How To: Unclog a Toilet Without Calling a Plumber

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BY PROPERTY SOUP twitter @propertysoup

How To: Unclog a Toilet Without Calling a Plumber

Step #1: How to Deal With The Potential Source of the Problem:

This is the most important step so you avoid future problems.

Guys, it’s about to get real awkward up in here.  Ladies, this won’t bother you much, we know this is table talk for you. But guys, grab a beer for this one.

“I was the landlord for a property in the city. The house was rented by a group of girls and I hardly ever had a problem with them…until one day when I received a voicemail that the toilet was clogged, and the clothes washer was also leaking. I assumed it to be a simple fix that a plunger and a man’s touch could fix, but boy was I wrong. After an hour of plunging, I decided I needed to call a plumber. A few minutes (and $350 dollars) later, he pulled out what seemed to be about 100 tampons from the drain. I don’t know who was more uncomfortable; , me, or the 6 girls who were there to watch. I wish I could have just handled this on my own without a plumber.” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania


Oh, Anonymous, we feel your pain. 6 girls, one house, that’s a lot of tampons. It’s super important that you communicate to them that they have to stop the activity. But how do you do it without coming across as an insensitive jerk?

There’s no real easy way to communicate this. But as a landlord, you have to realize that situations like this can arise. Feminine care products are one of the most frequent causes of toilet clogs. And yet, we have such a hard time telling people about it. It’s understandable, of course. It’s quite taboo, especially coming from a man.  We have some tips to help get you through this difficult time.

(Important noteThese were composed by a girl, so they’re approved for women, by a woman.)

An army of one: Sitting all of the girls together, while logical, isn’t the easiest thing to do. Have you ever been 1 guy (or girl) amongst 6 girls? Especially if you’re a man, this takes your embarrassment and discomfort and multiplies it by 6. Because of this, we suggest you choose one of the tenants and communicate with her directly. She can then take your message and communicate it to the other girls.

There is the question of whether or not she will give the message. You can make sure you’re clear in stating that you fronted the bill this time, but if they cause this problem to occur again, then it’s grounds for them to have to pay. I assure you she’ll probably pass that one on to the others.

Be direct, yet understanding: The problem needs to be stated clearly. “The toilet was clogged with feminine care products. Please tell the other roommates that they cannot flush them down the toilet, that they need to wrap them up and dispose of them appropriately. I know this is kind of awkward, but, hey, it happens. No big deal, let’s just make sure it doesn’t occur again.”

Check In: After a month, ask them how the plumbing is working. Ask if there have been any slow moving toilet water, or leakage. This way, you can remind them again indirectly about keeping the plumbing in working order.


Step 2: Fix the Problem

So. We’ve all been there, we go in and use the bathroom, flush the toilet, wait for the satisfying “gargle” of a toilet well flushed; only to realize that the water level is rising, along with your blood pressure. As soon as we see a clog in the toilet, we instantly see dollar signs in anticipation of calling a plumber.

Sometimes it’s a simple paper clog that a good ole fashioned plunger can handle. A few pumps, and the gargle comes. A few test flushes and you’re good to go, everything is okay.

But sometimes it’s not okay. Sometimes you need to get out your heavy duty paper towels, rain coat, and golashes for the mess that is erupting from your toilet.

Before you go calling a plumber, and whipping our your checkbook and first born child to try and barter with to avoid paying those incredibly high plumber fees,  try out these tips. They may save your money and sanity from being wasted away.


Quick Hint: Be sure you have the right plunger. The correct plunger for toilet unclogging is shaped like a funnel on the end. Some people use sink plungers, assuming they’re easier to use. The funnel shaped, “old fashioned” plungers are better for toilet clogs because they force water into the drain to help unclog it.

This baby will be your best friend when it comes to a clog.

Solution A:

When plunging, make sure your plunger is over the toilet bowl hole and give it quick, strong plunges. Continue this for 30 seconds so that the pressure can build up and form a greater suction/release to try and push whatever is clogging the drain through. Try doing these 30 second plunges about 3 times, then flush to see if it has fixed your problem.

Also, instead of the quick, fast plunging, try pressing the plunger handle down until the plunger compresses, then pulling up with force to try and pull the clog to loosen it.

Solution B:

You know when the plumber comes out, he whips out his magical snake, and within about 30 seconds, your clog is unclogged, and your pockets and/or bank account are empty? Yeah. We know.

Another option, before hiring a plumber (which can cost anywhere from $50-$300 depending on who you go with, severity of the clog, etc.), is to simply rent the magical tool that he’s using.

The snake (which to buy, depending on the brand/quality, can be from $30 for the cheap model all the way up to $6-$700) is available to rent. Depending on how often your toilet is getting clogged, you probably are better off renting than buying. Unless you want to buy one, and rent it to your friends as a side job.

Seriously, you can rent a plumbing snake at Home Depot. The current up-to-the-minute price of a Mini-Rooter rental in Philadelphiais $48 for a 4 hour rental. 4 hours for a plumber is around $100. Plus a typical $150 for just coming out.  That’s $250.

$48…. $250…. you choose.

Solution C:

There are some things that you should not t use as toilet drain unclogging tools. Draino is one of those things.

Don’t get us wrong, Draino can work on your kitchen sink pipes. The reason why you should avoid using it in a toilet is because it can slowly eat away at your pipes. This will happen more quickly if your pipes are plastic. Not sure if your pipes are plastic or not? That’s exactly why you shouldn’t use Draino.

Draino and other chemicals like it can also cause heat in the ceramic bowl of the toilet than can, at the very least cause it to crack. The worst that can happen is that it can explode. That’s pretty bad. And expensive. And dangerous!

Chemicals of any kind are a last resort. As in, only try these if it’s the middle of the night, there’s no answer at your 24 hour plumber, and there’s some kind of emergency that requires you to have a functioning toilet. Sure, chemicals are much cheaper than hiring a plumber, or even renting the Mini-Rooter, but is it worth the potential damage?

Some chemicals, however have been designed for toilet use. Others are designed for other things and have been found to work. A popular website,, says to use a few tablespoons of dish washing liquid.  Pour it into the bowl and allow it to sit for 2 minutes. Afterwards, pour a pot of boiling water into the toilet. Then use the plunger one or two times using the above methods. Many people have reported this as a “Home Remedy” for unclogging a toilet.

Our vote: Avoid harsh chemicals. If not just for the danger of pipe damage, but for the environment too. Chemicals can be bad for your inhalation, as well as for Mother Nature itself.

Solution D:

If you’ve tried the above options with no luck, the next logical step may be to go ahead and purchase a new toilet. Instead of calling a plumber that could cost hundreds of dollars, check out this all-in-one toilet at Home Depot for 56.96.

Note from the Professionals: Always consult with a professional before doing anything crazy with your clogged drain. Don’t go shoving a hanger down your toilet. Don’t do what you THINK might work. If there’s a toy clogging your drain, then you’re going to need specialized help.

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