Plunging 101: How to Plunge Your Toilet Before It Overflows

Have you ever experienced that familiar moment? Just as you finish flushing the toilet and prepare to leave the bathroom, the distinct sound of an overflowing toilet reaches your ears. If you’re unsure what to do, it’s easy to feel panicked. Fortunately, being aware of how to handle the situation in advance can help you fix the clog quickly – without a flooded bathroom.

How to Stop the Water Flow

Once a toilet starts overflowing, you have to stop the water flow to keep it from running onto the floor. Here’s what you can do:

Resist the Instinct to Flush Again

When you panic at the rapidly rising water levels in the toilet, it’s a common reaction to try to flush again in a desperate attempt to get the water to drain. This only adds more water, however, which can’t go anywhere but up and out of the toilet.

Close the Flapper

If you act quickly, you can open the toilet tank lid to close the flapper and stop the water flow. This is a small round piece of rubber that’s often brightly colored and attached to a chain or metal lever to open and close. You can close it manually to seal off the water in the tank and prevent the bowl from filling more. If you suspect that the water will overflow before you flush, open the tank and locate the flapper. Then, use your other hand to flush, so you can close the flap quickly if the water isn’t draining properly.

Find the Toilet’s Water Shut-Off Valve

This won’t work with every toilet, but some have a water shut-off valve that you can use to stop the water supply to the toilet. This is usually located near where the toilet meets the wall. When you find it, turn the valve clockwise to shut it off.

Start Plunging

With the water flow off, you can focus on plunging to loosen the clog and get the bowl drained.

Remove Some Water from the Bowl

If the bowl is ready to overflow, you may need to remove some of the water to keep it from running over when you start plunging. Put on rubber gloves and scoop some water out with a bucket or bowl. It may only take a few inches for the plunger to fit without overflow.

Use a Flange Plunger

Most bathrooms have a standard plunger on hand, but that’s not ideal for plunging a toilet. These plungers are better suited for sinks and shower drains. A flange plunger, which has a flange at the base to fit into the toilet drain hole, provides a stronger seal to loosen the clog.

Warm Up the Plunger

Plungers can be stiff when they’re cold, making it harder to form a tight seal and move the clog. If you run the plunger under hot water for a few seconds, you will make the rubber softer and more pliable to form a better seal.

Learn How to Use the Plunger Correctly

Plunging seems simple enough, right? Most people use a plunger incorrectly, however. They tend to focus on the downward stroke, but moving the plunger up and down is what gets the clog moving.
Once you get a tight seal, use strong, consistent strokes in both directions to form suction and loosen the clog. Don’t let the seal break while you’re plunging. After you’ve done it a few times, the water may drain on its own. If not, stop and try to flush. If the water fills back up, shut down the water and continue plunging.

Try Home Remedies

Plunging is the best way to remove a clog on your own, since you can’t use drain cleaners with chemicals on a toilet. It will damage the porcelain.
  That said, plumbers have a little trick to help with the plunging – hot water and dish detergent. Just add hot water to the bowl to help dissolve the clog. Dish detergent can help the clog slide through the pipe more easily. Baking soda and vinegar is another option. This solution is gentle enough for your toilet and creates a chemical reaction that can loosen the clog, but it takes time. Just add one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar to the bowl and let it sit for eight hours, then go back and see if plunging works.

Do You Need a Plumber?

Plunging is generally a DIY job, but foreign objects that cause clogs can be more complicated. For example, a child’s toy, feminine hygiene products, or cosmetics shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet, even if you get the clog broken up. In this case, you’ll want a plumber to snake your drain if you can’t remove the object on your own. If you notice frequent clogs, you may have deeper issues in your plumbing system. Calling a plumber helps you treat the problem, not the symptom. Do you need help with your toilet or plumbing? Contact the pros at Moore Home Services to schedule an appointment!