Very few things are more annoying and possibly embarrassing than a stopped up toilet. Of course, we all know that they only clog up after they have just been used, which makes it that much of a worse task to fix the problem. Nearly everyone has seen the water swirl and swirl as it rises toward the top of the porcelain bowl. We stand there praying that it will not run over onto the floor, or we curse it as it does. Now, comes the fun part. You get to clean up the mess and unclog the fixture.
If you have a few bucks in your pocket, and this is a recurring problem, call a plumber. Most people do not like this option because it is costly, and they would rather not have strangers staring into where they just relieved themselves. So, the vast majority of the people take on the job themselves. The question is: how do you begin?
The first line of defense against a clogged toilet is the plumber’s helper or plunger. The key to using a plunger is that it needs to be in good condition with the rubber business end being fairly pliable. You have to move it through the debris in the bowl until it can form a tight fit against the exit hole in the bottom rear of the commode.
Once you have it in place, it is important not to vent your anger on the process. You only want to use enough movement and pressure to unclog the drain. If you get too robust, it will cause a much larger mess than you may already have. Begin to pump up and down on the plunger handle taking care to keep the rubber end solidly over the opening. You do not want to break the seal because plungers work on vacuum. Pump rapidly enough to create suction, but not so much as to generate tidal waves.
After about 8 or 10 pumps, pull the plunger up from the hole quickly to create one last burst of suction, but not enough to pull it clear out of the bowl. This should dislodge anything that normally gets stuck in the tubing. The next thing you should see is the water level in the fixture starting to drop rapidly to complete the flush that never happened. If this occurs, try flushing the toilet again. If it flushes properly, you have fixed the problem. Clean up any residual mess and feel good about an easy fix.
If the toilet tries to flush but seems sluggish, repeat the procedure until it flushes cleanly. This can require three to five tries if the clog is pretty solid. After a half a dozen tries without success, you will need to go up a level in your effort. You might try more vigorous plunging action for a couple of more times, but most likely, you have something like a toy, diaper, or paper towels stuck in the drain.
To attack this problem, you will need a drain snake. Unless you are really good with one of these, just get a short one because if the problem is beyond the commode, you will need to pull the appliance before you go any farther. The snake should come with a crank that allows you to spin the cable or spring as you feed it out. Work it back and forth in the drain. You should feel it bumping and pushing against the clog. Keep working and pushing while spinning the handle until the clog is pushed through the drain of the commode.
If after about 5 minutes or so of this you are not making any progress, stop and try the plunger for another cycle or two. You may have loosened it enough to go on through. If this fails, you will need to pull the fixture. Make an ugly face or two, grunt, and continue.
Turn off the water to the toilet. Get some kind of a cup or bucket that will let you bail the water from the stool. Use something that you don’t want any longer after you have finished. Disposable plastic cups work good for this. Since you will have to disconnect the water supply, you will need to drain the flush box also.
Once the water is off, and the fixture is empty, disconnect the water from the bottom of the flush box. On newer fixtures, this can often be done by hand. On older ones, you will need a wrench that fit’s the nut. After disconnecting the water supply, you will need to remove the nuts that hold the fixture to the bolts attached to the top of the drain stack or the floor. This is usually two nuts, but it can be four.
Once the nuts are removed, you need to grip the commode by the area between the stool and flush box. Lift it straight up about three inches before trying to relocate it. Put on some waterproof gloves before continuing if you have not already done this. Lean the commode forward very carefully. It is better if you have someone help you who can keep it from toppling.
Reach under the fixture and remove the wax ring and anything it may be attached to. Some of these have a fitting made on to them to help guide the outflow into the drain stack. It will need to be cleaned off before you can reset the bowl. So, it is better to get it out of the way now. Once the wax ring is removed, discard it in a safe place like tied up in a plastic bag.
Now, slide you fingers up into the drain from the bottom. If there is something in there, you should be able to feel it. If not, use the snake and see it you can push it all of the way through the appliance. If it comes out freely on the bottom, then probably the difficulty is farther down in the system. If you push or pull something out, discard it and figure that was the problem.
Take a look into the stack opening. There should be no water there if it is draining alright. If there is water standing at the top of the stack, try running the snake down the pipe as far as you can. If nothing moves, you will need to call a plumber. More than likely, either there was no water or you were able to knock something loose.
With a clear drain for the commode and no water standing in the drain stack, you are now ready to reattach the toilet. Get a new wax ring. Experts differ on the best approach here. I prefer to attach the wax ring to the bottom of the commode over the exit hole. Push it just enough for it to stick to the appliance. Do not mash it hard. Make sure that all of the old wax is off of the stack opening.
Now, lift the commode up about 4 or 5 inches and try to center the exit hole over the stack. You can tell if you are close by checking to see if the bolts are starting to enter the attachment holes on the base of the toilet. When you have it all aligned, lower the fixture down to the floor and push it down firmly. Replace the nuts onto the bolts. Do not over tighten these, or you will crack the fixture. When all of the nuts are snug enough, you should not be able to rock the fixture back and forth. It should feel solid on the floor.
Reattach the water, turn it on, and look for leaks. If the water supply looks good, after the flush box fills, try to flush the toilet. Hopefully, it works as it should. If it does not, you will need to find someone like a plumber to help solve the problem.
If all is well, check around the base of the commode for leaks. If it is seeping a little, try pushing it down and giving each of the nuts about a half of a turn. This should fix it. If it still leaks, there is a good chance that you wrecked the wax ring. You can do it again or call for help. As long as everything is dry, and the commode flushes fine, you are finished. Take a break because you have earned it.