How to unblock a toilet – unclog your WC with or without a plunger (or a plumber)

This is how to unblock a toilet fast, with or without a plunger (or a plumber) using washing up liquid, cling film, baking soda and more

How to unblock a toilet
(Image credit: Getty)

Everyone should know how to unblock a toilet, for obvious reasons. Plumbers can be expensive, and if you need to unclog your WC quickly to get your toilet fit for use once again (and your blood pressure down), time is also of the essence.

Thankfully, you can unclog a toilet quickly and effectively both with or without a plunger using household tools and ingredients like washing up liquid, cling film, baking soda and vinegar, plus, even just hot water... 

It's not a great job, but still an essential part of knowing how to clean a toilet properly and vital to keep your home happy, we're sure you will agree. Keep reading to tend to your toilet and to get clued up on how to avoid a repeat blockage in the future. With a couple of helpful tips from the experts in household cleaning also, your toilet will be clear and free from blockages in no time.

How to unclog a toilet without a plunger

You don't need a plunger to unblock a toilet successfully. Perhaps you're not in your own home on holiday or simply don't own a plunger. There are a few methods to try using washing up liquid, cling film and even just hot water. 

How to unblock a toilet using washing up liquid

  1. Start by pouring about one cup of dish soap into the toilet bowl so that it covers the entire waterline. 
  2. Leave this for half an hour to start dissolving the matter. 
  3. Next, fill a bucket with hot water and pour this from a height for added pressure, into the toilet. 
  4. Leave for a few more minutes and then flush. If the water level drops you're sorted, if it's not 100% clearing, repeat.
  5. To be on the safe side, finish the process with one cup of baking soda and two of white vinegar for at least half an hour. This will break up any remaining particles.

How to unblock a toilet using clingfilm 

  1. Dry the surface of your toilet with paper towels and cover the top of the toilet bowl tightly with 3-4 layers of cling film.
  2. Ensure it is well sealed and then flush the toilet.
  3. The pressure should cause the cling film to balloon.
  4. Press down on the clingfilm gently which should ease the blockage down the toilet pipe successfully.

How to unblock a toilet with hot water

  1. To unblock a toilet using just hot water, start by boiling the kettle.
  2. Pour the hot water into the bowl and leave it to sit for three minutes. 
  3. Then flush. 
  4. This might be enough to soften and push through any blockage, especially if a light blockage. But, if not, try one of our other methods.

If you've tried the hot water and flushed the toilet once and it's filled the bowl but the blockage has remained, your next option should be to don rubber gloves and see if you can deal with the blockage by hand. That might range from hooking out the toy your child has stuffed down there to lifting out excessive clumps of toilet paper they've used into a waiting plastic bag. We hate to say it, but it might also mean taking an old knife to a large (let's call it 'organic', sounds better) deposit and slicing it up a little. Try the flush again and keep fingers crossed.

Green bathroom ideas

(Image credit: Heritage Bathrooms)

How to unclog a toilet pipe

Try to clear a toilet pipe using a plumber's rod or auger toilet unblocker (sold at DIY sheds or on Amazon). The blockage is likely to be in the toilet pipes if nothing is visually blocking in the toilet bowl.

A wire coat hanger or long piece of stiff wire can also be bent into a wide curved and pushed into the toilet to unblock it if you don't have a drainage rod. Move it about gently, ensuring it doesn't get lodged or scratch the ceramic. This might be enough to clear the blockage. Flush gently to check.

Don't do this if you have a toilet with a macerator – it might be that the toilet's not blocked, just won't flush because there's something caught around the mechanism.

How to unclog a toilet with a plunger

If you do own a plunger, first of all, ensure that the plunger you use is a toilet plunger and big enough to cover the hole and create a vacuum. 

Plug the plunger over the opening in the toilet bowl and pump it backwards and forwards. If your plunger is small or not designed for a toilet, and doesn't fit the hole exactly, you can still use it, but flush the loo as you pump the plunger as this will create the necessary force to push the blockage through.

orange toilet plunger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to unclog a toilet with baking soda and vinegar

To unblock a toilet with baking soda and vinegar, pour a cup of baking soda (fizzier) or bicarbonate of soda if that is what you have to hand, into the toilet bowl. Follow it with a cup of white vinegar. Allow this to fizz for 20 minutes. Flush; this should have cleared most blockages and left a fresher smell also.

baking soda

(Image credit: Amazon)

How to unblock a toilet with caustic soda

To unblock a toilet with caustic soda, ensure your eyes and hands are protected as caustic soda is extremely damaging if it comes into contact with either. Then pour the caustic soda into the toilet bowl, leave for two minutes (but always check the manufacturer's instructions for full details). Follow with a bucket of hot water from the kettle or hot tap. Flush the toilet, then give it a clean.

How to unblock a toilet with water pressure

If all of the above fail to work, you could try breaking up the blockage using water pressure. For this you will need a pressure washer and a pipe cleaning kit to connect to it. Insert the hose into the toilet bowl, switch on the pressure washer and you will see the hose will be pulled down the pipe until it reaches the blockage. If the blockage can be broken down, the water pressure will do this.  Again, don't do this if you have a toilet with a macerator – it might be that the toilet's not blocked, just won't flush because there's something caught around the mechanism.

How to deal with blockages in a soil pipe

If you can't see the blockage in your toilet, and the drain (usually sited at the front of your house, just on the property line with the pavement) isn't full of water, the blockage might be in the soil pipe. In this case you'll need to call in a professional to jet the pipe clean. If the blockage seems to be in the soil pipe between your property and the drain beneath the road, you'll need to call your local water company. 

Things you should never flush down the toilet

If you're wondering 'why is my toilet blocked all of the time?', it could be as simple as having flushed down items that simply don't belong in the loo. 

Toilets usually get blocked because they have something thrown down them that they're not meant to cope with, so the easiest way to prevent a blocked toilet is never to flush the following down it:

clean bright white toilet overhead shot

(Image credit: Getty)
  • Too many tissues: If you're using a lot of tissues to blow your nose because you have a cold, don't throw all 20 of them down the loo; just put them in your bathroom bin instead.
  • Cotton pads/balls and cotton earbuds: All of these things are guaranteed to clog your toilet; just bin them instead.
  • Sanitary pads: Sanitary pads should never be thrown down the toilet.
  • (Flushable) wipes: Some companies claim their wipes are flushable, when in reality they aren't. Stay on the safe side and dispose of them hygienically in a bin.
  • Coffee grounds: Ground coffee compacts, and after a while will cause a toilet blockage or (worse) pipe blockage further down the line somewhere. Used coffee grounds from your French press should always be put in your compost bin.
  • Food: You may be able to get away with pouring old soup down the loo every once in a blue moon, but if you regularly use your loo as a food waste disposal system, don't as it's only a matter of time before it's blocked again.

Expert tips on how to unblock a toilet

Pink toilet

(Image credit: Unsplash/Curology)

Martha Stewart's tip for unclogging a toilet fast

Martha Stewart along with Alexander Neiman, co-owner and head of plumbing and HVAC at Allstate Service Group recommend, "If you find yourself with a clog, the first thing you should do is turn off the water at the angle stop, which is located behind the toilet against the wall... " From there you can try the plunger method to remove the stoppage, wearing rubber gloves. "If that doesn't work, you can use a drain snake or plumbing auger."

The pros at plumbworld

The experts at plumbworld highlight the importance of knowing what type of toilet blockage you're dealing with. "If you have the first type - slow drainage - it is easy to clear. However, don’t wait for your toilet to become blocked. Early action and regular cleaning are vital for avoiding blockages."

For more severe blockages where your toilet is filled with water, "transfer as much water from the toilet bowl into a separate bucket before attempting to unblock it."

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