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how to fix a backed up toilet

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

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 call a plumber to schedule an (expensive) emergency visit.

Be brave: You can usually handle a backed up toilet yourself.

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

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

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

Give it a few vigorous pumps. The idea is to force the obstruction causing a backed up toilet beyond a U-shaped section of toilet pipe (called the 'trap'), and into the drainpipe. The blockage should then flow away, and take with it any backed up water.

3. if these efforts don't stop an overflowing toilet...

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.

Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the products and supplies you need to fix a backed up toilet - and to help prevent future plumbing problems.



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About the Author

Tara Aronson

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.