Motherhood: 50 jobs in one
As a single mom, you’ve probably discovered that you are the one who will have to deal with the hassles (and gross things) that come with everyday life… spiders, kids with stomach flu, wet beds, and the dreaded call from down the hall: “Mom – the toilet won’t flush!”
And that brings us to the benefits of learning an essential skill like learning how to unclog a toilet without a plunger… but also how to use a plunger the right way.
When you’re the only adult in the house, no matter what the problem is, the buck stops with you… and that most definitely includes all the stuff that you’d love to delegate to someone else.
Now, this isn’t to say that women can’t or don’t do these things, but more often than not, in a typical heterosexual relationship, these things are delegated to the guy. Professional stats bear it out: Career Explorer found that, as of 2022, only three percent of plumbers are female.
No matter your own personal plumbing, toilet hassles are pretty much a fact of life, and it would be really expensive (not to mention time-consuming) to call out a plumber every time.
The good news, though, is that unclogging your toilet doesn’t always have to be super gross. We have a few tips that can actually make the process fairly clean and easy.
How to unclog a toilet without a plunger
Assuming you don’t have something like a plastic toy down there that’s stuck — something that won’t dissolve for about a thousand years — these tips should help you get everything moving smoothly once again. (PS: Here are tips for dealing with a toy that’s gone down the toilet on a scuba adventure.)
This process uses liquid dish detergent to help loosen and lubricate the works, and hot water to help “things” dissolve. It works best when there’s at least some water in the bowl when you start
The soap & water method
- Pour in about 1/4 cup of dish soap (not dishwasher detergent) into the toilet, right over the main exit hatch under the water. Don’t flush or mix it in with a plunger or anything — just let gravity pull it down to do its work.
- Wait about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Next, fill up a bowl with about 1 gallon of hot water (not warm, but definitely not boiling) and pour it into the toilet so it doesn’t splash back on you. Add a second gallon of water.
- Wait about 5 more minutes, then flush.
- If the blockage clears, flush a few more times over the next few minutes to make sure everything is flowing all the way along to the sewer.
- If the toilet doesn’t clear, you can try steps 1-4 again to see if it will unclog — but after that, your next best bet is to use the oft-feared plunger.
How to unclog a toilet with a plunger
Plungers can be kind of gross to use because they often make a soup of what’s in the toilet (gag) and can splash a bit. But it’s one of those “you gotta do what you gotta do” kind of things.
First off, it’s important to realize that a plunger works by making use of suction and pressure — it’s not a poker or a pusher or a stirring stick.
You need to have enough water in the toilet to cover the rubber part of the plunger so you can create a seal over the toilet hole. About halfway up the bowl is perfect, because it’s enough to help you make the tool work, but will also help you avoid splashback.
How to use a plunger
To use the plunger, fit it over the hole as evenly as you can, and try to get a good fit around it on the porcelain. Then you will want to push in, release a little (don’t pull it out yet), then repeat that a few times.
For the last time you push it in — you should feel the suction — and then pull it out hard. This should create enough force to shift the blockage a little. Then try flushing again. You might need to repeat the plunging 4 or 5 times.
Still no joy? You can try repeating the whole process (even just the hot water and plunging parts), or go the easy route and try the waiting method.
The waiting method is just like it sounds: wait for maybe half an hour, and flush it again. Come back every 15-30 minutes and give it a flush — presuming you won’t make it overflow. Hopefully, something will eventually move. Give it another few rounds with the plunger if you want.
If nothing is helping, and/or if the toilet still won’t drain at all — especially if left for several hours — it is probably time to call a pro… or just avoid using that toilet forever.*
* Not recommended
Does your toilet keep getting clogged?
If you can’t fix the problem, or if you clear it once, only to have it get clogged again, there might be something else going on there.
What exciting things might be going on down under? Well, roots could be invading the pipes, an air vent might be blocked, the waste pipe could be broken, or, if you have a basement home, your sewage ejection pump is having issues.
In cases like that, you will definitely need to contact a plumbing professional.
What goes in must come out…
But there’s another culprit, and we hate to mention it, but… it could be the size of the poop that is problematic. (During the winter, when the toilet water is colder, it’s more likely to be an issue.)
It may be time to get your kids some more fiber, yes, but it would also be good to teach them the courtesy flush concept: put simply, they should flush while they’re still on the toilet.
They don’t have to wait until you have created a ten-pound monster — just go and flush and go and flush. Smaller bundles of waste are easier for any toilet to handle… and in a post-divorce life, you need your progeny to help you out wherever they can.
ALSO SEE: What’s that blue liquid in a porta-potty?
Worried extra flushes will waste too much water? Dealing with a clog will take up even more water, not to mention hassle and smell and the overall gross factor. (Assuming you can see some humor in all of this, you have to read the infamous Poop Knife story that was posted to Reddit a few years back.)
While we’re on the topic, make sure the kids know to take it easy on the toilet paper. If they absolutely need more than you’d prefer they have, you might want to ask them to apply the courtesy flush concept to that, too.
Finally, for all our visual learners out there, here’s a video that shows… well, basically what we just wrote above.
It’s cool to see how a squirt of dish soap + hot water + time = an unclogged toilet with zero elbow grease required.