Clear a Clogged Toilet

A clogged toilet is one of the most common toilet problems. Clogged toilets can be caused by too much toilet paper use, unusually large waste deposits or small children flushing things down the toilet they shouldn't be flushing.

The good news is that clogged toilets are an easy problem to fix. Most people reach for the plunger and often the plunger is effective. But what do you do if the plunger doesn't work? And, is there a better type of plunger to use? Read more to find out.

The Plunger

The plunger is the most common, cost-effective and efficient way to clear a clogged toilet. But you need to make sure you have the right type of plunger and that you're using it properly.

For a plunger to work there needs to be enough water in the toilet to completely cover the rubber suction cup. If there isn't enough water, fill a pail with water and pour just enough water in the toilet to cover the rubber suction cup. Then all you have to do is work the plunger handle up and down so that air is forced into the bowl siphon which will (hopefully) fix the clog.

Choosing a Plunger

Many people make the mistake of purchasing the wrong type of plunger and then wonder why it's not working. There are a few different types of plungers and not all of them will work very well in a toilet.

One type of plunger many people mistakenly use for toilets is the sink plunger. It's made of a small- to medium-sized pliable rubber cup (often brown or brick colored) attached to a long, smooth handle. It can create a vacuum (also called creating negative pressure) or positive pressure which involves forcing the cup down.

This type of plunger is more effective on flat surfaces so that a suction seal can be created. Its design is ideal for sinks and tubs but not toilets because too much air gets around the rubber cup preventing it from creating a seal.

There is a type of plunger specifically designed for toilets. It's called the uninspired name, toilet plunger. It's similar to the sink plunger but it has a larger, less pliable cup and a fold out flap that fits into the trap of the toilet. Some toilet plungers have flaps that can be folded down for use in sinks, although for sanitary reasons you may not want to share the same plunger between the toilet and a sink. Usually the rubber cup on a toilet plunge is black.

Accordion style plungers are large and apply a significant amount of force which can make them effective at getting rid of stubborn toilet clogs. They take up a lot of space and can't be discreetly stored in or behind a bathroom vanity. They also don't have the versatility of other plungers.

Experts recommend against using air operated plungers. The theory behind them is that they form a suction seal when the handle is pulled out. Pressurized air is released into the drain when the handle is depressed. Air operated plungers are supposed to be more effective at clearing a clog because the pressurized air is more powerful and can basically blast the clog away. Experts warn that the plunger quickly loses its ability to create a seal or can't create a seal in the curves of a toilet bowl. Air operated plungers have been called overpriced and gimmicky.

A Closet Auger

The long sleeve or tube (snake) of an auger can make it more effective at getting rid of more stubborn clogs, or toilet clogs past the bowl siphon and further in the pipe. The tool has a crank on the end that helps you steer it through the pipe.

To use, insert the auger in the toilet trap and turn the crack until it's tight. This means the snake is twisted in or around the blockage. Pull the auger and the blockage out. Repeat if necessary.