How to Unclog Toilet When Nothing Works

A clogged toilet is very inconvenient, especially if you don’t have a plunger on hand or a spare toilet. Worse still, you can use a plunger to clear it, and it doesn’t clear the blockage. Today, I will explain how to unclog a toilet when nothing works.

In general, you should use a plumbing snake. Provided you’ve used a plunger, and the water tank is emptying completely a plumbing snake should be used. Most blockages can be cleared with a plunger or multiple flushes. A plumbing snake will mechanically remove the blockage.

There are a range of things that can get flushed down a toilet such as a children’s toy, or sanitary wipes. This can cause such a blockage that it needs a plumbing snake to clear it. Below, I will cover how a plumbing snake is used, where you can get one, and when it should be used.

Why Will My Toilet Not Unclog

A toilet will typically unclog with a plunger, multiple flushes, or using a plumbers snake. In some cases, none of these methods work, and you need to call a plumber. Here are the reasons why a toilet will not unclog.

woman plunging the toilet

As a general rule, something other than toilet paper or poop is stuck in your toilet. This could be a children’s toy, or sanitary wipes such as tampons, or face wipes. These can be flushed down the toilet accidentally, and require a plumbers snake to pull out or clear.

First things first, try a plunger or flushing the toilet a few times while not adding more waste to it. If a plunger is ineffective you should try it a few more times. But, if it’s still clocked, it’s best to try a plumbers snake. The blockage can be so thick and dense that it won’t be removed with a plunger.

How a plumbing snake is used

A plumbers snake is very inexpensive, and you can get one for about $6. There is a proper way to do one so that it doesn’t cause metal scratches on the inside of your toilet. At the end of your toilet is what’s called a wax filter. A plumbing snake goes through the length of the exit pipe in your toilet all the way to the wax filter. It’s about 4 feet (1.2 m) in length.

It’s recommended by plumbers to use a plumbing snake when a plunger doesn’t work. Here’s a video that shows how to use a plumbing snake:

What to do if even a plumbing snake doesn’t work

The blockage and also be caused by a plastic toy that is stuck in the exit pipe or sanitary wipes that have built up and are creating a blockage. It’s commonly known that tampons and face wipes should not be flushed down the toilet. 

However, some people in your household, or yourself may not be aware of this. If they are regularly flushed down the toilet they will eventually cause a clog, either in the exit pipe at the base of the toilet, or somewhere where the exit pipe meets the sewage lines from your home to the mains.

This will generally need to be identified by a plumber using a special camera that is inserted down the toilet. There can also be a blockage in the pipe below the wax filter. Which is the limit of what can be cleared using a plunger, or plumbers snake. Plumbers recommend if a plumbing snake, a plunger, or multiple flushes don’t work it’s best to call a plumber.

Reasons why a toilet keeps getting clogged [& how to fix it]

According to expert plumbers, there are 5 main reasons that a toilet will keep getting clogged after you clear a blockage these are:

  • People flushing the wrong things down the toilet
  • The flapper isn’t working correctly
  • Very old pipes that have become clogged
  • Something stuck in the toilet such as a toy
  • The holes from the water tank to the bowl are clogged

Someone in your household flushing the wrong things

There are a few items that are flushed down a toilet that shouldn’t be. These are tampons, sanitary wipes, like baby wipes, toys, and too much toilet paper. It’s important if your toilet gets clogged quite often to have a discussion with people in your home about what they’re flushing down the toilet.

flapper valve not lifting high

The flapper isn’t working correctly

The flapper is located inside the water tank at the top of your toilet. When you press the lever to flush your toilet it lifts up and causes the water to flow from the water tank into the bowl. It’s common for the flapper to be worn out, or damaged. This makes the water flow slower than normal into the bowl. And causes it to not flush properly. Because of that, it will cause blockages to occur more frequently.

Very old pipes that have become clogged

PVC pipes are now very commonly used. But, older plumbing can use cast iron pipes. These are more susceptible to rust, and scale building up inside of them. Tree roots can also slowly grow into the pipe and crack it, and/or block it. Old pipes can also become brittle and crack. This kind of blockage can’t be cleared using a plunger or plumbing snake and requires the pipe to be replaced.

a toy in toilet
Image from Mastiffs to Mutts Rescue

Something stuck in the toilet such as a toy

A pair of glasses or a toy can be accidentally flushed down the toilet. A flushing toilet is often fascinating to children, and they can flush a toy down it to see what it does. It’s possible something such as a pair of glasses fell into the toilet as a person was leaving, and they didn’t notice. 

When it was used afterward the person also didn’t notice and they flushed them down the toilet. This type of blockage normally needs to be pulled out by a plumber because it will eventually catch on the wax screen and the floor level. The wax screen is to stop anything solid from getting into the sewage pipes such as a toy.

The holes from the water tank to the bowl are clogged

When water enters the bowl it comes out via holes around the rim of the toilet. In some regions, water can be more ‘hard’. Where it contains calcium and lime. Over time mineral deposits can build up and can clog the holes where the water enters the bowl. 

As a result, the water doesn’t enter the bowl fast enough, and/or not enough water enters the bowl. This causes the toilet not to flush properly and can cause a blockage.

This can be tested by taking a bucket of water and pouring it into the bowl. If it flushes normally, then the issue is with the rate of water flowing into the bowl. Not because of a blockage. The maximum amount of water you should use when doing that is 1.28 gallons (5.8 liters). Which is the average amount of water a toilet water tank holds.

Toilet bowl flushing water in bathroom close up.

Does Flushing a Clogged Toilet Make It Worse

As the water enters the bowl of a clogged toilet it can fill up almost to the brim. And then it can take quite some time for the bowl to completely empty. It’s possible that flushing a clogged toilet could clear it, or make it worse so here’s a summary of whether it’s a good idea to flush a clogged toilet.

As a general rule, it does not make a clogged toilet worse. But, it does depend on what type of clog it is. If the clog is in the part of the toilet between the bowl and the floor, it can help to clear it. But, care needs to be taken to only flush a clogged toilet once the bowl is mostly empty.

A clogged toilet can only be partially clogged. Therefore, after a flush, the bowl does mostly empty. But, it typically takes a bit of time for this to happen. In this case, flushing can help to clear the clog. However, if the toilet is clogged it’s best to use a plunger, and then a plumbers snake to clear the clog.

How to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

In some cases, you may not have a plunger on hand, but your toilet gets clogged. There are a few ways to clog a toilet without a plunger. Here’s what they are.

man using snake to unclog the toilet

Overall, try flushing it multiple times once the bowl is mostly empty. Otherwise, you can use a plumbers snake. If the blockage is relatively minor flushing it a few times once the bowl empties can clear it. A plumbers snake is typically best used once you’ve tried a plunger.

It’s possible to use drain cleaners or home remedies such as baking soda and vinegar. However, these are largely ineffective. Your best bet is to try flushing it a few times, once the bowl is mostly empty. Then wait until you can buy a plunger or plumbers snake to clear the blockage. 

Plumbers snakes are reasonably inexpensive and it’s possible to buy one for under $10. So, when you get a plunger it’s worthwhile getting a plumbers snake, to save a trip back to the store if a plunger doesn’t work.

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