How to Unclog a Toilet When Nothing Works?

How to Unclog a Toilet When Nothing Works. Photo of a plumber unclogging a toilet.

There’s never a good time to have a clogged toilet, but it often happens at 9:00 PM on a Friday night. Need some fast, actionable help for unclogging a toilet? Read on to learn how to unclog a toilet when nothing works!

For a troubleshooting approach to unclogging a toilet, try a tiered approach based on how (literally) involved you want to get! Organized between agents and hands-on options, try:

  • A full-sized plunger
  • A full-sized plumbing snake
  • A wire hanger
  • A wet/dry vacuum cleaner
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Dish soap and water
  • An enzyme solution
  • A chemical drain cleaning product
  • Contact a plumber

These are designed to help you free the clog from your toilet. The worse the clog is, the more challenging it’ll be and the more effort it may take. Let’s take a look at each of these below and understand the best approach — and why — for your clog!

How to unclog your toilet

As introduced above, you can come at your toilet clog from various perspectives, which is why this is going to be your go-to guide when you feel like nothing else is working! 

A full-sized plunger

Many people have small plungers in their bathrooms for “emergencies.” This is great. However, a clog is going to need a durable, full-sized plunger. There’s just no getting around it. Don’t get a cheap and “lightweight” one. Get a heavy-duty, sturdy one that will be up to the task of clearing your toilet. 

Sometimes even the act of simply changing from a mini plunger to a full-sized one can be enough to help you clear your clog! If you need help determining what to choose, a plumber or a plumbing shop can offer some great advice!

A full-sized plumbing snake

No one ever wants to have a plumbing snake in their bathroom. However, it’s one of the best tools (other than a plunger) you can have! Like above, don’t go for a mini one, but get a full-sized one. This will slip into the pipe and help dislodge the clog properly and safely, which is precisely what it’s intended to do! You can get a variety of lengths for your snake. A plumber can help you determine the best length!

A wire hanger

If you don’t have a snake and the plunger isn’t doing it, try a wire hanger! You’ll obviously want a sturdy one (and one you are okay with throwing away!) Unwind the hanger so that that hook of the hanger is at the end. Form a handle the best you can so you can maneuver the hanger down through your pipes.

You’ll want to jiggle it around and find the clog. Then, simply pull up on the clog using the hook. If you have the option of pulling the entire clog out, do so! Yes, it’s gross, but it’s better in your garbage can than down your pipes!

A wet/dry vacuum cleaner

If you want to bring more suction into the game, especially if the clog feels like it won’t budge, you can use a wet/dry vacuum. It must be a wet/dry vacuum since a traditional house vacuum will be destroyed and can even be dangerous since it’s not intended for use with water!

A wet/dry vacuum can help create consistent suction to suck the entire clog out. As soon as you feel it shift (such as gurgling and bubbles in the toilet bowl), you’ll want to turn it off and try the plunger again. After all, the pipes for a vacuum are going to be smaller than the toilet, so you may end up with a clogged vacuum cleaner!

Baking soda and vinegar

One of the best natural options for a hands-free clog buster is baking soda and vinegar! Mix a half-cup (118 ml) of baking soda into 3 cups (709 ml) of hot water and allow the soda to entirely disintegrate. Once it has, pour the mix into the toilet. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This allows the baking soda and hot water to work their way into the clog. You can also pour 1 cup (236 ml) into the toilet directly and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Pour 1 cup (236 ml) of vinegar slowly into the toilet. It’ll start to fizz and bubble as it reacts with the baking soda. This will hopefully dissolve the clog. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes. Then finish with 3 cups (709 ml) of boiling water to clear the system.

Dish soap and water

If you want to avoid the chemical reaction, try half a cup (118 ml) of dish soap. Pick a grease-fighting one if you have it. Pour that into the toilet and follow it with 4 cups (946 ml) of boiling water. This helps break up the clog and slide it through your pipes without jamming.

An enzyme solution

You can purchase this like a traditional drain cleaner. This digestive enzyme breaks down fats, oils, grease, and anything organic. Follow the instructions on the back of the bottle for best results. These tend to be gentler on your toilet and general plumbing system than commercial drain cleaners, so it’s a great choice.

A chemical drain cleaning product

If nothing else is working, or you still need help, you can rely on a commercial drain product as a last resort. As briefly mentioned, these are very abrasive and can stress your plumbing system. The combination of harsh chemicals and long-lasting effects can corrode pipes and lead you to have a leak that will require a professional if you use them often enough!

Older plumbing also tends to be weaker than modern piping, particularly in sealants and glues, so it’s best not to jump straight to a commercial cleaner if you have an older plumbing system.

Contact a plumber

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is call in the pros. A professional plumber can quickly, efficiently, and accurately diagnose the problem and suggest the best course of action. A plumber will have the best chance of clearing the clog without stressing your plumbing system!

If you are even considering removing your toilet to try to get better access to your toilet, don’t! Call a plumber.

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Will a toilet eventually unclog itself?

Often a toilet can actually unclog itself, assuming the clog is biodegradable. One of the mistakes most people make is frantically flushing their toilet repeatedly. However, letting the water sit can break up the clog, and when you try to flush, it’ll simply break apart and be gone!

Try leaving the clog for 4-5 hours or overnight before flushing it. This will give it plenty of time to soften and break up on its own.

One of the most essential parts of this is the water amount. If you have a low-flow toilet, you’ll want to add extra water to it so that the water can work its magic on the clog!

Why won’t my toilet unclog with a plunger?

There could be a few reasons! The first one is that the plunger isn’t creating enough suction. A properly-sized and reliable plunger will do the best job at creating suction that will pull the clog-free. 

The other factor is that the clog may be such a solid block that the suction can’t wiggle loose. This is where your vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, and water will come in. The weaker the clog, the better the chance your plunger will do its job.

Is it okay to leave a toilet clogged overnight?

While many people will want to get the clog cleared, like 10 minutes ago, leaving a clog overnight can be helpful! As mentioned above, sometimes time and water are all it takes for the clog to disintegrate on its own, so all you have to do is flush in the morning, and the problem is gone!

Can poop clog a toilet?

Yes, poop is actually the most common cause of a toilet clog, especially because most combine poop with toilet paper in the same flush (more on that later).

If your poop is particularly large and/or hard (rather than soft), it can easily create a clog in your toilet. For this reason, those who have difficulty in regularity often deal with clogs!

What dissolves poop fast?

No one wants to deal with a stinky toilet clog, particularly if it’s the only bathroom in the house! If you want to dissolve a poop clog as quickly and as embarrassment-free as possible, try giving it an hour or so on its own, and then flush. If it is still clogged, try pouring hot water into the toilet, leaving it for 30 mínutes, and then use your plunger. The combination should be enough to break it up and send it (literally) down the drain.

What causes a toilet to clog?

The most common cause is a poop clog, and the second is toilet paper, as mentioned. Other common causes include so-called flushable wipes and a build-up of human waste with residue (from beauty products, mop bucket dumps, etc.) that can eventually cause a clog.

Other less common causes are a blocked or weakened pipe from tree growth roots and even a blocked toilet vent. 

Does flushing a clogged toilet make it worse?

Flushing a clogged toilet can sometimes make it work, depending on the clog. If it’s a total clog, it will back up the water and create a larger, messy problem. If it’s a partial clog, flushing can help dislodge it and allow it to slide down the drain.

Before you try flushing a clogged toilet, put your plunger to work first. If there is not enough water for this, add some manually with a bucket. Flush as you plunge, and it will reduce the risk of a toilet overflowing!

Plunging a clogged toilet can get messy, so be prepared for that. A bit of a spill on the floor is better than a total overflow, so don’t let the risk of a splash scare you away!

How do you unclog a toilet with standing water?

If your toilet has standing water, resist the temptation to “just keep flushing.” Instead, use a plunger to gently and carefully try to lose the clog. If that doesn’t work, try Epsom salts or baking soda. If you have a toilet with standing water, going the clog time to dissolve (with a bit of help from products) is your best approach,

If nothing seems to be working, this is where calling in the professional is a good idea — you may have a serious, potentially dangerous clog in your system! While it’s impressive that you want to learn how to unblock a badly blocked toilet, some things are best left to the professionals. If none of these tips work, it’s time to make that call!

How to keep a toilet from clogging

If you’ve got your toilet clear and want to make sure that it never happens again, or you simply are reading this preventatively, here are some tips you can follow to help keep your toilet clog-free!

  • Nothing goes down the toilet except for body waste
  • Don’t flush wipes (even the flushable ones)
  • Clean your system preventatively using boiling water
  • Flush between poop and toilet paper use

While unclogging a toilet is no fun, you certainly don’t want to live with a clogged toilet for any more than you have to. These tips and advice will help you get to the bottom of the problem as quickly and mess-free as possible!

how to unclog a toilet when nothing works

Common FAQ about pantry options for toilet clogs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about toilet clogs and relying on your pantry staples!

  • Can hydrogen peroxide unclog a toilet?
  • Can salt unclog a toilet?
  • Can baking soda unclog a toilet?
  • Will Coca-Cola unclog a toilet?

Can hydrogen peroxide unclog a toilet?

The acid in hydrogen peroxide can unclog a toilet if you let it sit for long enough to break the clog down.

Can salt unclog a toilet?

Salt can unclog the toilet, but not as well as baking soda. If you decide to use salt, rely on Epsom salts rather than sea salt or classic table salt!

Can baking soda unclog a toilet?

Yes, baking soda is a common acidic choice that can successfully unclog your toilet. You can use it on its own or with the support of hot water or the chemical reaction with vinegar.

Will Coca-Cola unclog a toilet?

Soda is an excellent choice for unclogging the toilet, with Coca-Cola being the absolute best! It is such an acidic drink, particularly combined with sugar, that it’ll work very well. Plus, it smells nicer than what it’s covering up, so there’s that bonus, too!

All in all

If you are trying to unclog a stubborn toilet, start by giving the clog 5 hours to sit in the water. Then, plunge it thoroughly and try to flush. If that doesn’t work, try pantry-based options such as baking soda and vinegar or dish soap and water.

You can also try a plumbing snake or a wire hanger for a more hands-on approach. You can try an enzyme product to break down the clog or a commercial drain cleaner as a last resort for something heavier duty.

Don’t forget to call a plumber if you are dealing with a complete or severe clog!

Rosa Peterson

Rose is the writer and creator of Better That Home, a blog about home design and decor. Rose has been designing spaces for over 10 years and writing home design and decor for big publishers. She has been inspired by many other creatives from around the world and loves to share those inspirations with her readers. Read more about Rose here