Of all the misfortunes that can befall us in our everyday lives, few come with the same blend of horror and indignity as staring down into a toilet that refuses to flush. As the water level in the bowl rises ominously, we plead, we pray, we hope against hope that the problem will somehow miraculously resolve itself and we will be spared the mortification (and mess) of a spillover. And when you’re a guest in someone else’s house, you plead and pray at least 10,000 times harder.
The only consolation in this dreaded scenario is that it happens to all of us. And, in the end, it might make for a good story for your closest friends to enjoy. But take heart, there are some simple solutions for this always-untimely event. The following are 5 time-tested tricks that have worked wonders for many a poor soul, listed here from the easiest to the hardest.
1. Do nothing but wait, then flush.
Toilets, like all plumbing drains, work by the force of gravity. A full bowl of water exerts its own pressure on the clog and, over time, often will clear the clog for you. So if you have more than one bathroom in the house, just wait it out overnight, or as long as you can. Then, try to flush again. If it’s a standard clog (too much paper, in most cases), this passive solution is surprisingly effective.
Warning: When you do the test flush after the waiting period, be ready to stop the water flow to the bowl (see Top Toilet Tip, below), just in case this method didn’t work.
2. Pour in some hot water. Wait. Flush.
If you don’t have the time to wait out the clog, or if you’d like to increase your chance of success by giving gravity a helping hand, you can pour a few cups of hot water into the bowl. Proponents of this technique believe that the hot water helps to break down the waste, thereby loosening the clog. Can’t hurt to try. However, this doesn’t mean you should be pouring pots full of boiling water into a cold, brittle, china toilet bowl, which could crack it.