What To Do When Toilet Won’t Unclog (Even With Plunger)

The last thing anyone wants to deal with is a clogged toilet, but it's an issue you’re bound to run into. It can be pretty frustrating when you’ve tried different things, and the toilet still won’t unclog. If you’ve already tried a plunger, it’s possible you simply didn’t do it correctly. 

In other cases, a tough clog might just require different ideas. Fortunately, there are many different ways to unclog a badly clogged toilet. Each strategy is simple, effective, and requires little to no plumbing expertise.

Before you call a plumber, here are the seven things to do when your toilet won’t unclog and expert steps to follow.  

1. Use A Plunger

using bathroom plunger

The plunger remains a time-tested and reliable way to clear a toilet clog. Much of your success depends on using the correct techniques. If you’ve tried using a plunger and that didn’t work, it can simply be that you weren’t using it the right way.

If the towel is full of water, try to scoop out as much as possible to avoid making a mess. Lay down some old towels to protect your floors.

The best type of plunger is the flange plunger. An extra rubber element helps the plunger create an airtight seal around the hole. Other plungers also work, but you might need to use a little more elbow grease.

Follow these tips for maximum effectiveness:

  • Hold the plunger upright. If you hold it at an angle, you'll have a more challenging time keeping the seal tight around the hole.
  • Burp the plunger. Move the plunger up and down for about 20 seconds as forcefully as you can. Don't break the airtight seal since this is crucial.
  • Lift the plunger. Breaking the seal around the hole allows the toilet water to drain.
  • Repeat the process. You might need several 20-second sessions to remove the obstruction.

Plunging is usually the fastest way to unclog a toilet, but it's not always the most powerful. If it doesn't work, there are stronger strategies you can try.

2. Use A Plumbing Snake

Professional plumbers commonly use plumbing snakes, but they're simple enough for an amateur to use at home.

Also known as a closet auger, drain snake or drain auger, a toilet snake is a thin, flexible wire coated with rubber. It can extend through the toilet into any large plumbing system.

The snake twists to loosen the clog, which you can then flush away. The snake is similar to the wire hanger in many ways, only longer and much easier to control.  

Snakes can require some practice to use correctly. Fortunately, attempting to loosen a clog with a snake is unlikely to damage your home plumbing, even if you're unsuccessful. 

3. Use A Wire Coat Hanger

Don't let the low-tech nature of this tip fool you. A wire hanger is often an incredibly efficient way to clear up a blog.

First, prepare the wire hanger before using it by straightening it out to create a long hook. Then, wrap a piece of cloth around the hook end and secure it in place with either duct tape or rubber bands. The cloth will protect your toilet from scratches, so ensure it's securely attached.

Push the wire coat hanger into the toilet as far as possible. Twist it around in a circular motion to help break up the clog. After working away the obstruction, flush the toilet.

If the toilet water is still too low or not flowing properly, the clog is likely too far into the toilet pipe for the hanger to reach. A toilet snake is likely the better option since it can go farther.  

4. Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar create a powerful, all-natural cleaner when mixed. It can remove mineral deposits, hard water stains, and stubborn clogs. 

baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda has a pH of nine, making it a base. It effectively dissolves organic material, including dirt, grease, and fecal matter. Plus, it's slightly abrasive, which helps remove material without scratching softer surfaces like porcelain.

Vinegar, an acid with a pH of two, breaks down many different kinds of minerals, such as hard water, which is water with an excess of calcium and magnesium. The hardness of water varies by location since each city and state has water with a different amount of minerals.

Pour one cup of baking soda followed by one cup of vinegar. You'll be able to hear a sizzling sound as the two substances create a chemical reaction. To fully unclog your toilet, you might have to leave the mixture in the toilet bowl for up to two hours.

Aside from unclogging toilets, this is also an effective way to clear out most fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen, such as sinks, tubs, and showers. 

5. Use An Enzyme Cleaner

Enzyme cleaners break down organic materials, making them effective at removing clogs caused by human waste, toilet paper, and other common sources of bathroom clogs.

Make sure you only use enzyme cleaners made for septic systems (not, for instance, enzyme cleaners for carpets). Generally, any product safe for use in sinks is acceptable to use in a toilet.

Using an enzyme cleaner is simple. You pour the drain cleaner into the toilet bowl and typically wait about ten minutes before flushing. While you always want to check the specific directions, using enzyme cleaner on a clog you've already tried to treat with dish soap, and hot water or vinegar and baking soda shouldn't pose any problems.

Enzyme cleaners are also an effective way to prevent clogs in the first place. Regular enzyme treatments remove organic material before it has a chance to build up over time. 

6. Dissolve Using A Mix Of Dish Soap and Hot Water

Dish soap and hot water can dissolve many types of organic clogs. Any ordinary dish soap should work without an issue.

The water should be the hottest temperature available from the tap. But don't use boiling water, as that can damage your plumbing system.

Pour about a dime-sized amount of dish soap into the toilet. Then, add about one gallon of warm water. Leave the mixture in the clogged toilet for around 15 minutes, and the clog should dissolve on its own.

The dish soap and warm water method is often an effective augmentation to other unclogging methods. So it’s worth trying other steps first.

7. Use A Wet/Dry Vacuum

A wet/dry vac is one of the most unique methods. Any standard shop vac will work, but ideally you want to use something substantial with a large capacity.

While a wet/vac is effective, this method can get messy. Place down some towels to help protect the floor from excessive water damage. Also, wear rubber gloves, goggles, and a face mask, to guard your face and arms against splashes.

First, use the vac to remove excess dirty water. Don't worry about the clog. Just try to get the toilet bowl as empty as possible.

With the vacuum off, place the nozzle into the clogged toilet. Move it forward until you feel the obstruction. Turn the vacuum on to its highest power. Ideally, the vacuum will pull the clog loose. Try flushing the toilet to gauge if it fills up with enough water to verify whether you fixed it or not.

It can work quite well when dealing with clogs caused by toilet paper.

Final Thoughts

When tackling clogged toilets, the best options are usually the simplest. A plunger or snake can remove many clogs in just a few minutes. For tougher clogs, try vinegar and baking soda, hot water, dish soap, or an enzyme cleaner to help break up any organic material. If you find yourself dealing with consistent clogs, it might be worth replacing your toilet with a new anti-clog toilet.

Plus, take care of your toilet to prevent clogs in the future by performing routine plumbing maintenance and avoiding flushing anything that could potentially cause a problem, such as wipes or other common feminine care products. 

The next time your toilet clogs, use the strategies above to solve the problem with ease! 

About the author 

Ryan Thompson is a residential and commercial plumber from Miami, Florida. He has over 20+ years of plumbing experience. He is also a huge DIY enthusiast who does all types of improvement projects around the house.

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