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How To Unclog A Toilet: DIY Tips & Cost Guide

We put together a useful guide on how to unclog a toilet. We also included all the costs for materials needed and the cost of hiring a contractor.

Toilets are easily clogged. Also, it is one of the most common problems homeowners have to deal with, and they happen to occur at the most inopportune of times. You, therefore, need to be handy (though there is no specific skill required for this) so that you are in a position to address most of these issues. That aside, most people know that toilets are clogged with the most unintended of waste such as crayons and matchbox cars, and it often boils down to the curiosity of your kid. So yes, blame it on junior. The upside here though is that most of these issues are quickly addressed, and the problem can be resolved with simple tools.

Testing for a Clog

Bottom line, you will not know if a toilet until you flush it. However, this is a double-edged sword and might ease your worries or leave you with a mess. First, the bathroom might not be clogged, and it’s just your imagination. This is excellent news, and you don’t have to go through the unpleasant task of cleaning the drain. On the other hand, the toilet might be wholly blocked and flushing it will only lead to you making a mess. A third outcome could be that it is partially clogged. You can tell this if the toilet flushes, but takes a minute or two for the water to drain away. As a homeowner, you are in luck as a 90% of the time you will have to deal with a partially blocked toilet.

Nonetheless, you don’t want to take your chances and risk flooding your bathroom. The solution is to remove the tank lid and lift the flapper to let a little of water down the drain. You can tell if you have a problem by merely observing how the water goes down the drain.

In conclusion, clearing the drain isn’t an arduous task. Yes, it is unpleasant, but there are many DIY options for little or no cost at all. For a partially clogged john, you can use homemade drain cleaner, or you will have to snake the drain to get rid of deeper clogs. The amount you spend will depend on the degree of problem you have.

1. Plunger

Most times or 90% of the time to be exact, you will only need a plunger to resolve your clogged drain issues. However, you will have to invest in a unique plunger with an extension flange at the end. The flange design fits toilets better delivering better results. Using a plunger is a stupidly simple task, and will only set you back about $20. You have to be careful though, lest you flood your bathroom.

Using a Plunger

First, you might want to keep your toilet from an overflowing. Directly, reach into the tank and close the flapper. It is the circular drain stopper with a chain attached to it. The water is clean, so you don’t have to worry about reaching your hand in there. Second, you have to prep your bathroom. Things might get messy, and so you need to be prepared. Wear a set of old clothes that you are okay with soiling, and open the windows for ventilation. You also need to invest in elbow-length gloves as toilets are unsanitary and we think you might want to protect yourself from the germs. Finally, place newspapers or towels around the toilet to soak up any water that might splash. Also, clean-up will be easier owing to the papers.

Now, on to the real task. Though most of your plunges will be vigorous, we advise making the first plunge gentle. At first, the bell is full of air, and you want to get rid of this air gently without a mess. Anything less than a gentle push will thrust water all over the bathroom. Afterwards, you want to push in and out vigorously while still maintaining enough water to cover the bell. You will be forcing water both ways loosening the clogs. Stick with it, and alternate between strokes.

There are instances where the plunger isn’t making a tight seal which reduces its effectiveness. Try wrapping an old rag around it to minimize the leaks. Otherwise, you can run it in deep water before using it to soften it up, helping make a good seal.

2. Auger

If a plunger fails, you might be forced to use more specialized equipment. You can purchase or borrow any toilet snake as it will perform the job. However, we encourage you to invest in a closet auger which is specially designed to clear toilet clogs with no damage to the bowl. By and large, it will set you back $7.

An auger which is a flexible cleaning tool is a wire that will snake through your drain deeper than any wire can. It is also fitted with a corkscrew-like tip to hook the clog or break it up. Just insert the snake deeper into the drain until you feel the obstruction. Twist the auger as you push it further into the pipe. The idea here is to either trap the clog with the corkscrew or break it down.

3. Major Surgery

Only use this as a last-ditch effort and just if you have the skills to mount a toilet. Also, ensure you have time on your hands as this task will take a couple of hours. First, you will have to turn off and unplug the water supply. Then, you have to unscrew the toilet which means first disassembling the toilet.

Partially dismantling it will be enough. Unscrew it from its mounting rings, and this should be enough to get to the clog. The cost will apply why re-installing the toilet. You will need a wax ring and mounting bolts to reseal the toilet to the ring. These will set you back between $5 and $15. However, before you engage in this, ensure you have the tools and are handy enough to mount a toilet.

4. Others

There are other options you can look into. First, there is using an enzyme product which you can purchase at any home improvement store for as little as $10 or as much as $30. Enzyme products will liquify waste products making them easy to go down the drain. An added advantage is that they are eco-friendly, and will not harm your pipes. Enzyme products are will only work on organic waste, not hard obstructions such as toys.

Another option to consider is a homemade solution. A combination of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda is set to do the job. First, you will have to boil at least half a gallon of water seeing as a small amount will not work. You need enough water to warm the water around the clog and push it down the drain. The water shouldn’t be boiling as it can crack the porcelain. The vinegar and baking soda bring about a chemical process that dissolves the clog. You can get baking soda for as little as $1 to as much as $20 depending on the quantity and company you purchase from. Vinegar, on the other hand, will set you back around $5 but can be as much as $125. Again this will only work with organic waste, not hard clogs.

Finally, you can use a wet/dry vacuum. You can borrow but anticipate a price tag of above $70 if you consider purchasing. Don’t use just any vacuum cleaner; it has to be a wet/dry vacuum that can cope with water. First vacuum out the water, and then drive the hose into the drain. To create a seal (as this is the only way to get rid of the clog), you are going to have to tie a towel around the hose. Remember to place pressure on the cloth to create a good seal. The vacuum will work in a minute or two and is ideal for hard obstructions.

Closet Auger$7
Wax ring & mounting bolts$5 - $15
Enzyme product$10 - $30
Baking Soda$1 - $20
Vinegar $5 - $125
Wet/Dry Vacuum$70+

When to Hire a Professional

There are instances where the problem can be further down into the drain than anticipated. You can tell this if you are experiencing trouble with other drains such as showers and sinks and, water could be coming up through them. This is when you hire a professional.

Other than when the issue goes deeper there are other instances where you will have to engage the services of a professional. First, if you are worried about permanent damage to your system, employ a professional. Never force your toilet to unclog as you might end up damaging the system. Finally, if all else fails, hire a plumber. This is often the case with hard clogs such as toys or if a homeowner does not have the requisite skills to unscrew and mount a toilet.

Remember, plumbers often charge more to unclog a toilet as it is an unpleasant task. Expect a fee between $65 and $250 for a simple clog and one between $95 and $350 is the toilet has to be removed. The price can go further up to almost $400 depending on whether it is an emergency call and location of the clog.

When considering a professional, there are more price considerations you want to make. There are instances where plumbers will be called upon to use specialized means to get rid of the clog. One such way is the sewer jetting also known as hydro scrubbing or hydro jetting. It is an unclogging technique where high pressure is used instead of a closet auger. In other cases the company you engage will have to use a video inspection kit and more so when they cannot trace the root of the problems in your home. The charges are going to be higher for these activities.

Simple clog$65 - $250
Complex clogs$95 - $350
Emergency calls$400+

Video Resources

Useful Tips

In conclusion, there are some few tips to bear in mind when unclogging your toilet.

1. Avoid Chemicals – Don’t be fooled into thinking that chemicals can unblock any toilet. There are instances where it will work, but it is often slower than using an auger, wet/dry vacuum, or a plunger. However, there are instances where they are ineffective and more so against hard clogs. In such situations, you will be left with a drain full of corrosive water that you have to deal with. Finally, these substances are harmful to the environment.

2. Prevention – Most plumbers will tell you that often clogs are the result of a curious kid. Their inquisitive nature will lead to them flushing crayons or toys down the drain. It, therefore, goes without saying that the best way to avoid having to deal with a clog is to prevent it. Always keep the lid down. This will frustrate their efforts, and you don’t have to deal with blocked toilets. You can also teach them on the proper way to use a toilet and the younger ones what can and cannot be flushed down a toilet.

3. Watch what kind of toilet paper you are using – Toilet paper is not created equal, and maybe your drainage issues stem from the fact that you are using too much toilet paper that doesn’t break down.

4. Avoid poring hardening compounds in the toilet – Hardening compounds are anything from joint drywall compound to wax products. These will harden in your toilet clogging it. The best way to avoid such blockages of your own making will be to avoid pouring such substances in the bathroom. Others to avoid are grease and cault compounds.

5. Keep the toilet tank clear – The top of a toilet tank may often seem like the perfect spot to store items such as soap, extra tissue paper, or brushes. However, you are only increasing the likelihood of a clog as the pieces can be easily knocked down the toilet blocking it. On the other hand, keeping the top clear reduces the possibility of a major clog.

Thank you for coming this far, and we hope that the above guide has been helpful in solving your clogging problems. Let us know what you think in the comments below, otherwise, share.

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