Unclogging a Toilet Trap

Plunging Techniques and Using a Toilet Auger

A shiny handle in a white toilet
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It’s easy to assess whether a clog is in the toilet’s trap or further down in the main stack. Toilets and lavatory sinks almost always drain out into the same stack, so if the sink is draining without a problem, then the problem lies in the toilet's trap.

Clogs in the Toilet Trap

Anything from paper towels to feminine hygiene products can cause the trap to clog. These items should never be flushed down the toilet.

Disposable wipes, even those labeled as flushable, should never be flushed either as they do not break down enough to fit down the trap and will eventually clog it.

If you have small children, you're probably familiar with kids' preoccupation with the toilet. Foreign objects, like a happy meal toy, will also cause a clog. Children are not the only culprits, however; most adults don’t want to touch toilet water, and some people who drop objects in the bowl, like nail clippers, instinctually flush rather than retrieve the item. You may be surprised when the clippers are flushed out with the water, only to find that you have a clog in the trap.

Plunging and toilet auguring are two options to unclog the trap:

Effective Plunging Methods

For about 90 percent of clogged toilets, you only need to use a plunger. Use one that has an extension flange on the rubber bell-shaped end, which looks like a fold-out cup.

This is specifically designed to fit into the opening of a toilet trap.

  1. Go gently with the first plunge. The bell is full of air at first, and a hard thrust will force the air out around the seal and spew water all over you and the bathroom.
  2. Once you force out the air, pump the plunger back and forth in an even but vigorous motion. It’s important to use an equal amount of force in both directions to ensure a solid seal. Forcing water to go in both directions in the drain should break up most clogs. Plunge about 15 to 20 times and maintain enough water in the bowl to keep the plunger covered. Just forcing air rather than water through the toilet trap won't generate enough pressure.
  1. Also, try switching between even strokes and a large heave.
  2. Flush the toilet. If it is still flushing slowly, try plunging again. If this doesn’t solve the problem, try cleaning the trap with a toilet auger.

Using a Toilet Auger

A toilet auger consists of a J-shaped tube and a cable. It works the same way as a drain snake, but the cable is larger in diameter to accommodate the larger trap of a toilet. You can purchase it at a hardware store for less than $15.

  1. Pull the handle out all the way so that the tip of the cable is all that is showing at the bottom.
  2. Insert the end of the auger into the outlet opening.
  3. Slowly push the handle forward while cranking in a clockwise motion.
  4. When the handle bottoms out, pull it out and repeat the process three or four times, forcing it left and right to ensure that the obstruction is completely cleared.