How to unblock a toilet

Having a blocked toilet can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience, so you will want to fix it as soon as possible. In this guide, we take you through some of the methods you can use to unblock your toilet using specialist products and items around your home.

Methods for unblocking a toilet:

Hot water

It may be possible to remove some blockages using hot water. First, turn off the water supply to your toilet to stop the cistern refilling. Then, wearing rubber gloves, remove as much of the stagnant water as you can and place it in a bucket. Next, pour half a glass of washing-up liquid into the bowl to help lubricate it then wait 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, pour 2-3 litres of hot but not boiling water into the bowl which should create pressure at the blockage. Pour the water quickly but be careful not to scald yourself.

Wait a few minutes to see if the water level falls. If the level doesn’t fall and there’s enough space inside the toilet bowl, repeat one more time. If the blockage persists, the next step is to try a plunger.

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First, take your plunger and cover the outlet hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl. If you’re not able to create a tight seal with the plunger, use old rags to plug any gaps. You can make your plunger more effective by running it under a hot tap first to soften the rubber.

Start with a gentle action to avoid pushing the blockage further down. Push gently downwards then pull up. Gradually increase the force with which you push and pull until the water starts to recede. Add more water to the bowl if necessary and repeat the procedure. Remove the plunger before flushing the toilet to see if the flow has returned to normal.

Baking soda

Pour half a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Then, heat 2-3 litres of water in a saucepan. Before the water boils, add half a cup of white vinegar to the pan.

Pour the vinegar and water mix into the toilet bowl and close the lid. When this combines with the baking soda it should start a chemical reaction that will generate a lot of foam. Allow the mix to work for 30 minutes then flush the toilet to see if the blockage has cleared.

Don’t use this method if your home has a cesspit or a septic tank.

Pouring baking soda into toilet bowlPouring baking soda into toilet bowlPouring baking soda into toilet bowlPouring baking soda into toilet bowl

Toilet auger

If you’ve tried the above methods and you still can’t shift the blockage, you could try a toilet auger. Toilet augers are flexible tools that can be pushed into the toilet to remove the blockage. Depending on the type of blockage, the auger can perforate it, destroy it or even extract it.

Push your auger into the toilet until you reach the blockage. You can then use the handle to rotate the auger while pushing downwards, which should begin to break up the blockage. If the tip of the auger pierces the blockage, you can pull the auger and the blockage out from the bowl.

You can then flush the toilet to check that you’ve completely cleared the blockage. If the blockage is caused by a solid object jammed in the waste outlet, you may have to remove the bowl to get at it.

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Pressure washer

If the other methods here have failed, a pressure washer may be needed, especially if the blockage is located far down the waste pipe. If you want to use your pressure washer to unblock your toilet, you’ll need a special pipe-cleaning kit consisting of a long hose with a special nozzle at the end. 

Insert the hose into your toilet, nozzle first. Switch on your pressure washer and the hose will be pulled along the pipe by a rearward jet of water produced by the nozzle. When the hose reaches the blockage, the water jet pushes on it and removes waste accumulated on the pipe walls.

How do I know if my toilet is blocked?

  • If water is draining from the bowl slowly, this is a sign a blockage is forming.
  • If the bowl is almost empty after flushing, there is a problem with air circulation in the waste pipes.
  • If the level of water in the bowl rises and doesn’t fall again, the pipe is completely blocked.

Why do toilets get blocked?

Toilet blockages can have many different causes:

  • Toilet paper
  • Build-ups of limescale
  • Wet wipes
  • Deodorant blocks
  • Waste
  • Children’s toys

How does a toilet work?

Most toilets are made up of a cistern connected to the water supply, a bowl that can be covered by a lid, a flushing mechanism and a waste outlet.

When the toilet is flushed, gravity causes the water in the cistern to flow rapidly into the bowl, carrying the waste away. Toilets may have horizontal or vertical waste outlets.

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Toilet components

  1. Cistern
  2. Water supply
  3. Lid
  4. Bowl
  5. Flushing mechanism
  6. Waste outlet

What is the easiest way to unblock a toilet?

Pouring hot water and washing up liquid into your toilet bowl is the easiest way to unblock a toilet. This method doesn’t require any special tools and uses items that you’ll probably already have at home.

Will a toilet eventually unblock?

Depending on the type of blockage a toilet can eventually unclog itself. Toilet paper may start to break down as the toilet is flushed. However, it’s best to try and fix the issue before the toilet overflows.

How can I stop a toilet blocking?

Close the toilet lid when the toilet isn't in use to stop small items falling into the bowl. You should also avoid disposing of sanitary towels, wet wipes or any decorating waste in your toilet.

As you can see, with a little patience and the right approach, you can quickly resolve this common household issue and restore proper function to your toilet.

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