Imagine a scenario. You’re visiting your in-laws. It’s been a long day and you’ve eaten more than your fair share of Grandma’s casserole and Cousin Joe’s hot wings. What could be better than a relaxing visit to the bathroom?
Ah, the bathroom. It’s quiet and secluded. It feels quite comfortable to sit down for a few minutes. Perhaps you take in a story or two, thanks to the handy copy of Chilling Tales of the Porcelain Seat on the bathroom counter. But, alas, all good things must come to an end.
You press down the flusher, begin washing your hands, only to turn and realize that the water level is rising higher and higher. You hear the familiar hiss of the toilet running… but this time it’s not stopping! You frantically open cupboards and closets searching for the Holy Grail of the Bathroom, and there is no plunger to be found! What did you do to deserve this? The clock is ticking as the water inches upwards, and you find yourself wondering if you should just open the window and make a run for it, never to be seen again.
Any Roto-Rooter plumber will tell you, if there is anything you should buy long before you ever need it, it’s a plunger. But life is a wild ride and we aren’t always prepared for the worst. Believe it or not, there are a few tips and tricks you can try out the next time you find yourself in Plungerless Peril.
The first thing you need to do is stop the flow of water into the toilet. Remove the lid and pull the float up to stop the flow immediately. Then, shut off the water using the valve at the wall near the base of the toilet. This will give you a few minutes to breathe.
If the toilet is very very close to overflowing, you’ll need to find a bucket, cup or other device to remove some of the water. If you were able to shut the water off fairly quickly, fill the bucket or cup with very hot (but not boiling) water from the sink or tub. Pour it in the toilet a few cups at a time and wait a few minutes. The hot water should help break up the clog.
If the hot water doesn’t do the trick, try adding a surfactant. Dish soap, shampoo or even basic bar soap can help. Remove as much water as you can from the toilet bowl, then squirt a generous amount of soap in the toilet (break the bar soap up into small pieces), and repeat pouring hot water in. The soap should help lubricate the clog and pipes so things get moving.
If you still don’t have success with these methods, you may need to try to physically move the clog using a wire hanger. You can also attempt to “plunge” the toilet with the toilet brush. If the clog is close to being cleared, a few forceful pumps can generate enough pressure to move it through the pipes.
Once the water you’re pouring into the toilet is draining freely, turn the water back on at the valve and flush the toilet again. If you used soaps, flush several times to remove residue. The final step is to purchase plungers for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Warning: Do not pour boiling water into a toilet. The extreme heat could crack the porcelain. If you do heat water to boiling for this purpose, let it cool 8-10 minutes before pouring it in the toilet.
Lastly, try to avoid chemicals. Commercial drain cleaners have harsh chemicals that can damage pipes, and with time, overuse of these cleaners can cause corrosion and spring leaks. Certain types of pipes should never have drain cleaner chemicals used on them.
If none of these repairs unclog your toilet, you may have a bigger plumbing issue and you need to call an expert. Roto-Rooter professionals are available 24 hours a day to handle any bathroom plumbing emergency.