Please help me unclog my toilet of shame
February 4, 2013 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Please help me unclog my toilet of shame

(anonymous because I am so embarrassed)

Backstory: For a week or two, my toilet would often run after I flushed it. I'd just reach in, pull up the float, then watch until the tank was refilled, then all was well, and I was fine with that solution because I just had no capacity to deal with a more permanent fix (something with the flapper, maybe?).

Then, at some point xx days ago, I flushed, walked away, and went back into the living room. Only after a little while did I realize that the "running" sound was different... and I walked back to the toilet to see that there was TP clogged in it and the water was overflowing the bowl onto the floor. I turned off the water supply at the valve thing that connects the toilet to the wall (go me!), then... went to work. When I got home, there was still TP clogged in the bottom, but the water had all drained away.

At this point, a smart sane responsible person would have figured out how to solve the problem. I am none of those things right now, and just kind of procrastinated. I peed in the shower, or at the office, or in the bowl went I went into the bathroom half-asleep before I remembered.

But then I had to poop. So I did. On top of this (now larger) wad of TP in a non-working toilet. Then I up and went out of town for a three-day wedding.

When I get home from work tonight, it is going to be so very far past the ideal time to face the music. I can't bear the thought of asking a plumber or friend to help.

Please, metafilter, please, WHAT DO I DO?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Feel free to bawl me out if I'm stating the blindingly obvious here, but...I read your whole post twice and saw no mention of a plunger.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2013 [17 favorites] got to clean out the toilet by hand first. Wear rubber gloves and all that, not going to be fun. Put the...mess in a garbage bag and throw away. Then get a plunger and plunge away. If that doesn't work (and I have plunged so hard I broke the wax seal... ( its the gasket that goes between the toilet and the floor that keeps water from leaking when you flush). If that doesn't work, then call a plumber. You are probably going to want to call a plumber anyway to fix the running toilet problem, it is a really easy fix and the sell kits at the hardware store you can use and I am sure you can find a how to guide on the internet somewhere. And remember, you can always use a bucket, worked for most of humanity for most of its history just fine. Euphemistically called a chamber pot.
posted by bartonlong at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2013

Toilet is clogged. Clog need to be cleared. Either go down to your hardware store and get one of these, or call a plumber and pay $$$.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2013

First of all, repent.

Secondly, you are going to have to put some gloves on and remove what material you can by hand. It ain't going to be pretty. Get in there. Pull as much out as you can.

Then get your paws on a plunger and get to work. You should suck out a good globbet of whatever's in there. Failing that take a wire coathanger, unbend it, and go fishing about in the ubend to pull out more of what you can.

Turn on the water again and try flushing it. If it clears, hurrah! Then phone a plumber to get the float fixed, you're wasting water.

If it doesn't clear, phone a plumber, they've seen worse than your toilet in their time.
posted by Jilder at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Plunge, push prod--if it is only toilet paper and BM that is plugging the toilet you may be able to use a coat hanger (straightened) to unclog. Otherwise you will need to call a plumber ( unlikely). Remember you have to turn on the water. If it will not flush use a pail of water to flush and then repair/replace the "flapper".
posted by rmhsinc at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2013

You can also buy drano for toilets. I have also had luck running my shower SUPER hot and then either using a bucket to drop the water in the toilet bowl or using the "showerhead with extendable neck" that reaches the toilet to put the hot water in. From someone with one toilet, old pipes and five people using it: you have my sympathies.
posted by saucysault at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

N'thing Thorzdad's drain auger AKA plumbing snake.

To use -

1) You're going to need a bucket. It's going to need a lid. You're going to need to put it in a garbage bag and throw it away when you are done.

2) Thick disposable rubber gloves, as tall as you can find 'em.

3) If the "gunk" is compacted in the bottom of the bowl, you're going to need to get it out of the way. Put it into the bucket. New set of gloves before going further.

4) Insert the auger and crank as you feed it down. If you feel it bite into something, pull it out - it will be the clog. Pull it out, remove it from the auger and put it into the bucket, but be careful of the auger tip, it's sharp.

5) Repeat until the auger can travel unimpeded.

6) Try to flush, be ready with a mop or shop-vac in case things don't work out. Have a plunger standing by (ALWAYS have a plunger at hand), it may work now.

7) Clean off the auger, first with a paper towel, and then with a hose and laundry detergent outside. Use another bucket or a garbage bag to move (remember, the tip is sharp. You do NOT want to get poked.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would not use Drano for any reason. You just need to plunger it. Take the top off, plunger it a lot, then flush it. Make sure you have a good strong wooden plunger, and you may have to rummage through the toilet contents with it to make it seal on the hole at the bottom of the bowl. If it starts to overflow again stick your hand in the top of the tank and push down the flapper to stop the flow of water into the tank. Wait until the top refills and plunge again. U can push the poop down with a coat hanger too. If THAT doesn't work you'll have to clean out the bowl and try again. If THAT doesn't work call the plumber.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm the daughter of a plumber, so I can say with some authority that assuming you have not put anything unusual in the toilet, you should be able to unclog your toilet without calling in a pro. Start with a plunger (if you've never used one before, google instructions). Also, as mentioned above, a bucket of hot water, poured from slightly above waist high, can work wonders.
posted by she's not there at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also insert Slap*Happy's advice in my post right before plumber.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2013

I really wanted "unclog my toilet of shame" to be a metaphor.

If you have the money, call a plumber and tell the entire story. Not only will the plumber be able to clear the clog in about two minutes, but he or she will be able to fix the running problem that you mentioned first.
posted by Etrigan at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2013

We always used a wire hanger to break up clumps of toilet paper or....whatever....
posted by Lucinda at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2013

A word of advice on the plunger front, as it sounds like you haven't tried using a plunger. Perhaps because you do not have a plunger.

Buy your plunger at a REAL store. Like a hardware store or something. The ones they sell at Walgreens and target are made of wussy rubber and flip back on themselves and don't work at all. Get something with a flange--that ought to take care of it in no time.

And make sure you get a toilet plunger, not one of those tiny little sink plungers.
posted by phunniemee at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

In fact, just in case you are not experienced with plungers, I will tell you what to do.

1. Go to the store and get a plunger. Every house should have one. You can get one at the supermarket, hardware store or any department store. They're cheap. Some of them will be slightly bulkier affairs and you can sort of unfold them outward, you'll see what I mean when you have it in front of you. Buy one of those.

2. Pay for it and go home. The part about paying for it is important - getting arrested for shoplifting is a classic gotcha in the DIY plumbing world.

3. Put on rubber gloves, because ugh.

4. The bowl will need water in it, so turn it back on at the valve. Let some in. Fill the bowl about halfway. Turn it back off at the valve for the moment.

5. Let the gross-ass mess sit for a few moments. Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water.

6. Flip the plunger out (again, you'll know) and put it in the bowl. This is important: Don't slam it in, but don't do it too slowly and don't put it in at an angle. This is because you don't want the plunger to fill with water - it will sort of be an air bubble when you put it into the toilet. Its outwardly extended majesty will align with the hole at the bottom of the toilet.

7. Plunge, man! Plunge for all you're worth! If the clog is only made of shit and toilet paper, you will pretty much just need to plunge for a little while and you'll push the clog through. Push down and then let it spring back up. You may need to do a series of little, shallow pushes. You're doing this to force water (and air) through the tube, so remember that the stick will move but the plunger will not.

8. Remove the plunger from the toilet once you start to hear water moving through pipes. If you're doing it right, you will hear that sound increasingly as you plunge. The water in the bowl should now drain of its own volition. If it doesn't, keep plunging.

9. Wash the plunger.

10. Mop the bathroom floor.

If plunging doesn't fix it - which it almost certainly will - then give up after fifteen minutes or so and skip to Slap*Happy's advice. If that doesn't work, call a plumber.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:11 AM on February 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

Do you own your home or rent?

If you rent, call your landlord or super and get them to fix this. Toilet clogging is not going to take away your security deposit, and I'm sure they would rather just fix the damn thing than have your do further damage to your toilet.

Do you have a plunger?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was once a janitor at a college where I dealt with the problems of dorm residents and I can tell you that this is nowhere near the worst I've seen. You did not poop in the shower, you did not pee on the walls, this would not be the first toilet with three bowel movements in it that I have seen. You are not alone. To use a plunger:
Put on rubber gloves if you have them, if not just take a nice hot shower afterwards.

Place the plunger into the toilet so it completely covers the drain opening. The bowl needs enough water to reach at least halfway up the head of the plunger. You may need to add water with a bucket.

Grip the handle of the plunger with both hands. Push it down slowly, but bring it up quickly without lifting the head of the plunger from the drain. The plunger should be perpendicular to the drain so it can be pumped straight up and down, rather than at an angle. The idea is to use bubbles of air to forcefully dislodge the solid matter.

Pump the handle up and down rapidly several times to create suction and dislodge the clog. The suction is key, once you have everything set properly you should be able to roughly feel that you are forcefully pushing air all the way through the U lock and back.

Every so often release the plunger to grab more air to force down the toilet and repeat. Keep doing this until the toilet drains and then either add more water with a bucket or release the valve and then keep going until it flushes normally.
A quality plunger is a worthwhile investment as all of this will be easier, but in skilled hands even the shittiest plunger will do. After all of this make sure to mop everything with bleach and then take a hot shower with lots of soap.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know if this has been said already, but one surefire method that I have used in cases like this:

clean everything out
squirt a whole bunch of dishsoap into the bowl, let it sit for a while
heat up a big pot of water on the stove, just under boiling
dump the entire pot into the toilet
plunge the hell out of the thing

if that doesn't work, repeat the dishsoap and hot water trick.

if no results still, get a snake and be careful

There are all kinds of videos on Youtube addressing this very problem, by the way.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Buy a plunger. Get one that's meant to fit a toilet or has an adapter for toilets. Most of the trick of plunging is actually to *pull up*, change the shape of the clog, and then let gravity complete the job. That said, sometimes you need a plunger with canned air or a bellows, if pull comes to push.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:24 AM on February 4, 2013

I think the cleaning part is pretty much covered.

I just wanted to add - I'm guessing after leaving the toilet like this for over 3 days, you are going to need to be well prepared for the smell, too.

My suggestion: get some of the cheap surgical masks from the pharmacy and put a little bit of something on the inside of the mask (like lavender essential oil or something). Or worst case scenario if you don't want to spend a few bucks on that, you could put some Vick's or strong smelling lip balm just under your nose.

Of course you can also try to just avoid breathing through your nose (although as I learned here on AskMe, not everyone has the ability to consciously not breathe through their nose/block smells)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2013

Adding to everyone else's plunger instructions: Once you get the plunger in there, be sort of violent. Push down hard, pull up suddenly, but keep the plunger's rim flush (ha!) with the toilet bowl. And I may be wrong about this, but I don't think you want air in the plunger: air compresses, water doesn't; water is going to work better for disrupting clogs.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:57 AM on February 4, 2013

It sounds like it was entirely possible that the first big wad of toilet paper was just stuck at the very top part of the hole going down into the innards of the toilet not necessarily that the whole, uh, hole/tube, was plugged. This often happens to me because I like to basically mummify my entire upper body with toilet paper when I use the bathroom.

So okay, you will have a massively gross cleanup/out job now because you added shit to the problem. Everyone's advice on how to deal with that is correct. And you should have a plunger. But I wanted to note for future reference that it's not necessarily the case that if that wad of paper gets stuck and things start to back up that you need to plunge for your life. Instead, you can take the plunger and use it to pull the wad back up a bit and break it up. As soon as there's room, the water and stuff will start to go down and everything is going to be clear. That's a more future disaster aversion technique though.
posted by marylynn at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

As ablazingsaddle asked, do you rent or own? If you rent, clean it out by hand and tell your landlord. They really would rather call the plumber sooner than later.

And if you own? Well, if all your boiling water/plunging/vinegar & baking soda/more plunging tricks don't work -- call a plumber. Because you may find that your 97-year-old cast iron pipes have corroded and you've been flushing and showering into your crawl space. Mostly just waste water, but leaving lots of solids to build up in the pipes. 10 feet of brand new plastic pipe will fix it.

Why yes, I do know whereof I speak. Last week. Two days. $1,500.
posted by kestralwing at 12:08 PM on February 4, 2013

If you can't bear to unclog it yourself but are too embarrassed to explain the situation to a plumber, why not call and blame the situation on a nonexistent roommate?
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't want that water to be too hot because it can melt the wax ring seal between the toilet and the floor. And that's also why you don't want to use Drano.

Good luck and please let us know what worked.
posted by mareli at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2013

From personal experience you can use a beer bottle to push it through.
posted by roboton666 at 2:27 PM on February 4, 2013

That thing lakersfan1222 mentioned? Is genius.

Plunge the heck out of it first, using the methods recommended above. If that doesn't work, however, your penultimate option is the 'dishwashing liquid and hot water' method'. Google it. It works like magic. (Source: own toilet of shame.)
posted by Salamander at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2013

Ok listen you don't have to scoop out that shit with your hands, go to the dollar store and buy a ladle or something, then (obviously) throw it in the garbage with the poop.

Everything else has been said.
posted by windykites at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2013

Get like a wooden spoon too, so that you can get deep into the toilet hole. But don't try to scoop up soggy toilet paper and old poo with your hands, you'll just make a mess.

Also, a particle mask with a light spritz of dilute perfume or something might be in order. Don't breathe through your mouth unless you want to taste it. Good luck.
posted by windykites at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2013

For the future, get a heavy duty plunger.
posted by vespabelle at 4:46 PM on February 4, 2013

YES! I came here to say exactly what the brilliant windykites said. Even if you cut the bottom out of a plastic bottle or something, you don't have to use your hands.

Although I'd just plunge first. It's a rare clog that won't respond to a plunge.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:50 PM on February 4, 2013

Hey, at least you aren't one of those people who leaves their shit for other people to clean up. Nothing to be ashamed of here. You're taking responsibility, and you are about to learn a useful new skill.

Gloves on. Remove any dried or solid material from the toilet. Take a five gallon bucket, use the shower to put about four gallons of water in it. Holding the bucket in a standing position, pour water into the bowl. Aim for the drain.

This might unclog things on it's own, if not stop pouring water before you get too close to the rim, and get out the plunger.
posted by yohko at 5:04 PM on February 4, 2013

I use dish soap too, just pour in a bunch and let it sit and it is like magic. I don't pour in hot water.
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2013

Get a toilet auger. Get the longest one at the store. 6 ft is great. Get a cheap plastic ladle and a bucket. Ladle out the bad stuff, put it in the bucket. It's ok if you don't get it all. Next work the auger down hard for a few minutes. Back to real life running toilet in no time! Living in an old house I can't believe I ever lived without an auger! They are amazing.

If you don't wanna deal with it this is not the worst any plumber has ever seen. It should take a plumber 90 seconds and cost under $100.
posted by manicure12 at 9:13 PM on February 4, 2013

(Does anybody but me have a burning curiosity to find out how this ends?)

Anon, please report through the mods.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:41 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ok let me get this out now.


Second. The auger should work but you'll still need gloves. My dumbass husband once used the toilet as a garbage disposal for Italian sausage leftovers. Why, I don't know. But I had to clean that out and it was gross.

You may need to plunge, aug, plunge, aug until the clog comes out. I just had a new toilet installed and our plumber said those moist wipes are death (as well as pads, paper towels, tampons, etc). So who knows what is in the toilet's history.
posted by stormpooper at 10:20 AM on February 5, 2013

Geez. Seriously. Hot water may help, but usually, toilet clogs get pushed through just from dumping a bucket down, real quick. This is especially useful and more often required, in basement toilets.

The part about plungers not being equal is true. I got one for my kitchen sink, and it's useless. Ended up needing a plumber with a heavy-duty snake. There is one central drain pipe, and that means a long, shallow decline in the waste pipe from the kitchen.
posted by Goofyy at 11:15 AM on February 5, 2013

I was having a bad day yesterday, and reading this question made me laugh out loud. Please, please, please update us! I have to know how this situation was resolved.
posted by barnoley at 4:56 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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