2 Dangerous Mistakes To Avoid When Unclogging Your Toilet

There's no convenient time for your toilet to overflow, and it's understandable to want to fix a clogged or slow-running toilet as fast as you can to avoid a messy overflow. However, it's easy to make a mistake that could harm your toilet and your pipes in an attempt to fix the problem quickly. It's understandable that you would want to grab the nearest available clog remedy, and preferably one that seems simple to use, but it's important to remember that the toilet is a special case, and that things that work in your kitchen sink may not be such a good idea when used in a toilet. Take a look at a few common mistakes that homeowners make when trying to unclog a toilet.

Using Drain Cleaner

Caustic drain cleaners can quickly and efficiently dissolve clogs that block your kitchen sink, so it may make sense to try one of them out on a tough toilet clog. However, when you understand how these drain cleaners work, you'll understand why that's not such a good idea.

Drain cleaners are made up of caustic or oxidizing chemicals. When you pour these chemicals into a drain or toilet, a chemical reaction occurs that creates heat. While this is safe when used sparingly in your sink, the heat can damage your porcelain toilet. In fact, it can possibly crack it, causing you to need a replacement. What's more, there's no guarantee that the drain cleaner will even work. If the toilet bowl is full, it's very possible that the drain cleaner will just sit there in the water, damaging your toilet and making it dangerous for you or your plumber to attempt any other methods to clear the drain. The cleaner can burn if it splashes on you or if you attempt to put your hand in the toilet.

Using a Plumber's Snake

If drain cleaner is out of the question, your next thought might be to try a drain auger. This is the coiled wire tool that is often referred to as a plumber's snake. Drain augers can effectively and safely clear out clogs – if, that is, you know which one that you need and what to do with them.

There are several different kinds of drain snakes, from mini-rooters to large drain snakes. Some are operated manually, others are motorized. It's easy to choose the wrong auger for the job. If you choose the wrong auger, or just use it incorrectly, you can damage your toilet. You may leave scratches on the toilet, which doesn't sound so bad if you're not worried about aesthetics, but those scratches can lead to rust, which can ruin the toilet. You're also at risk of damaging your pipes. The auger can scratch the inside of the pipe and lead to cracks or breakage.

Finally, using the wrong auger or using an auger incorrectly can lead to injury. The motorized augers have the most potential for danger, but the coiled wire in any auger holds energy under pressure, and the tool can recoil on you and cause you to lose control. While augers can certainly be used to clear an intractable clog, it's best to leave their use to an experienced plumber.

What to Do Instead

Your best bet, if you want to fix the clog yourself, is to rely on your trusty plunger. Just make sure that you have the right plunger for the job. A toilet plunger should be bell-shaped, whereas the flat plungers should only be used for showers and sinks. The bell shape is what you need to create strong enough suction to move the clog.

You can also try adding some heated water and dishwashing liquid to the toilet bowl before you plunge. The heat from the water and the chemicals from the soap can help melt and dissolve the clog, making your plunging job a little easier.

If plunging the toilet doesn't work, your next step should be to call a licensed plumber in your area to help you. A severely clogged toilet could be a sign of larger problem, like a damaged pipe, so if you can't clear the clog using the safest home remedy, you need a plumber not only to get your toilet running again, but also to give you more information on the nature of the clog and to rule out the possibility of a deeper problem.