How to unblock a toilet

Written by april kohl
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How to unblock a toilet
A plunger creates a vacuum in the water in your toilet, causing air to rush in and help shift the blockage. (Bubbles image by Hennie Kissling from

Having to unblock a toilet is one of the least enjoyable aspects of modern life. However, if you do it right it can be over and done with in five minutes flat and without too much effort. The key to successfully unblocking a toilet quickly is knowing where the blockage is and having the right tools for the job.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Plunger
  • Bucket
  • Trowel
  • Caustic soda

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  1. 1

    Find the location of the blockage. In many cases, the blockage will be somewhere within the toilet itself but it may just as easily be in the pipework outside the home. Begin by opening the nearest inspection cover (if you have any) to the toilet outside the home. If the blockage is visible there, put on your rubber gloves and either break up or remove the blockage.

  2. 2

    Put on your rubber gloves and inspect the toilet itself. If the water level is high, bale or siphon the excess into a bucket to dispose of once the blockage is removed. Use the plunger to create a vacuum at the base of the toilet bowl, where it meets the U-bend. Pushing and pulling on the plunger repeatedly creates and destroys this vacuum, causing most blockages to break up.

  3. 3

    Flush the toilet to check that the blockage has gone. Empty any water you had to bale into the bowl and flush this also. Consider adding caustic soda to the bowl when you flush it, to break down and clear away any residual parts of the blockage from the system. Sterilize your gloves and the plunger. Wash your hands thoroughly.

Tips and warnings

  • Most blockages are caused by excess loads on the pipes, or large amounts of toilet paper going into the system at once. The most effective way to prevent having to unblock a toilet is to not subject the system to these excess loads in the first place. Consider flushing before too much material builds up in the pan, as well as when you're finished using the facilities.
  • Chemical drain unblockers will not work on many toilet blockages. These chemicals are not only toxic and therefore to be used with care but they are also designed to remove blockages from sinks and drains, not sewage pipes. When you need to unblock a toilet, use a plunger.

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