We've all been there: you're using the toilets, flush the water, and it's still there. Flush again, to no avail. It's utterly clogged.

When at home I can simply call a plumber, but:

  • It costs money
  • It might happen outside your home, e.g. friend's house

Are there any hacks to handle such a crisis?

  • 21
    What's wrong with a plunger?
    – Justin
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:37
  • 2
    There's one VERY good reason not to use a plunger. Push down hard and you get a spout of sewage spraying you in the face. I've done it and it was not pleasant.
    – Lefty
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 19:45
  • 16
    That sounds like user error.
    – Sterno
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 20:54
  • 2
    @Sterno I'm prepared to accept that I may have not done it properly - please explain. The way I see it, if the outlet is blocked and I try to compress the water between the plunger and blockage then it will have to vent itself somewhere. In this case, a plume of sewage was projected with enough force to blast out through a full toilet.
    – Lefty
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 22:52
  • 2
    @Somp maybe at your place (USA?) but I never noticed any new design in my place. Dunno how easy it is to clog, just that it happens sometimes. :) Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 7:22

21 Answers 21


Use a toilet plunger. That's what it was designed for, and if you use it right, won't splash at all. Most people have one by the toilet, or in a small closet nearby. It's far more effective than using a brush, and much less messy.

enter image description here

  • Just a note, I have 1 toilet in particular which a plunger is surprisingly ineffective. :( The odd shape of the outlet doesn't match up with the plunger well. It really sucks .. :( I'm still trying different plungers to see if a better one fits properly .. however, not all plungers fit all toilets ... just an FYI. ;)
    – Ditto
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 14:54
  • 1
    Keep in mind when using this technique that after inserting the plunger, there is generally air in it. That air will compress, rendering the plunging stroke ineffective. This means you need to press on the plunger three or four times to get the air out. The first push with minimal air in the plunger typically is the one that clears the toilet.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:26
  • @Ditto When you buy a plunger it often comes with the rubber part folded in so that the plunger rests flat on the floor. You have to unfold that part before use to make a good seal with the toilet hole. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 1:27
  • @SurpriseDog have 1 ., tried it .. still doesn't fit the oval shape of the toilet .. shrug . what can I say, I have a weird toilet!! LOL
    – Ditto
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 21:39

A builder friend of mine who services student accommodation passed on this great tip that requires only a readily available and disposable tool - and no gloves:

  1. get a garbage bag. Most homes will have one, often in the bathroom. Check it has no manufactured perforations
  2. push one arm down to the bottom of the bag and hold the rim of the bag with the other
  3. using the hand inside the bin bag, reach under water to the drain hole. You may feel wet at this point - you aren't.
  4. now pump the palm of your hand over the drain hole as a crude plunger OR simply use your fingers to remove the obstruction
  5. once the blockage is dislodged or pulled out, the bowl should empty.
  6. invert the bag by clenching your hand and pulling towards you while holding the opening in place over the bowl.
  7. discard.

It's not usually necessary to hold the blockage inside the garbage bag, although this can be done if the blockage was something that didn't belong in the toilet in the first place - simply hold onto it as you invert the bag.

Garbage bags are also known as a trash bag, bin bag, refuse sack, black bag, etc, a well known brand is Hefty bag but many others and cheap generics are available. Plastic carrier/shopping bags often have perforations (as do garbage bags in some regions - @Angelo), and are prone to rip or puncture, so avoid.

  • 2
    Nice! ....in American English, I believe you're referring to what I'd call a "garbage bag." One major plus of this answer is that it's available in most bathrooms. +1
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 5:12
  • 1
    +1! I was about to post this exact hack. But note that there are countries that have holes in their garbage bags (to prevent suffocation, I think). Adding a note to check if thats not the case would be a good idea. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 12:29
  • Also another note: This works great in situations where the blockage does not come from excrement but things that don't belong in toilets. Especially useful if you have small children that sink tennis balls or playthings in the toilet. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 12:31

Personally I used Toilet Cleaning Brush whenever such thing happened:

Don't think I need to explain how to use it for unclogging, however as you can imagine it's quite gross, that's why I'm open for other, more elegant, ways.


I have this problem in my house as we speak! I've tackled it a lot in the past and it doesn't usually involve using rulers or brushes.

It really helps if you have another toilet and you can leave this one to "stew" for a while. The water will break down the blockage over time.

I like to add a LOT of bleach to the water - this aids in the breakdown too. I sometimes add detergent but not sure if this really helps or not.

Most effective is the use of PRESSURE. I usually achieve the additional pressure by filling the bowl as high as possible using an external source (to make sure it doesn't overflow). Usually the water will gradually trickle away, but you need to stand by and keep topping-up to keep the pressure as high as possible on the blockage.

A combination of these techniques nearly always prevails eventually.

UPDATE: After having typed above, went back to my toilet which had been left for about 3 hours. Filled it with water up to the brim and, like magic, the blockage swooshed away!

  • Interesting, I'll give it a try next time. :) Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 18:46
  • 2
    Not always an option at others' houses, though
    – J. Musser
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:11
  • @J.Musser you mean never really an option at others' house, I prefer to just close the lead and say "sorry, it got clogged, call a plumber". But no doubt it's interesting thing to try at home when needed. (I do have extra toilet, and prefer to avoid messing with the blockage with brush or plunger) Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 7:14

I see that someone suggested the plunger, but it was rejected as making too big a splash.

When using the plunging device, gently push all the air out, compressing the plunger. Quickly and abruptly pull ONE time. Let water settle briefly and repeat until cleared. I generally wait 2-3 seconds between hard pulls.

Good luck.

  • I think that is a great answer! I never knew that... That will be good for ME to know! :) If you ever need assistance, feel free to visit The Help Center.
    – L.B.
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 2:22

A "plumber's helper" or plunger with an internal lip makes a better seal - see the picture (copied from WP); the one on the left has that lip. These may cost a bit more than the flat type, though. Yes, it's messy, but chemicals are dangerous and often ineffective. Another tool, if the plunger fails, is the toilet auger - a metal snake with a rubber or plastic sleeve to protect the china bowl. Though "life hacks" may be about saving money, these tools are necessities and are less likely to damage a toilet than coat-hangers, high-pressure hoses or caustics.

enter image description here

  • The one on the right, with the large simple opening, is a kitchen plunger and not intended for use in toilets. Many people don't realize that they are buying the wrong tool. Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 13:55

A bit gross and I'm not sure it is any more elegant but I have heard that a long ruler (a 30cm one) can be used as a 'chopping' device to make the 'obstruction' smaller, obviously it doesn't help in floating situations.

I would recommend that it is a single use device though. You certainly don't want to take it back to your desk.

  • haha, think I'll go with the cleaning brush, plus keep in mind we don't usually walk around with long rulers in our pockets... (+1 for the effort and creative idea though :)) Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:06
  • @ShadowWizard neither did my colleague when she came into the office and asked to borrow a ruler only to immediately leave again. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:10
  • 1
    LOL... guess you didn't ask what she need the ruler for? Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:12
  • only after a couple of weeks when I never got it back and her friend started laughing uncontrollably. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:14
  • 2
    One more problem I just thought about: what exactly should we do with the ruler after using it for such a purpose? It won't really flush down the toilet... Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:17
  1. Unwind a wire hanger, leaving a hook at one end. Stick it down the toilet and poke repeatedly to dislodge the clog. You can also use the hook to try to pull the clog back up (ew). This should eventually work.

  2. If the above fails, find some rubber gloves and a 2 liter plastic bottle. Push the opening of the bottle into the bowl and down the drain area. Try to create a seal around the drain and bottle as well as possible. Now squeeze the bottle (the first squeeze will let out air and might splash a bit, so gloves would help here). Then repeatedly squeeze the bottle until the clog has dislodged. This does a similar suctioning method as the plunger would, but is a bit harder to use.

Instructions found here


You can use caustic soda. Be very careful when you use it and ensure that you dont get it on your hands. You generally need to mix it with water (cold water) and once mixed, pour it on the clogged toilet - leave it for 30 minutes and flush

  • This is kind of already mentioned in this other answer isn't the soda kind of detergent? Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 8:40
  • Yes. Caustic soda is nothing but Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and is used in soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. You should get this in any hardware store and is really effective
    – S.Krishna
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 8:45
  • 1
    You cannot use any detergent in your drain as it might not be effective. The amounts of Caustic Soda used in detergents are way less. But using plain caustic soda in clogged drains / toilets will fix the problem
    – S.Krishna
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 8:48

This one doesn't work at a friend's house if your goal is to avoid letting anyone know the thing is clogged. However, it works great if that's not a concern.

  1. Turn off the water to the tank. There should be a water inlet behind the toilet with a valve you can close by simply turning the handle until it's tight.
  2. Drain the water from the bowl. This might mean waiting for it to drain or, if it's really clogged, scooping out the water on top with something you can either throw away or wash in the dishwasher. The goal is to get the bowl as empty as possible. Yes, this part can be pretty gross.
  3. Boil water in your biggest pot. It'll take a while but using a lid really speeds it up.
  4. Pour the boiling water into the bowl and wait.

Typically, the water will straight-up dissolve whatever hellish mess you've left in there. It certainly works for solid human waste. If you've clogged it with a bunch of paper, though, it won't be quite as effective as the paper hold together much better.

  • If you are in colder climates, couldn't this crack the basin using boiling water? I am on well for example and it is like 40-45d year round.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:50
  • That's a fair point and I suppose it would depend on the temperature of the water in the tank as opposed to the ambient temperature. I've stayed in a poorly insulated house in Wisconsin and we switched the toilet's water feed to hot water to prevent sweat buildup dripping on the floor. That would work here, too, but it's not practical for just the occasional toilet clog. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:22
  • When we have a blockage we also use boiling water. But we don't go to any of this effort -- we just fill the kettle up and pour it in. Maybe do that twice, and then wait. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 14:56
  • 1
    @Oxinabox I only drain the bowl so I can get more hot water in there at once and it doesn't get cooled down as much by the water already in the system. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 15:09

If a toilet clogs very often, it is a sign of it being filled with water sediments. This is the case with most of the old toilets and in the areas with hard water.

You should remove the toilet and manually clean it from the other side of the pipe. You'll probably need a hammer and/or some other tool to break the sediments. The easier way is to change the toilet for a new one.

A toilet without any blockage should never clog unless you put in there something that should not go there.


In times of need I have heard that dish soap can unclog the toilet. I have no idea how, or why anyone even thought of it, but it's worth a try. If you're constantly getting clogged toilets, it might be best to just call out a plumber and get your pipes looked at.

  • Welcome to Lifehacks S.E.! I think this is a fine answer. Although it is not necessarily advised to recommend a purchase or some such - especially if the person has already stated they do not want to employ such a product or service - I understand why you have said what you said I would accept this as an answer. For more information, please visit The Help Center.
    – L.B.
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 16:31

When your toilet clogs up, squeeze at least three squirts of dish washing liquid into the bowl. The chemicals can help to break up the debris. Pour around four cups of hot water into the bowl.

Let everything soak for a while (20 minutes to a few hours) before attempting to flush.

I've actually tried this and it works!!


What always works for me is a 2-litre plastic bottle with the bottom cut off.

  • Use gloves and put the bottom of the bottle right in and unscrew the lid.
  • The bottle then fills up.
  • Screw the lid back on and instead of plunging squish the bottle right down.

The force of the water inside the bottle always clears it. This has never failed for me.


This is a drain cleaning bladder. You connect it to a hose and the bladder expands to give you a tight seal to wash away obstructions. They are typically available at hardware store and run anywhere from a few bucks to twenty bucks depending on quality and size. These are nice if the obstruction is in the pipe rather then in the toilet. A good flow for a couple minutes will also wash the obstruction clear of the smaller sewer pipes typically in the home.

You use these things when your toilet plunger is not able to effectively loosen and remove the clog. Try the plunger first, you really don't want to use the bladder until it is far enough in to be able to seat itself on a drain pipe. If it can't seat it can come shooting out like a rocket.

Using these is often a two person operation, since often you will be using a yard hose ran from an outside spigot. You don't really want to turn on the hose, then get to the bathroom to find the hose loose and spraying water all over the place. You want to be able to keep a hand on the hose when it is being turned on. These things also work great for grease clogs in the kitchen and washing machine drains. Everyone should have one handy.

enter image description here


General Prevention:

  1. If you know you have the potential to clog and are out and about, flush before you start to gauge the flushing capacity / force of the toilet, and if it doesn't 'seem' strong flush as you go.
  2. Flush before using Toilet paper.
  3. I have read that in some cultures / locations you simply do not put TP in the toilet and it goes straight to the trash.. something to consider. As a courtesy cover it up?
  4. Get a bidet /diaper washing hose installed on your toilet.

At home or away:

  1. Flush a second time, wait a minute or two. The water pressure in most cases will address the issue.
  2. Use the plunger, as most bathrooms have one.
  3. Use something nearby to reduce the solids in the toilet. If you used too much TP sometimes at a friends house you may not have many options. It is gross but use a Q-tip (found in most bathrooms) and remove the excess floating TP and place it in the trash. Your friend rather have a bit of wet TP in their trash

At Home:

  1. Keep a long handled flathead screwdriver in the cabinet to either scoop out excessive toilet paper or just "mix it" up if necessary. It is also a lot easier to clean than a toilet brush or plunger afterwards. Alternatively those plastic ripcord snakes for drains can be used to hook TP but not nearly as effective.
  2. Once you've removed the toilet paper, water pressure usually takes care of it after a couple of minutes or instantly. If not then plunge, and if slowly draining add extra water to the basin to keep it just short of over flowing.
  3. Snake it.. use a small snake.. a big mega-snake is usually not required.
  4. As an item of Last resort short of calling a plumber, and assuming you have already '*removed the contents (you can scoop and plunge out the water so there is almost 0 on your side of the clog) of the basin AND shut off the water*' (Both VERY Important).. and you are down to just a clogged pipe internal to the toilet.. use a FLOOR / CURTAIN / CLOTHING STEAMER without the brush / head attachment. Put a towel in the toilet with a small hole for the steamer head to trap the steam, steam it for a couple of minutes, plunge, then repeat. You will smell sewer gas or hear something sometimes when it comes free. This will help break down anything in the internals of the toilet and or unfreeze any DRAIN pipes. There is some risk of some mess and other damage (so use with caution, you assume liability for doing so) understanding the risks, but I used this on my own drains before and saved some dollars.

Okay, here's how I do it...

What a plunger does is add some pressure to the water exiting the bottom of the toilet. With this trick I haven't used a plunger for years.

First, try to flush and pay particular attention to how high the water comes in the bowl, and notice how much more water could be added to the bowl at 'high tide' without overflow.

Second, take a container (I usually used the bathroom trash can with the trash removed and placed on the floor) and fill it in the bathtub with less than the amount needed to overflow.

Third, pull the lever and flush the toilet and while the toilet is filling with water from the reservoir, pour the water from the trash can into the toilet, aiming for the drain in the bottom. Try to pour from waist height to get the extra pressure of the water dropping into the bowl. The added pressure of the extra water is usually enough to free most blockages. Away goes the trouble and you don't have to splash around in dirty water.


The plunger certainly is the best, just gross. I attached a long handle to one using a piece of PVC pipe and rivets. Makes it much less gross. Then clean in a bucket with dilute bleach


I am sure your problem is fixed, but if it happens again take this advice too: It's true plumbers are sometimes quite expensive, and anyway, with corona around these days, it wouldn't be a good idea to call them either.

I have an interesting solution that doesn't involve a plunger nor drain cleaning bladder, but a type of liquid that has non organic salts (these do the job). You can find it in some supermarkets, and if you are extremely lucky in a pharmacy, you can also make the liquid yourself! just buy some inorganic powerful salt and mix it with a liter of water (per 1-15 grams depending the salt). I you make or buy this liquid, you put some in the toilet, and let it there for some minutes (it works BEST if you leave it the whole night) and then wash away with hot (HOT NOT COLD) water... Problem solved :-)

Now if you don't have anything like a plunger nor a Frain cleaning bladder nor this liquid and not even the salts to make it, and you're in a rush, I'm afraid you'll have to use bare hands (yuck!). I hope you never get to such point.

Do take in mind, that if you leave a bathroom or anything clogged, it can burst in any moment, I tell you because my friend experienced it unfortunately, (wondering why?) he didn't have a plunger nor nothing, I told him to use my liquid as he lives close to me but he was skeptical for it and decided not to use it, when the next week he came around for dinner, as if by magic the toilet got clogged, and I said come around... He went and I put the liquid. We had dinner and I told him "now I'll boil the water and prepare to be impressed and to believe me" I took the water, and in less than 2 seconds after I threw it mostly in, it was "unclogged" so I flushed the after and problem solved, He later even asked me where on Earth could he buy that!

I hope I helped you here.
I'm sorry for it to have been such a long answer.

  • 2
    Please keep your answers to the point, the long story does not help. A five line answer would likely tell all you have as advise.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 13:19
  • Thanks, here in Israel we have this thing in all grocery stores and it's cheap and common, and looks like what you described. Never thought to try it on clogged toilet, will give it a try next time it happens. :-) Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 8:22

Plumber's secret: Add hydrochloric acid for 30mins, then swirl it around with a mopstick. Then use plunger.

  • From quick reading, it's risky and might damage the pipes. The answer might be useful with more details and warnings. Just saying "do it" is misleading and harmful. Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 12:21
  • Not much of a secret. HCl is widely available in plumbers merchants for just this purpose.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 8:47

flush the water, and it's still there. Flush again, to no avail. It's utterly clogged.

That describes two different problems. If it's "utterly clogged", it's not "to no avail", it's to overflow and flood the floor.

If you can flush several times and "it's still there", that means that it isn't flushing properly, not that it's clogged. A simple test is to flush and at the same time pour a couple of litres of water from a pail into the bowl. If everything rushes down, it's not a clog.

A good flush should result in the sound of air being sucked into the pipes. If not, the problem could be:

  • The pipe isn't properly vented to the roof.
  • The water is being delivered too slowly.
  • Not enough water is being delivered (badly made "efficient" toilet).
  • Not enough water is being delivered from the outlets under the rim.

Often it is the last case, and what needs to be done is a thorough scrubbing under the rim, possibly followed by examination with a mirror and hole-poking with a coat-hanger wire.

As for calling the plumber, if you know how to do it yourself, it's typically cheaper to buy and install a new toilet. (Though that's not something one can secretly do at someone else's house.)

  • Well by "to no avail" meant that flushing doesn't do what it should be doing, which is flush the waste away. The water are delivered fine but being blocked by the waste. What you suggested about adding more water was already suggested in this other answer and it did work for me once indeed. Turns out that at some point the waste simply softens up and can be flushed as usual. As for the last paragraph really don't understand why I need to install a new toilet?? Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 7:37
  • @ShadowWizardIsSadAndAngry, I didn't say you need to buy a new one. I'm saying from experience (I've owned several rental houses) that calling a plumber will often cost a couple of hundred dollars and take a few hours of my time (waiting for the non-specific arrival time) but a complete new toilet can often be bought for half that price, and with practice, I can typically do the replacement in 15–30 minutes. Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 13:50
  • Heh, well, very different experience here. Sometimes the pipes at my home get clogged, not related to the toilets, and we call a plumber, so far in all the times I remember he never worked more than hour, and charged around $50 max. Guess at your case it's overall collapse of the piping, not just something clogging the pipes? Anyway the question is not about it, i.e. not about blocked pipes, just the case in toilets when it's not flushing because of what we try to flush. Can also be "reproduced" when trying to flush too much toilet paper. Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:19

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