Backed Up Toilet? 

3 easy plumbing repair tips so you easily solve the clogged plumbing problem yourself.

How to fix a backed up toilet in 3 easy steps.Apply a thin ring of petroleum jelly around the plunger's rim for better suction.

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, 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.

The first move to keep a bad situation from getting worse is to remove the top of the tank and 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. plumbing with petroleum jelly.

Apply a thin ring of petroleum jelly around the rim of the rubber plunger cup. Doing this provides for a tighter seal against the bowl - and improves the effectiveness of the pumping action. Place the plunger cup snugly over the bowl's drain opening.

Give it a few vigorous pumps. The idea is 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.

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

If your efforts don't stop the rising tide, the problem may lie elsewhere in the drainage system.

Now that you've ruled out a simple clog, 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.

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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.