How do I fix my toilet without a plunger?
March 30, 2004 7:42 AM   Subscribe

My toilet is plugged, and I don't have a plunger. Sweet Zombie Jesus.

In retrospect, that's not a question. Here we go:

How do I unclog this mother?
posted by cortex to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Beg, borrow, or steal a plunger or an auger.

Liquid-Plumber type chemicals, aside from being really toxic and bad for the planet, don't work all that well and are usually just a temporary fix for a minor clog.

If it's not clogged down too deep you could try improvising an auger with an untwisted wire coat hanger.

Do you know anyone with a pet ferret and a minature SCUBA tank?
posted by bondcliff at 7:46 AM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've actually had a go with a wire hanger, to no effect. However, I think it may have mostly to do with me not being good with wire hangers.

I don't think it's a sign of plumbing problems; the toilet has worked fine since we moved in, and has been asymptomatic. This is probably due to a rather large deposit made yesterday morning.
posted by cortex at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2004

Much depends on how badly blocked it is, sometimes if you let the excess water drain slowly away then the next flush will clear the blockage, but then you'll have to wait for it to drain again. Or you can call professionals. Or you can get out rubber gloves, a bent-up coat hanger and maybe a towel to give your knees some protection while you put your hand down there.
posted by biffa at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2004

Bugger, so much for preview.
posted by biffa at 7:50 AM on March 30, 2004

Go buy a plunger. And let this be a lesson to all: where ever you live, make sure you have a plunger.
posted by skynxnex at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2004

For gods' sake, if it made it round the U-bend then it can't be that big. Methinks there's something you're not telling us...
posted by bifter at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2004

Best answer: It should be easy to clear yourself with a toilet snake unless the clog is in the main drain. I would be careful about using a wire coat hanger as porcelain can scratch easily.
Here is an online tutorial from Home Depot
Toilet snakes run about 20 US dollars. If you have to call a drain service it will run about 100.00 or so. Good Luck!
posted by keithl at 8:16 AM on March 30, 2004

Response by poster: bifter: I imagine it didn't make it around the u-bend. I remember looking down, and thinking, "wow, that's a big'n."

And then I thought, "ah well, what do you do." Flush. Hrm.

Newsflash is that I borrowed a plunger, and all is well, but I almost don't want to point that out, in case someone has a really novel solution cooking in their heads.
posted by cortex at 8:16 AM on March 30, 2004

I've read, and was stupid enough to try, that if you pour say a gallon of water from a height of six feet into the toilet, the pressure might be enough to dislodge, or force through, the obstruction. Needless to say, nothing happened but a splash.
posted by callmejay at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2004

As a resident manager, I deal with a lot of plugged toilets. This experience has taught me that drain-clearing chemicals are the snake-oil of the 90s.

Everyone has a plunger because plungers work. It's called a "plumber's friend" for a reason. Snakes are good too.
posted by rocketman at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2004

Speaking from experience though, punge first then snake. Snaking a clogged toilet is climbing into a honeypit. You really don't want ot have to do it, and if you do, you want full-body coverage (and washable surfaces everywhere).
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on March 30, 2004

I've used large (or concentrated) amounts of simple bleach to clear drains in a pinch. Once on a kitchen sink that suffered from a roomate who cooked rice every day and thought the best place to get rid of the extra was the sink. Once on a tub that was backing up. Once on a toilet that had a square outlet in the bottom of the bowl, and on which is was therefore nearly impossible to create any suction with the plunger. You just pour it in and leave it for a few hours. Also has the nice effect of sanitizing and deoderizing.

Do not use, of course, if you've put ammonia based products in the basin or pipes any time recently, and for all I know, it may do bad things to your pipes.
posted by weston at 10:44 AM on March 30, 2004

Lye-based products (Draino, Liquid-plumber and the like) are very hard on metal pipes. Plastics are less vulnerable to bases, but will still get damaged eventually.

Bleach is safe on plumbing, but isn't very effective for unplugging drains. It's the best biocide in the cleaning cabinet though.

Don't mix the two. Some liquid plumber products are ammonium salts. That gets you chlorine gas which can severely damage your lungs.
posted by bonehead at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2004

You can use a toilet brush--if yours is the type that has a brush more like a simple curved-end cylinder than a teardrop-shaped loop--with the same action as (but often to greater effect than) a plunger.

I know this from the vast amount of time I spent in prison or something.
posted by littlegreenlights at 11:38 AM on March 30, 2004

A preventative flushing technique: Hold the handle down longer. I find this keeps the water pressure up for a little longer, and helps gravity do its work.
posted by o2b at 12:00 PM on March 30, 2004

Your hand can behave as a plunger. (if you really are desperate)
posted by JohnR at 12:34 PM on March 30, 2004

yeah, i've gone the rubber glove/hand route before.

and then i bought a plunger for every bathroom.

never again will i be without a plunger. hell, i even have an extra one.
posted by taumeson at 1:00 PM on March 30, 2004

A couple of things to keep in mind when you have a no-go on a flush:
  1. Wait. Time is of the essence. Only some clogs are full clogs and if you wait for most or all of the tainted water to drain out (and it will), then you can give it another flush without seriously contaminating your floor. If the clog is due to excessive paper and biomass, time is your helper because TP breaks down in water. Please, while you're waiting, close the lid. It will keep minimize the smell.
  2. Avoid the plunger for anything but a quick fix. There. I've said it. My experience with plungers is that they turn inside out (which I don't really like correcting), and spray biomass in a nice coarse to fine mist, which I don't like cleaning off the walls, floor, and myself. Further, according to The Virgin Homeowner (a book I can't recommend highly enough), plunging can destroy the seal of the toilet to the floor, which can end up creating a very expensive slow leak. My house has a toilet that was installed by McGuyver or someone of a similar mind because the pipe coming from the seal has a vicious sharp bend which is highly susceptible to "large acts of Congress", and when plunged, usually needs to be unclogged again in a few days.
  3. Go for a snake. With the toilet from hell, it keeps it trouble free for months until effluvia has once again built up. I have had far fewer bowl spray issues with a snake than a plunger, but in either case you can make your snaking/pluning less sloppy by punching it through the bottom of a large plastic trash bag, drape the bag over the bowl and snake/plunge away.

  • posted by plinth at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2004

    My dad is a plumber, and all he'd use is a plunger (with the flap turned INSIDE -- never the other -- seems it's useless the other way) and some super-heavy-duty plunging action. Only time we used a snake was when the shower drain backed up...
    posted by shepd at 5:58 PM on March 30, 2004

    If you need a plunger and you don't have one: find a soda bottle. For this to work, you need to willing to get wet and/or dirty. Smaller, 20oz bottles *can* work, but you're better off with a 2-liter. It should be empty, of course. Take the cap off, insert into toilet upside down, and push.

    It's an awful thing to have to do, but it can work if you're determined and the store that sells plungers is closed.
    posted by jaded at 6:56 PM on March 30, 2004

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