as possible.
Then, simply boil a kettle and pour it into the drain from a decent height. With any luck, the hot water will help dissolve stuck toilet paper, enabling you to unblock the toilet by flushing it normally.
You can also add some washing-up liquid to help lubricate the blockage. If the toilet is too blocked to flush at all, then turn off the supply valve at the back of the toilet first and see if the blockage clears without flushing.
3: Pull the blockage manually
If you’re feeling brave, you can equip yourself with elbow-high rubber gloves and attack the blockage manually. However, be careful not to extend your hand into the drain as you don’t want to get it stuck. This is unlikely, and the rubber glove should protect you!
4: Use toilet blockage cleaner
Toilet cleaning gel is good for removing limescale buildup, which may impede the proper functioning of a toilet. However, if limescale is the main issue, the above fixes probably won’t work in the long term. Instead, you’ll need to gradually remove the limescale to open up the drain.
Vinegar and baking soda can remove limescale, but you can also find purpose-made limescale removal products for toilets. Be careful not to select a product designed for drains and not toilets specifically.
5: Vinegar and baking soda
If you’re not getting anywhere, it’s time to try vinegar or vinegar and baking soda.
If limescale is an issue, try using white vinegar first. Drain the bowl and add a litre or two of undiluted white vinegar. Leave it for approximately 12 hours and flush with hot water to see if the blockage has cleared.
You can also combine vinegar with baking soda. Again, you’ll need to ensure the bowl is pretty much empty. Here are the steps:
- Add 1 to 2 cups of baking soda to the bowl.
- Boil a kettle.
- Add 1 to 2 cups of vinegar to the bowl, until the baking powder is covered.
- Wait for 5 to 10 minutes, and add the boiling water slowly.
- Wait for the ensuing reaction to clear. It should bubble up, but not too much.
- See if the blockage has cleared.
- Repeat 1 to 2 times if necessary.
6: Use a plumber’s snake
If the above steps fail, consider purchasing a plumber’s snake. This is a flexible wire which enables you to drill into the blockage and dislodge it.
Using a plumber’s snake takes some practice, but it’s straightforward enough:
- Drain most of the bowl.
- Gradually unwind the snake into the drain.
- Feel resistance from the blockage and continue to drill into it.
- Pull and attack the blockage to dislodge it.
- Undrill and repeat if necessary.
When to call a plumber
If the above fails, there’s a good chance that the issue lies further down the drain - consider calling us.
A plumber will have a professional plumber’s snake, which can extend further down the drain and is perfect for unblocking any drains, including kitchen sink drains and shower drains. Professional plungers can also blow pressurised air down the drain to clear severe blockages.
Can Fairy Liquid unblock a toilet?
Fairy Liquid won’t unblock the toilet, but it can make other fixes more effective. By pouring washing-up liquid into the toilet drain, it’ll soak into the paper and lubricate it against the pipe.
After allowing the washing-up liquid to soak into the paper for 1 to 2 hours, pour boiling water from a height.
What is the best product to unblock a toilet?
Plungers are the most effective tool for unblocking a toilet. Choose a plunger that’s specifically designed for toilets.
Will a blocked toilet eventually unblock itself?
Some blockages will spontaneously clear, but if you flush and the toilet bowl continually floods, you’ll probably need to clear the blockage properly.