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 problems is probably to get as far away as possible from the germs and gunk, and to reach for your cell phone to call a plumber.
Be brave: You can usually fix a clogged toilet yourself - without having to call for an emergency plumber. Here's how:
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.
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.
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:
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.