How to Unclog a Toilet Like a Plumber

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 3, 2009 · 174 comments

in DIY Home Maintenance, Manly Skills


It’s every man’s worst fear. You’re at someone’s house, you  finish doing your business and flush the toilet, but instead of going down, the water comes up along with whatever you just deposited in the bowl. Would you be paralyzed with panic in that moment? Or do you know what to do?

For some reason, the lot has fallen to men to deal with clogged toilets. I guess in a time when we’re no longer needed to ride out in defense of the tribe,  our toughness is marshaled to do battle in the bathroom. But many men charge in brandishing their plunger but lacking a game plan on how to attack the clog. To help us learn how to effectively unclog a toilet, I called up Rod from Roto-Rooter and got the scoop.  Here’s his advice.

Stop the toilet bowl from filling up. If it looks like the water might overflow out of the toilet, Rod suggests taking the lid off the tank as quickly as possible and closing the toilet flapper. The flapper releases water from the tank and into the bowl. It looks like, well, a flapper. If you’re worried that your flush has a good chance of turning into a flood, take off the top before you pull the trigger. Then you can keep one hand close to the flapper while the other hands pushes the flusher. The minute it appears the water is rising, you’re ready to stop the deluge.


Toilet flapper (Image source: The Jay)

Get the right plunger. Once disaster has been averted, it’s time to unsheathe your plunger. To effectively use a plunger, you need a good seal between it and the toilet bowl. Funnel-cup plungers are the best plungers for this. They’re the plungers with a flange, or added piece, extending off the bottom of the rubber cup.


Funnel-cup plunger

Warm up your plunger. Stiff, hard plungers don’t work as well as soft and pliant ones. Run your plunger under some hot water before you use it. This will soften up the rubber, which will help you get a better seal on the toilet bowl.

Plunge correctly. Stick the plunger in the bowl and use it to form a solid seal over the exit hole. Rod said that most people only focus on the downward push when plunging. But the pullback is just as important. Give a few good up and down strokes with the plunger and flush the toilet. If the water clears from the toilet, then you’ve successfully unclogged it. If the toilet starts overflowing again, just close the flapper to stop water from entering the bowl. Repeat the plunge and flush sequence until your clog is gone.

Secret Plumber Trick: Add Hot Water and dishwasher detergent. Add a few cups of hot water to the toilet bowl before you start plunging. After you pour the hot water in, let it sit for a few minutes. To put it mildly, the heat helps break the, um, stuff up. This will make unclogging the toilet with the plunger much, much easier. The heat from the hot water can sometimes break up the clog without plunging, so this could be a good tactic to use if you a clog a toilet at a friends house and you don’t want to face the embarrassment of asking for a plunger.

Also, try adding some dishwasher detergent to the mix. The soap can help break the clog up, as well.

(Hat tip Ryan and Jim in the comments).

For harder clogs, use an auger. If the plunger doesn’t work, Rod says it’s time to bust out the auger. An auger is a cable like device that you snake through the toilet hole to help loosen up a clog. You can find augers at most hardware stores.

augerToilet auger

To use an auger, you simply snake the cable down the hole. Start turning the crank on the end you’re holding until it stops. This means you’ve reached your clog. The auger will either break up the clog or hook on to it. If it feels like you’ve hooked the clog, pull it out. Discard any waste on the end of the auger. Give the toilet a few good plunges to clear up any left over blockage. Flush. Shazam! Cleared toilet.


When to call the plumber. There are times when your own efforts just aren’t enough. How do you know when it’s time to call in the professionals to battle your clog? Rod says that if you see water backing up in the sinks or showers whenever you flush, it’s time to bring in a plumber. Water backing up in odd locations when you flush means you have a clogged main line. A plunger and auger won’t get the job done.

Avoiding clogged toilets. Rod’s parting advice was to avoid clogs in the first place. First, teach children that the toilet is not a Jacuzzi or water ride for their GI Joes. Rod says that the majority of his work with clogged toilets involves toys and other items that kids have flushed down the toilet.

Rod also says it’s important to ensure the jets around the toilet bowl’s edge are nice and clean. Stopped up jets will prevent the toilet from flushing at full power which in turn prevents you from clearing out the toilet and its contents. Weekly toilet cleaning with a brush will prevent build-up. If you haven’t cleaned the toilet in a while, you’ll probably have mega buildup. Rod suggests using an Allen wrench or screwdriver to clear out the junk.

Finally, take it easy on the paper. You don’t need an entire roll to wipe your bum.

Any more tips on how to unclog a toilet? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 174 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mr. Warner September 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Very nice piece. I too am the blunging hero in my household. I cam credited as being the quickest blunger in the SouthEast that is not a real plumber. What can I say, I learned from the best… thanks dad.

2 chris wilcox September 3, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I share your the role of sole-plunger in our home. I don’t know what would happen if there were a plug and I wasn’t around; maybe we should have a class.

That being said, when I do have to “do the deed”, I’m always wary of the “the pullback” as I’d hate to get dirtied toilet water splashed back into my face. I’ve never had a problem in the past withOUT “the pullback”, though, so I’ll continue being an amateur, I suppose. : )

As always, good stuff men should know, AoM!

3 Ryan September 3, 2009 at 10:48 pm

As a night-time janitor, I feel as though I am qualified to add one more technique to this already brilliant cache of advice: hot water. It seems counter-intuitive, adding more water to an already clogged toilet, but it works. Just add a few cups of hot water to the disaster, let it sit, flush, and plunge (only if needed).

Hope it helps; it sure has helped me.

4 Rob C September 4, 2009 at 1:04 am

For all but the worst clogs, I usually have very good luck leveraging gravity. Done properly, no tools are required. With a steady hand, press the handle down only slightly to let water slowly trickle into the bowl. Don’t let a full flush happen – you’re likely doomed to an overflow disaster. Let it fill the bowl almost to the top. A couple gallons of extra water at 8 pounds per gallon usually creates enough pressure to wash down the stubborn deed. Sometimes a little patience is needed, but within a minute or so, all is well. Again, I like this technique because no tools are required – it can be finished very discreetly when it happens away from home. Note: This will NOT work if GI Joe is hiding down here.

5 Josh September 4, 2009 at 1:05 am

One thing about the funnel-cup plunger that’s important: Don’t go straight down into the water trapping air in the plunger when instead you should tilt the plunger to fill it with as much water as possible before submerging it. Pushing water instead of air provides more force into the exit hole, helps with the suction of the pullback and there’s far less bubbles exploding to the surface causing the dreaded “poo-water splash”.

6 p51mustang September 4, 2009 at 3:37 am

How timely was this article? The only toilet in the house stopped-up at 7AM Tuesday morning. Sometimes potsful of hot water from the stove work but not this time, as it was coming up into the tub, as the expert warned. Last April we had the septic tank pumped and that wasn’t it. Rented an augur- it worked, although the business end was kind of puny. This time I reluctantly called Roto-Rooter and had a professional go back into the main line with his super-auger and it was tree roots. Again. The original owner planted a tree next to the septic tank, which was dumb, but it shades the deck so I don’t want to cut it down. If I have to go through this again, I will.

7 Jane September 4, 2009 at 4:38 am

This is just one of those manly skills that not all men are born with. Thanks for sharing this as this will be truly useful for me and my husband. Keep up the good work. By the way, these best gifts that you could give your better-half might interest you too. Thanks and have a nice and fulfilling day.

8 Spartan September 4, 2009 at 6:58 am

I had a serious case of Toilet blockage the other day, try as I might the plunger wouldn’t work, and the u-bend was at such an angle that the auger wouldn’t get round. After trying the hot water trick which has worked in the past and sticking a long piece of rubber hose as far down as possible and blowing to try and create extra pressure (Please note to BLOW not SUCK!!!)
and having no success, I read about the Coke method. After pouring 6 litres of coca cola down the pan, what ever it was that was blocking it gave up the ghost and the blockage cleared. Only problem is now I’m a little worried about what the Coke’s been doing to my insides!!

9 James Joyner September 4, 2009 at 7:35 am

Of course, if this happens “at someone’s house” and you’re hoping not to be embarrassed, you’re probably not going to have your choice of plungers — let alone an auger.

10 Jim September 4, 2009 at 9:42 am

I will second the hot water trick. Hot water melts the fats and makes it all more flushable.

11 Jamie September 4, 2009 at 10:28 am

“Rod says that if you see water backing up in the sinks or showers whenever you flush, it’s time to bring in a plumber. Water backing up in odd locations when you flush means you have a clogged main line. A plunger and auger won’t get the job done.”

Wrong. This just means that it’s time to bring in a good, long pipe snake.

A few weeks ago, I ran into this problem when I discovered that my 2-year-old had been flushing baby wipes down the toilet. Sewage water was backing up in the laundry room drain and basement shower (*shudder*), so it fell to me, the man, to fix the problem. Plumbers have a dirty job to do, so they deserve their pay; however, a real man should be willing to take on his own home’s dirty job before forking over so much dough.

After many, MANY hours of running a pipe snake in and out of my main line clean-out, the pipe was cleared and the sewage drained mercifully back into the sewer.

12 Jamie September 4, 2009 at 10:28 am

@James, I too was hoping for the secret No Plunger trick to unclogging the toilet at someone else’s house. Guess I’ll just have to bring along my auger. Or hold it.

13 Brett McKay September 4, 2009 at 11:08 am


Alas, there is no secret plunger-less method to unclogging the toilet. Rather, the take away tip is to close the flapper if the toilet is about the overflow. Most people then have a plunger nearby to care of the clog. If not, while it’s still embarrassing to ask for a plunger, it’s a lot less embarrassing then to tell someone, “My crap is on your bathroom floor!”

14 RWBlake September 4, 2009 at 11:53 am

Nice article, I learned all these techniques.
The real question is how to handle the clog when you are not in your home. You don’t want to be the guest who clogged the toilet and needed help.
That is what we really need a lesson on.

15 Mark September 4, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I may be stating the obvious, but it helps to know the location of the cleanout. In my home, a previous owned had sheetrocked over it!! I’ve never needed to use it, but thanks to a thoughtful plumber marking the wall, I know where it is.

16 Patrick September 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I once had a clog that was unplungerable (if that is a word). My daughter flushed the toilet after doing her business and simultaneously knocked a tube of toothpaste into the bowl with her elbow. I tried everything to fish it out to no avail. Finally I had to disassemble the toilet and take the stool out into the yard and used a garden hose and a bent up coat hanger to get the tube out of the waste trap. This was not easy… Once the contraband was recovered (fully washed by this time) I took it into the house and showed the family the prize. The look of horror was priceless on my daughter’s face when I informed them that we do not waste anything in this house and that they would have to use the remainder of the toothpaste. Hehe… I was not serious and of course threw the tube of toothpaste away, but we have not had this happen since.

17 James Joyner September 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm

@Brett: I usually just reach for the water shutoff valve rather then open the tank and grab the flapper; this method may be faster, though, come to think of it.

18 Phil September 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Augers are powerful tools, but worth a bit of caution when you have to resort to using one.

Toilets are usually pretty safe as all the plumbing that’s likely to get clogged is heavy-duty porcelain, but sinks are a danger zone. I’ve seen augurs blow right through older pipes in kitchens and bathrooms and make a worse problem than you had to start with. Before auguring, take a good look under the sink at the condition of the P-trap pipes. Any rust? Corrosion? Leaks already in progress? If so, put down the auger and prepare yourself for the possibility of some under-sink surgery.

Also, when you’re plunging a bathroom sink (if you have a wife or daughter with long hair, this is not so much an “if” as a “when”), stuff a wet washcloth in the over-flow drain hole otherwise most of your plunging power will be wasted moving the water in the overflow path up and down instead of moving the water in the P-trap.

19 Bill September 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Liquid dishwashing detergent has been really helpful around my house to clear the really difficult clogs. Just squirt two or three seconds worth down the toilet, wait a little while, and flush; be ready to grab the flapper, though, in the event it was unsuccessful. It sometimes takes two or three iterations to clear a really substantial load.

20 Justin September 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

In our house, toilets are plugged on a daily basis. We’ve spent many years unable to discover whether this is a plumbing issue or a biological one, but it has led to a surfeit of plunging experience for my father and I. In my experience, with a 100% human waste blockage, your biggest issue is how big the obstruction is. If it’s blocking nearly the whole pipe, flushing will cause the bowl to fill nearly to the top and lower extremely slowly. Luckily, clogs like this are usually the easiest to clear, as plunging puts more pressure on the entirety of the block. It’s the small blockages, that only obstruct a portion of the pipe, that take time and effort. Many times the majority of the water will flow right around the block, making it hard to get the pressure you need. Luckily for me, time and effort has always proved successful in vanquishing these modern beasts of the household.

Also, you didn’t mention them, but our household uses a plastic plunger with a flange and accordion section instead of the typical suction cup. I’ve found it to be extremely effective at clearing blocks, and as a bonus never causes “splashback”.

21 Michael Sallmen September 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Flapper valve or intake shutoff valve? I’d say the flapper valve unless your hostess has a burning candle or something inhibiting a speedy removal of the tank lid. In older houses especially, the shutoff valve may have seized long ago and might even come off in your hand!

Don’t forget the final step — once all is clear, rinse the plunger thoroughly with clean water in the toilet bowl.

22 Jack September 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I can’t believe the best clogged toilet tip *ever* hasn’t been posted yet. Two words: liquid soap. A few pumps of hand soap, or even better, dish soap, let it sit, then flush. Works a treat. Google it.

23 Jim September 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm

We have 3 young children in the house, and seems like we were getting a couple of clogs a month, usually pretty messy. The problem was always too much paper. To avoid the clogs, we told the kids to flush after their ‘movement’ but before putting paper in the toilet. Then they can flush again when they’ve cleaned their bums. This method uses more water, but it was a trade off we were willing to make!

24 MG September 5, 2009 at 11:24 pm

(1) If the water’s too high and plunging makes a mess, try just letting it sit for a while, even a long while. Often enough, it’ll drain slowly, enough to make the amount of water easier to work with.

(2) I’ve never tried the heat-the-plunger-with-hot-water trick, but remember that that means you’re putting the plunger into the sink or the tub. Even on the assumption that the previous user rinsed the plunger, this is still pretty gross and in fact it could transmit some nasty infection to someone. I would say DON’T do this in the sink, and if you do it in the tub, clean the tub really well with some kind of disinfectant after.

25 plumbarius September 6, 2009 at 9:41 am

Hey guys,
I am a master plumber and believe it or not….poop is the least likely cause of clogged water closets. WC’s are engineered to flush objects 2-3″ in circumference..can anyone out there match that?? :-)

In my experience, #1 is too much toilet paper or worse paper towels, followed by flushing tampons down, kids/little toys and occasionally a dog dropping a tennis ball into the bowl while getting a drink.

I would be cautious about putting very hot water into a vitreous china fixture, particular if that fixture always has cool/cold water in it and suddenly shocking it
w/ hot water could cause it to crack… $$$$

Plumbers protect the health of the nation!

26 Roger T September 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Gravity rules. Try and hold back Niagara Falls. Many clogs are not true clogs but incomplete clearing of matter through the toilet trap. Our newer toilet is a water-saver model. It regularly clogs for my wife; never (yet) for me. The difference is how we flush. She flushes by pushing the handle down once, often followed by the complaint that the toilet is clogged. This requires plunging and several flushes.

I use a pre-emptive strike following my activity. On my flush, I push and hold the handle down, increasing the amount of water applied to the potential obstruction. The toilet flushes with 1.6 liters which moves the contents along, but holding down the handle lets another 1.5 liters–already in the tank–through and seems to be enough to fully push the contents through the trap. I have never located any instructions for the model of toilet, but it definitely operates as a two-stage flusher despite not having a dual-mode labeled handle.

Try holding the handle down for the flush if the toilet is a water-saver; it might be the solution.

27 A. P. Othieno September 11, 2009 at 10:55 am

So You Want My Job: Plumber? ;-)

28 Dave September 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I know you’re unlikely to find one at a friends house, but we (I actually, as its always me that causes it I’m afraid) have one of those compressed air plungers that always clears it with one or two blasts. Make sure you get the extension handle though… Pretty good at clearing sink pipes and plugs as well actually. Might try the detergent trick next time though.

29 onemadscientist September 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Sometimes if you turn on the sink, or other water sources in another room you create a vacuum that sucks it out as well.

30 krzystoff September 18, 2009 at 8:50 am

I lived in the USA for a while — my family found that every where you go, the toilets would block, it is so common a problem that most people we visited would tell us to put soiled toilet tissue in a waste basket, not in the toilet — imagine the hygiene and vermin problems!

the size of domestic sewer pipes used in the US varies from as little 3″ (70mm) up to 6″ (140mm) for multi-unit developments, with 8-10″ used in public pipes.
in Australia and most of Europe 4-6″ pipes are the norm in homes.

the restricted size of American sewers is compounded by the large volume of water — dual-flush / low-flow cisterns are still pretty uncommon; added to that is high water level in the bowl (it seems almost a half-bidet for the uninitiated) — so there is a lot of water that has to be moved along with your crap down a narrow pipe, tiny pieces of paper are evidently too much for them.

as for unblocking — I’ve tried filling the bowl with Coca-Cola, but found that a few litres of it does nothing except help stain the porcelain — you’d probably need a lot to do anything more than what water pressure and gravity does by itself.

the detergent sounds like a winner — the enzymes in detergent are what targets specific components of waste matter (fats/starches/etc), although bear in mind not all detergents are made equal — a really cheap one probably won’t do much for your toilet except give it that lemon scented bubble freshening.

it begs the question — why there isn’t something specifically engineered for this purpose, that you could add every so often to your cistern, to remove calcium deposits and sewer ‘plaque’ from the pipes!

31 meredith September 19, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Thank you GUYS. How ’bout teaching the ladies of the house “how to” instead of yelling at us for “letting the child/dog/kid/ whatever” get near the toilet. Nothing is more frustrating and/or mortifying than to be treated rudely in a moment of distress. An upstairs toilet has overflowed so many times that the ceilings of the rooms below need to be removed and replaced.
Why hasn’t someone come up with a “drainage pan” situated under the floor below the toilet and along the edge of the bathtub to catch this overflow and direct it to a secondary drain pipe which would eventually connect with the sink drain. The water would not contain any fecal matter and though “contaminated” could be directed toward a secondary drain.

Who has the answer?

32 No 2 September 20, 2009 at 6:55 am

Who keeps dishwashing liquid in the palace? Besides, shampoo works much better, especially if you have a little time to let it work its magic. Grab it from the shower, jet it in the toilet, and let it sit for as long as possible. It will often loosen and clear clogs all on it’s own (if they’re not insanely packed in). I find that shampoos that are denser than water (they sink to the bottom quickly) work best. This hack also works best with a bowl that’s full of water — probably because the pressure of the water on the clog pushes the shampoo into the clogging matter. An added benefit — when you’re done and the bowl’s unclogged, your bathrooom smells shampoo-ey fresh.

33 bechir September 25, 2009 at 3:48 am

in my case ,i had a blockage in my toilet and fixed the problem by banging the pipes with a hammer ,havent had any problems since

34 Building Materials Supplies October 2, 2009 at 4:59 am

How to Unclog a Toilet Like a Plumber

Thanks for sharing

35 Mark October 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm

thanks – I tried the hot water and detergent with a stubborn blockage a few minutes later I heard a hiss and air pop from the drain. cool idea, it’s like alka zeltzer.

36 Ben October 24, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I think it’s hilarious that we’re on a website about being manly, and so many men are dancing around the word ‘feces’ like we’re all going to be permanently damaged by the mere mention of it.

from the article:
“To put it mildly, the heat helps break the, um, stuff up.”

I just read another article on this site that suggested leaving out disposable words such as “um”. A true manly man uses scientific and technical words in situations like these and saves the slang words for the locker room/mens’s club.

37 Ryan November 17, 2009 at 6:42 pm

This is a great site and article. “The “hot bucket” theory has saved from countless embarrassing situations.

I’m not sure if this has been mentioned before but I thought I’d offer a quick tip: If you find yourself in a foreign bathroom without a plunger, quickly survey your surroundings and look for a wastebasket. Empty out the wastebasket (people rarely keep a lot of garbage in their bathroom wastebasket) and fill it up with hot water from the sink. If stealth is not a concern, you can fill up the basket from the shower head for quicker results. Pour the hot bucket down the toilet carefully and the clog will be fixed in no time.

Now, if all they have is a wire-mesh wastebasket, a toilet scrub brush sometimes does the trick. Take a couple of jabs at the stool and try to re-flush. It’s a little crude, but if your motivated, you can make it work.

38 Ken Pasco November 19, 2009 at 12:27 am

The article talks about using toilet paper sparingly, which is good advice, BUT, if you just drop the paper in the toilet, WITHOUT BALLING IT UP, you’ll never have a problem. It’s only when you ball up the paper that you get a clogged toilet.

39 MT December 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I suspect that my toliet is clogged due to a wooden ear cleaner (5 inches long, 2 cm thick) being stuck in the pipes thus creating back ups with toilet paper. Any tips on how to remove it? Use an auger?

40 Tarcas January 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I had a similar problem new year’s day. There was a comb caught in the base of the toilet which had caught toilet paper. I had to take the toilet completely off the flange to expose the base; only then could I locate and identify the cause of the problem. If it’s giving you trouble, it’s worth the hour or so that it will take. Please note that I am not a plumber and have only helped a friend remove a toilet once. (Any plumbers, please feel free to correct me.)
The only expense, assuming you have all the tools already and don’t break anything, is a wax ring ($5 or less) and some plumber’s putty, teflon tape, and caulk. I’m sure you can find directions online. I found mine in a book: Black and Decker’s Complete Guide to Home Plumbing.

41 Jahn January 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

Looking at The Bigger Picture, it seems to me that many of our problems are caused by the advent of low-flow commodes over the years. I almost always flush twice and have never (knock wood) had a problem.

One thing I would advise is to always block the flapper instead of trying to turn off the valve. Even if you’ve got a very quick hand, there’s still all that water in the tank that’s going to go down into the bowl (and possibly onto the floor!).

I’ve never had to go the dish soap route, but I’ve made a mental note of it.

Of course, by now, we should all have gotten the idea that there should be a plunger in EVERY bathroom. It’s kind of like a gun — better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it. :-)

(A note about those low-flow toilets: Yeah, they can clear the bowl. But can they *reliably* clear the line? Apparently not. It’s good to give an extra flush every once in a while.)

42 Rich January 15, 2010 at 5:25 pm

What is it with American toilets? I never had one block in my 30 years of living in the UK but over here, it’s a semi-regular occurrence. I even bought one with a specifically enlarged exit and it still blocks from time to time.

You may poke fun at the British and their lack of mixer taps but at least they don’t have to worry about pumping their poop around manually.

43 tad January 31, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I’ve owned two toilet augers in the past, and they’ve become rusty and difficult to use fairly quickly. Any recommendations for rust-proof augers and tips on maintenance?

44 A Girl April 1, 2010 at 4:17 am

Thanks to Google and your natural search results, I was able to (hopefully) unclog a rather clogged toilet. The dishsoap method usually works, but this particular clog called for hot water (learned here) and the hanger. 1.5 hours later, I think it’s okay. Now I know why plumbers charge so much. Thanks for the tips.

45 Relieved April 12, 2010 at 3:29 am

Today I had a really bad clog. I have several different types of plungers (regular, with flange and accordion style) and tried 30-40 times to clear the clog applying a LOT of pressure with no success. I was convinced we needed to call a plumber as we have had trouble with this particular toilet since we moved into the house. In fact, it had a clog just a few days before. My wife found this article and said let’s give the dish soap and hot water a try… what do we have to lose. So, we put it 4 tablespoons of dish soap and 4-6 cups of hot water (not exact but enough to fill the bowl half to 3/4 full). We then waited about 5 minutes and I tried plunging again. After about 3 tries, the blockage cleared! Wow! It worked like a charm. You just saved a big chunk of change. Thank you!

46 kim April 24, 2010 at 12:33 am

ok, i am breaking up the sterotype here, lol. i am the woman of the house and the only one awake to do the job. here;s hoping the hot water and dish soap will do the trick!

47 Jake May 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm

How about we cut to the chase and be manly about this. Convert your toilet drain to a 12″ pipe. Have a high pressure air system back by a 5 gallon reserve tank forced through by a water pump driven by a 6.2 Hemi engone lifted out of a Dodge Challenger. Imagine being at a neighborhood BBQ and when the subject of plumbing comes up, you can just say ” Yesterday I ate a huge breakfast, a rack of ribs for lunch and an all you can eat Mexican buffet for dinner. Yep when the inevitable happened, my toilet swallowed everything like the Atlantic did the Titanic…only no survivors. Plus I use it for paperwork. Screw shredders.”

48 KZ May 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Never would have thought of hot water & dishwasher detergent – worked like a charm & I didn’t have to make that embarrassing call to my landlord : )

49 JACQ June 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm

*SHOCKED* I have had a toilet clogged for 5 days and nothing worked to clear the clog (daughter uses way too much paper). Even spent $15.00 on a product safe for unclogging toilets. I tried dish detergent after reading your suggestions and the toilet cleared in under a minute!!! As a single mom with NO money for a plumber, I want to thank all you manly men for letting me in on your secret!!

50 Jimbo June 10, 2010 at 4:08 am

Here’s one more VERY relieved reader! Toilet was clogged all day; plunged to no avail. Was getting very nervous about possible plumber bills, but a gallon of hot tap water, a few squirts of dish soap and 3 or 4 plunges cleared it right out! My Dad never taught me about the soap and hot water method, but I’m sure going to tell him about it. Thank you for posting this info!

51 Krissy June 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

The hot water method worked wonderfully! I had to use 2 pots of boiling water, but now my toilet is unclogged!

52 plunger virgin June 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

First time, no problems, great tips.

Take note: bitchy gays can do manly things too!

53 J June 20, 2010 at 2:44 am

Wow. It worked so quickly. I just poured the hot water and it flushed on it’s own! Thank you!

54 greg mckitrick August 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

Hot water can work in some situations, but what worked for me was getting one of the small rubber hose end sprayer , you screw it onto the end of your hose , put it in the toilet , past the bowl up the pipe a few inches , then turn on the water , it swells up to the size of your pipe and blows out the clog , works great, and only costs about 15 dollars, I tried a snake and hot water, but this is what worked for me.

55 Annette September 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

Just tried this technique, new plunger warmed under hot water, a couple of pitchers of hot water, some elbow grease and after two tries I can use my toilet again!! Thanks so much in NC.

56 Trixie October 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I just stumbled upon this post due to my own clogged toilet. I was skeptical of the hot water/dish detergent method, but it finally worked. Took about two hours of pouring hot water in the bowl, adding some squirts of dishwashing liquid and plunging, but it was ultimately successful and the toilet just suddenly flushed no problem. Thank you so much! WIsh I’d known about this method years ago.

57 Chris October 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Excellent site! The hot water and detergent method saved me!! Thank you! Thank you!

58 tuni October 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm

thanks a bunch! repeat of everything and oh! MG! release! hot water! shampoo! (at least it smelled good) !!!!!! use Dawn dish or something like that !!! repeat with the plunger and after messing with it part of the afternoon finally it was working again!!! Don’t give up REPEAT! I also used cheap cola!

59 janet October 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm

After living in an asian country the past 4 years, I love the idea of the drains in the bathroom floor near the toilet.. makes washing the floor and any mishaps so much easier to clean… and the dont do toilet paper… sigh

60 College Student November 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Thank you so much!! I accidentally clogged our suite’s toilet, and thankfully found your website. I poured a bunch of hand soap and plunged like a mad-women.

61 Regina November 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm

It helps to be preventive. Just use the courtesy flush method when going to the bathroom. As soon as something comes out flush, then when theres more, flush again. Wipe then flush again. Yest you may use a little extra water, but not only will you NEVER have a clog, you won’t stink up the facility.

62 David November 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm

This page is a godsend. Thank you so much. The toilet I use is 15 years old (along with the house) and it always seems to get backed up. Usually I just use the plunger, but once it was really bad so I found this page. The soap method worked like a charm!

63 Julez November 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Thank you! You saved the day. I’m a single female who has to has to be self reliant. I had been trying to unclog a toilet for 2 days. The hot water and dish soap did the trick!

64 Dave December 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I have a question, my toiled got backed up for the second time in three weeks or so. I am eating healthy though. I’ve spend all day working on it, taking an hour or so break before going back. I’ve done the hot water and soap a few times but nothing. The auger isn’t working either. My parents are coming home today and I really don’t want to have to tell them it got backed up and then have to call a plumber. How many times should I try each option?

65 MarLo December 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I NEED HELP….The dish soap isn’t working. Plunging isn’t working. The clog is NOT working. I am desperate. Out of work and NO $ for a Plumber. OH, and I don’t have a wire hanger anywhere in sight. SOS

66 Liz December 9, 2012 at 2:39 am

Dishwashing liquid!! Who’d'a thunk?? I’ve been trying everything for the better part of 2 days to no avail. As a last-ditch Hail Mary I poured some dishwashing liquid in and left it while I went back online to surf for more ideas… within half an hour I heard a gurgle and the problem was gone. THANK YOU!!! (Oh and BTW this was through a nastily filled bowl… for which I understand you use a boat bilge pump and a bucket… I was fixing to do that tomorrow if all else failed.)

67 Sarcasmo December 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Well, I think the nasty clog in my toilet must be named Chuck Norris… because the hot water got “bitchslapped” when I poured it in, and the dish soap got “dropkicked” in the chin when it was tried.

After all these so called methods, the bowl is still not functional. Anyone got the 1-800 number for the Marines?

68 Sarcasmo December 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Nevermind, a lil shampoo and a few plunges…and the toilet flows as freely, as a senior citizen’s anus on prunes. LOL

69 Phyl December 14, 2012 at 1:14 am

You guys are awesome!!!!! I tried the plunger for several hours off and on and nothing would move. After reading all these comments, I put some hot water and a few squirts of shampoo and let it sit for a little. Just tried again and after 3 plunges— CLEAR. Wow, I can go to bed a happy camper. Thanks again.

70 Mary December 22, 2012 at 1:31 am

Yeah!! I followed the dishwasher liquid and hot water. I don’t even own a plunger! I boiled a pot of water and first poured about a couple of Tbs. of Dawn down the bowel, then the hot water. After 3 times of the same procedure, success! I was so happy! I will however invest in a plunger! Thanks so much for saving me on the cost of a plumber!!

71 Mary December 22, 2012 at 1:43 am

Thanks so much for the dishwashing liquid and hot water suggestion. After 3 x of the same, success! I felt like a million bucks!

72 Renee December 23, 2012 at 1:30 am

My hand hurts from plunging…someone should invent a friendlier plunger. The Auger,soap, nor hot water is working :(

73 SteveW December 23, 2012 at 11:09 am

We forgot to use a 2nd “flush and hold” for #2 after a bad buffet. I had to go out and rent the large comercial power auger (75′ long x 1″ line, 2.7″ head) after a clog formed 65′ and uphill from my back yard cleanout. Might have started with leaves falling in the cleanout after the “Landscaper” broke it off with a mower. The rental was at least $85/4 hours at the cheapest place and goes up if you don’t run full a blast of hot water to clean it during withdrawl. The shorter and smaller models I already own corrode and rust to death if you forget to also spray and wipe off with WD-40 and dry on the lawn in the sun. If you don’t they just break off in the pipe next time. If the snake (auger) gets stuck and breaks, you have to cut the pipe out at the blockage to fix it. $$$$$$

So remember DIYers… You WILL pay for the cost of experience. one way or the other. Hopefully, it’s only alot of your time.

74 Elijah Gale December 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I think I have a partial blockage. After a lot of plunging, it goes down slowly, but soon stops up again. I have plunged for days & bought special chemicals and neither have worked.

I live where it is very cold this time of year, Juneau, AK, and am wondering if the hot water may crack my toilet or harm my pipes. Also, is it dishwasher detergent or the old fashion dish washing stuff in a long plastic bottle?

We really need your help. Plumbers are really expensive here and hard to get out to our place.

Thank you.

75 jane December 31, 2012 at 12:34 am

How do you remove a wash rag from your stopped up commode?

76 Dustin January 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm

You guys are a total lifesaver! I used hot water (3 pint glasses) and 1 cup of tide laundry detergent and voila, it worked!

77 kendall January 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Tried all these tricks for about 4 hrs. None worked, wifey gets ahold of it and presto. Its worke

78 april January 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I am the “fix it person” at my house and the dish soap trick worked just great, thanks for saving me hundreds of dollars in plumber fees!!!

79 Steven Farrell January 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Your hot water and dishwasher soap worked perfectly. Before I hit your sight, I was plunging for 20 minutes. It took about a gallon of hot water & 10 minutes then woosh…………all was right with the world (& toilet).
THANKS from New Jersey.

80 Harry January 20, 2013 at 12:08 am

I was reading another website on tips to unclog a toilet using baking soda and vinegar, but I didn’t go that route. I’ll utilize those two items for food and deodorizer. Instead I read all of the comments on dishwashing soap. I used the Dawn brand. I shot 2 long squirts in the bowl, waited over an hour and poured hot water into the bowl. I flushed and the water was still slow going down. I used the plunger with cone for 5 minutes, flushed again, no change. I shot 2 long squirts again waited 2 hours. Poured hot water still slow. I flushed and pumped with the plunger for 5 minutes. Flushed. and WALA!! it worked!!! The water swished post haste. Flushed again to make sure. I’m a believer, I’ll swear to using this method forever. Now I don’t have to use another toilet to finish my business on the throne,
THANKS from Bremerton, WA.

81 Joy January 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Hello, I am a lady, and I plunge with the best of you men. If it needs done and my hub is at work than I have to do it. There is one trick that we have used in Missouri for years….. BLEACH !!!! I do plunge but I am an “air head lady”. Just recently I flushed potato peels down my toilet !!!! Ya I did say “Air head”, I used the plunger, hot water, dish soap, cola, snake, everything, and nothing worked, I was fed up and mad at myself for being so dumb. Then I poured a half a gallon of bleach down the drain, Instantly unclogged. Then took a shower for an hour. My hub got home and was non the wise of it.

82 the teenager January 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Hi, I’m 16 and for some reason have the tendency to clog the toilet and it always falls upon the adults to clean up my mess! This of course is absolutely humiliating so I came upon this website and I’m so glad I found it! Like everyone else, I at first was skeptical of the detergent/hot water method but lo and behold! it works! The toilet unclogged with a bit of plunging and nobody knows that there was a problem in the first place! I will be sure to keep this website as a reference if it happens again. Cheers!

83 Bow L. Moovmint January 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm

There are very few clogs involving human waste & TP that a good plunger can’t remedy. You just need to prime the toilet and use ‘proper’ plunging technique. I agree with lubricating the clog via hot water & dish soap. While it works, go dig out your trust plunger with the flange. This is very important. Do NOT use a standard pink rubber plunger that you see at the Dollar Stores. These are sink plungers and the rubber is not as pliable. Invest in a $3 ‘deluxe’ plunger at Wally World. For the person who suffered from the sore hand, they make plungers with ergonomic handles that cost only 50 cents more than one with the wooden dowels.

The tip is to slowly lower the plunger into the bowl so that the air is replaced by water. Form a seal directly over the hole and do short, quick bursts around 8-10 in all. If you had a good seal from the start, this should generate enough force to dislodge the blockage and all the water should drain from the bowl. Seriously, if you just get a plunger that is made of pliable rubber with a flange to make the proper seal, clogged waste doesn’t stand a chance.

84 John...get it February 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

Dawn detergent and hot or boiling water …it worked after about 20 min ….on a 3month old consumer guide top rated toilet ….that supposedly took STUFF way down the pipes ….whood a thunk it

85 no_hair_down_there February 10, 2013 at 4:56 am

on 2-9-13 i bought a new “lower bowl” toilet for 19.95 at home depot, and that solved the problem. After reading this page i think the hose with the blowing technique would have been easier and almost as successful.

86 Handymom February 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

This site was a day saver for me. I tried the dish soap, let it sit while I boiled water. After three pots of boiled water all done and the soap left the room with a very pleasent smell. I will pass this great tip along to my friends.

87 whosh February 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

hot water and dish soap saved my day thank you !!!!!!

88 Andrew C. February 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Hot water and dish washing detergent did the trick for me, along with a lil elbow grease and a plunger… Thanks! :)

89 ayc March 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, dish soap and hot water are working. It has been clogged for about a day and i have tried to use my plunger-it for many times, it was working in the past, but maybe this time it was a very bad clog….. anyway dish soap + hot water are rock this time.

90 SJ March 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

I’ve used the hot water and dish liquid method on 2 separate occasions it worked both times. Didn’t even need the plunger. Just poured about 4 gallons of hot water into the toilet and some Palmolive. I let it sit about 30 minutes and I saw the water already went down below the normal level. I flushed and everything was fine.

91 Jane March 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Well, thanks. I plunged, used an auger, went with Drano(Know I’m not suppose to but anyway…..) I was looking for a plumber on the internet when I cam eon this site and decided to try the dish washing detergent(I used Dawn) and hot water. By-bye clog.

92 Ken March 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I seriously took all your information re the dish detergent and hot water…because my plunger and snake on their own haven’t solved the problem for the past 5 days!!.The plumber said hot water would break the porcelain bowl. NOT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I poured 1/8 of soap down toliet, followed by a tea kettle full of boiling water……..Let sit for a few minutes….Plunged and flushed…Made some progress after 5 days finally….Repeated the process…1/8 cup soapfollowed by two tea kettles worth of boiling water…Plunged and let sit for 10 minutes…Plunged once more…FLUSHED…PRAISE THE LORD…I JUST SAVED $135.00!!!!! GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU WHO RECOMMENDED SOAP AND HOT WATER….WORKED LIKE A CHARM!!!!!!!!!! SAVED LOTS OF MONEY!!!!

93 JG March 12, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Thanks so much for this tip! My toilet clogged badly this evening (too much paper plus a sanitary product). No plunger. Usually flushing multiple times works, this time nothing was happening and the bowl draining excruciatingly slowly. It’s past midnight, I’m gearing myself up to stick my arm down the toilet with my dish washing gloves on. Came across this website and thought: I’ll give it a go. Four or five good squirts of dishwashing liquid, left it for 5 minutes, poured a kettle of boiling water slowly down the sides of the bowl. Left for another 10 minutes until the water level had gone back to normal, then flushed. Magic! Thank you SO MUCH!!!!!

94 RJ March 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Another success story! I used Palmolive dish soap, hot water, patience, a SLOW plunger, and repeated. Even more, while reading your posts, I could feel the pain of embarrassment from some. I never thought about what it would be like to ask a host for assistance in this matter. Now I know why my husband nearly bit my head off this morning before going to work. I will definitely be more sensitive the next time it happens. Plus, I have to own up to the fact that I have neglected the regular cleaning. Looks like I will be getting out the screwdriver….Thanks for ALL your comments!

95 SH March 24, 2013 at 1:09 am

I purchased a new toilet a few weeks ago, and it’s sitting in my bedroom waiting to be installed, while my current toilet is clogged. I’m the former wife of a plumber, so I know a lot about toilets. I’ve been plunging 45 minutes off and on, and nothing happens. My auger was lost when I moved, so I’m going to try the soap/hot water method now. BTW, the amount of water per flush has decreased from 5 gallons, to 3.5 in the 80s and 90s, and now 1.5 gallons per flush. In order to make the conservative water consumption work, they narrowed the exit trap. Otherwise, the water would have flowed right by the excrement and paper, and went on it’s merry way without picking it up. As a result, the doggone things now stop up because a good bit of poop can’t fit through the exit! I swear it doesn’t seem to conserve water much when you have to flush 3 or 4 times to get it cleared out!

96 RL March 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Hot water alone solved the clog.. Thank you for this helpful info!

97 Rick March 28, 2013 at 3:08 am

I didn’t want my two roommates to know I clog toilets on a regular basis. This time the plunger just wouldn’t do it, and I’m GOOD at plunging, what with all the practice I get. It semi-flushed, so the blockage was gone enough that I couldn’t get enough pressure – the water was presumably just going right around it. I thought for sure I’d have to come clean and borrow my dad’s auger.

If it weren’t for the dozens of success stories for the soap-and-hot-water method on this very page – if there were only a few – I wouldn’t have bothered trying it. It seems counterintuitive when the clog is so far away that the water’s not even brown.

So I tried it. First, dishsoap, half an hour wait, and 2 litres of hot water. Seemed to go down a little better. Second try (running out of dishsoap), shampoo, an hour wait, and 2 litres of hot water. Didn’t go down quite right, thought I’d try some more plunging, but one flush actually took care of it.

I can’t stress how much this solution blows my mind. If you, reading this, think it’s not going to work for you, try it anyway. It may just save you a ton of effort or money.

98 Chelsea Plumbers April 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm

This is a great guide,of course every home should have a high quality plunger.You won’t know it is blocked in most cases until either you flush and see the water rapidly rising or someone mentions it.
Allow the water to drain,it helps break up some of the “waste” simply due to the weight of the water.It will eventually go right down.The washing up liquid trick works well,It simply reduces the friction.
Hot water helps break up waste(usually too much toilet paper).

Yes it will save you money because you won’t need to call a plumber and as is rightly stated alot of plumbers use this very method…great guide.

99 Plumbing in London April 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Great summary. The dish washing soap is an excellent idea I’ve heard before and it does seem to help. I think it helps the toilet paper dissolve, right?

I will remember to tell people to run hot water on the plunger. It’s something I know to do myself, but I always forget to tell people that.

Also, great comment on stopping the water using the flapper. Much more pleasant than trying to turn off the water supply (I’ve done that in a panic before when I wasn’t thinking) by getting on your knees.

Great resource.

100 Bill April 30, 2013 at 9:38 am

I had to resort to the auger to unclog my daughters (!?) toilet but it worked perfectly. $11 spent at a local hardware store is a lot better than $135 for a plumber. Thanks for the tips.

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