Clogged Toilet 101: What Causes Clogs and What You Can Do to Fix Them
Got a blocked toilet again? Not sure why you keep having this problem? Read on to learn the common causes of toilet clogs and what you can do to fix them.
We think of toilets as a modern invention. But it was in 1700 BC in Crete that the first toilet was flushed. It was in 1775 when inventor Alexander Cummings received a patent for the flushing toilet. And since then, plumbers have been necessary to fix a blocked toilet because a stopped up toilet can quickly turn into a disgusting nightmare.
Keep reading to learn what causes a clogged toilet and how to fix them.
The Causes of a Clogged Toilet
Most of us don’t think about their toilet until something goes wrong. Then it’s time to identify the cause and how to get water to the toilet bowl. In some cases, the cause is a plumbing issue. In other cases, it’s human error that caused the clog.
Causes Due to Human Error
Unfortunately, humans don’t always appreciate our toilets. We tend to flush items down the toilet that aren’t meant to be flushed.
Here’s a list of items you should never flush.
- Feminine hygiene products
- Cooking grease or any type of food
- Dental floss
- Cotton balls or cotton swabs
- Paper towels
- Nail clippings
- Cat litter
Even items that say they’re flushable shouldn’t be flushed. This includes cleaning, make-up removing, and baby wipes as well as flushable toilet bowl cleaning heads. A clogged toilet with paper or other items can cause expensive damage to your plumbing.
How to Prevent Human-Caused Toilet Clogs
Do not place anything except human waste in your toilet. Place a trash receptacle near the toilet so no one is tempted to use the toilet. Educate your family on what should and shouldn’t go into the toilet. Keep the list near the toilet as a friendly reminder.
If you have young children, consider installing a lid lock to prevent them from accessing the toilet and either injuring themselves or causing extensive damage to your toilet.
Causes Not Due to Human Error
In some cases, if a toilet clogs easily, it’s due to the type of toilet. Toilets made before the 1980s use between 5 and 7 gallons of water for each flush. Toilets made after the 1980s use 3.5 gallons per flush. Newer models use between 1.28 and 1.6 gallons per flush.
While older low flush models saved water and money, they also have problems with low water pressure. Many low flush models made between 1994 and 1997 don’t have enough power to push waste into the drain making them more prone to clogs.
How to Prevent Low Flush Models from Clogging
Check to see how old your toilet is. If your toilet was made before 1997 you may want to consider installing a new, low flow toilet. You’ll save money and help the environment by using less water with each flush. You can also limit how much toilet paper and other products are flushed.
A Clogged Drain Line
Older toilet drain lines are more prone to clogs. This is due to regular waste and paper products being consistently pushed into it over the years. The longer the amount of time the drain’s had to collect hair, waste, paper, and other foreign objects, the more likely it is to clog.
The Solution to a Clogged Drain Line
In order to unclog your toilet, the line must be cleared. Often, this is a task you can tackle yourself using tools you may already have at home.
Before you use a drain cleaner, make sure you know what type of drain cleaner you’re using and how old your pipes are. Some drain cleaners are made with harsh chemicals. These chemicals can not only harm you but your older pipes as well. Also, be sure to wear rubber gloves when using drain cleaner as to protect your skin from irritation.
For those who prefer to make their own drain cleaner and the clog is minor, try using equal parts vinegar and cup of baking soda. Pour it down the drain and then let it wait for about 30 minutes. Afterward, flush out the drain using boiling water.
A plunger is a quick and easy solution for fixing a clogged toilet. You may want to invest in both a standard toilet-sized model as well as a mini-plunger to ensure you can get at even the toughest clogs. Please keep in mind you should never put random objects into your toilet in an attempt to clear it, like a wire coat hanger.
A drain snake is also a cheap and easy tool to use for dislodging clogs. It’s just a small piece of plastic you can insert into the drain. There are little teeth on the edges that pick up hair and anything else that’s causing your toilet to clog.
A Collapsing Drain Line
If the drainpipe is too old it can also collapse causing even more problems. The first sign is typically sediment backwash. But if there are multiple toilets in your home experiencing a slow drain, it’s often a sign you’ve got a big problem.
The Solution to a Collapsing Drain Line
If your drain pipes are too old, you’ll need them replaced. Contact a plumbing professional as soon as possible before the problem gets worse.
The Trap is Causing Problems
Typically an S trap is installed. It’s designed to hold standing water while keeping sewer gases from coming into your home. When debris clogs the trap, it can back up the toilet.
The Solution to Clearing the Toilet Trap
A plunger should be able to loosen any blockages and remove the clog. For stubborn clogs, try using a toilet auger. Limit the amount of toilet paper and other non-flushable items that go into your toilet.
Hard Water Issues
Hard water is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium it contains.
The higher the levels of these elements and other minerals, the harder the water. Softer water has lower levels of calcium and magnesium. However, soft water does tend to have higher concentrations of salt or sodium.
Due to the higher levels of calcium in hard water, it can calcify and form a white substance that’s hard to remove from your toilet. As the calcification builds, it gets harder for waste to pass through.
How to Resolve Hard Water Problems
A quick fix solution is to have a plumber use a solution to flush out the toilet system. A long-term solution is to install a water softener which treats your water before it enters the toilet. The water is softened and therefore contains fewer minerals that can cause build-up and clogs.
Blockages from Other Drains
Your drainage system is part of a unit. This means if another part of the drain is blocked, you’ll experience problems. In other words, even if your problem is that you have a washing machine blockage, it can still block your toilet.
Even external pipes that lie outside of your home can cause drain clogs. The result is a slow or non-moving toilet drain.
The Solution to Multiple Blockages
Even if your pipes aren’t really old, waste material can still buildup in the main drain and sewer lines. Tree roots can also puncture sewer lines and let in sediment along with other debris that cause blockages.
Sewer line issues can get very expensive very quickly. It can also threaten the health of your family. Hire a professional to help you handle any sewer-related issues.
Clean Out Your Septic Tank
Depending on how often you use your toilets and how many people live in your home, your septic tank needs to be emptied out every three to five years. A slow-moving septic system can stall and cause your toilets to clog. A healthy, well-maintained septic system keeps drainage flowing smoothly.
The Plumbing Vent is Clogged
Toilets and other plumbing fixtures use roof vents to funnel fresh air into the plumbing system. This prevents air pressure vacuums that can mess with drain flow. If the vents aren’t cleared, they can easily become clogged with sticks, leaves, and even animal nests. This debris can reduce your drain flow and cause clogs on a regular basis.
How to Clear a Clogged Plumbing Vent
Stay safe and hire a professional to clean your vents. Blockages in vents are often hard to spot. Special tools are also required to remove the debris. And if there is an animal nest, you should have professionals remove them rather than risking your health and safety trying to attempt it yourself.
Why and When to Call a Professional Plumber
While you may think a clogged toilet is an easy task you can tackle on your own, that’s not always the case. Using the wrong kind of drain cleaner may not work and can cause additional problems to your plumbing system.
While plungers and snakes look pretty easy to use, it’s possible without the proper training and experience that you can cause even more damage to your pipes. It’s also possible to make the clog worse and cause a backup of wastewater that’s overflowing in your bathroom. That’s not only gross but potentially hazardous to your health.
Clogs Can Be Part of a Larger Problem
And you never know the reasons behind a clog. It could turn out that your simple clog is being caused by a main sewer line issue. It’s always safest and smartest to call a plumber for any type of clog.
Get a Free Estimate
When you have a blocked toilet, it’s something that needs to be fixed right away. Don’t attempt to fix it yourself. Instead, call the professionals to help you accurately and expertly assess and fix the issue.