Backed Up Toilet?
how to fix it in 3 easy steps

You know the signs of a backed up toilet: the bowl water is rising and the rest of the family runs for cover.

It's a plumbing disaster waiting to happen.

Your natural inclination, understandably, when it comes to plumbing repair is probably to get as far away as possible from the germs and gunk as possible, and then reach for your cell phone to call a plumbing company to schedule an (expensive) emergency visit.

Be brave: You can usually handle a simple plumbing repair like fixing a clogged toilet yourself.

Here's how to get it unclogged in 3 easy steps:

1. remove the top of the backed up toilet tank.

Flip the rubber stopper in the bottom of the tank back over the drain hole.

This will stop the flow of water into the bowl.

2. place the plunger cup snugly over the bowl's drain opening.

Place the cup of a toilet plunger snugly over the bowl's drain opening.

Give it a few vigorous pumps to force the obstruction beyond a U-shaped section of toilet pipe (called the "trap") and into the straighter (and wider) drainpipe.

The blockage should then flow away, and take with it any backed up water down through the sewer pipe and away from you and your family.

3. If Your Efforts Don't Stop the Rising Tide...

If your efforts don't stop the rising tide, the problem may be a sewer backup, which will likely require a sewer clean out.

Now that you've ruled out a simple clog as the sole culprit, it's time to call in that emergency plumber.

While you wait:

  • Don't pour caustic liquid plumbing products into the bowl.
    That way, the plumber doesn't have to deal with harsh chemicals when making the repair.
  • Have a family potty talk. This can help prevent this type of bathroom drama from playing out again. Remind the kids that the only thing that goes into the potty is toilet paper. And a limited amount of that, too.
  • Flush each time you use the potty so tissue doesn't build up in the bowl.
  • Keep a small wastebasket near the toilet for disposal of all other items.

more stories:

› Backed Up Toilet

About the Author

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.