Two of the scariest things that can happen when you’re using the toilet in someone else’s house are a floater and a blockage. Unfortunately, both incidences illicit the same reaction. Your reflex response is to stuff toilet paper down the toilet bowl and flush it again, which sometimes makes things work.
While we don’t have a solution for floaters, we can give you a few tips on how to fix a clog. Of course these tips are best used for the toilet in your own house, since we’re not entirely sure how your host would feel about you fishing around in their bathroom with strange looking tools. It could go either way. You could score major points for your plumbing skills or be banned from their house forever.
Spot the clog
Assuming you didn’t directly cause the problem, play detective and ask the other members of the household what they may have shoved down the toilet. It could be anything from kids’ toys to make up, and you’ll have to be very skillful in your questioning since nobody wants to admit guilt. However, knowing what caused the blockage will make it a lot easier to solve.
Most of the time, the clogs are caused by toilet paper and stuffed waste, but it might be something else. The water level in the toilet bowl will probably be quite high, and if you try to do anything right away, you’ll just end up in a soppy mess, so let the water sink a little, or scoop some of it out. Whatever you do, don’t flush the toilet again, since that will just make the water overflow.
Double check the cistern
The issue might not be in the bowl itself. It might be in the toilet’s drainage system. Open the cistern and pull up the flapper valve just a little bit. If your toilet drainage is working fine, the water level in the bowl should rise slightly, meaning the problem is further down the S-curve.
Get hold of a toilet plunger. It looks like a regular plunger, but it has a flange extension at the end to help it grip the toilet better. The water level in the bowl should be just enough to cover the plunger, because pushing it outside of water cover will spill waste all over you, so if the water level is too low, fill it out a little.
Practice your plunging technique
Push the plunger into the toilet bowl, pushing it as far in as it will go. Push down on the plunger gently as first, to expel the air inside the flange. Then push and pull in a steady motion, using extra effort every three or four plunges. You’ll know the toilet is unclogged if you pull out the plunger and the water flows into the hole.
Alternatively, whatever was causing the blockage might lodge itself on the flange so you’ll see the blocker when you pull the plunger out. You may have to push and pull for 15 to 20 cycles before you see any effect, so be a little patient. Most of the time, plunging is enough to unblock the toilet, but it doesn’t always work. Plan B is to get a toilet snake.
Twist the snake
Toilet snakes can be complex plumbing tools wrapped in plastic, to prevent them from scratching the surface of the toilet while you twist them around, or they could be simple coils of wire that you can push into the S curve. The tip of the snake is made of coiled wire, so as you twist the snake anti-clockwise, the wire coils into the clogging material and breaks it into smaller bits.
You may see the smaller bits seeping back into the bowl, or you may notice that the water is going down, both signs that the blockage is gone. Pull out the snake and you’ll probably see bits of the blocking material attached to the end of the snake. If snaking and plunging still don’t solve the problem, try a wet-and-dry vacuum as a last ditch effort before you remove the whole toilet.
Pull the toilet up
This isn’t very easy to do, and at this point, you may want to give in and just call the plumber. Still, plumbers can be pricey so if you’re feeling brave enough, shut off the water mains, unscrew the toile parts, and remove it from the floor. This gives you access both to the S curve and the section of the pipes beneath the floor.
Use a flashlight to identify the clog and pull it out, with gloves of course. You could also try using the plunger and snake in the main drain pipe to see of you can dislodge the blockage that way. If none of this works, steel yourself and call the plumber because you probably need their help.