No one likes to talk about it, but truth be told, it happens. Toilets malfunction. They get clogged. Sure, it's inconvenient, but more than that, downright embarrassing if you're somewhere other than the privacy of your own home. Here's a cheat sheet so you'll know ahead of time how to unclog a toilet.


The moment you realize something's wrong, and the water level is rising, you need to act fast to turn it off.

—Remove the lid on the back of the toilet and set it on the floor.

—Reach into the tank (that water is clean) and close the open flapper.

—Bend down and reach behind the toilet near the floor and turn off the water supply by turning the handle clockwise.

Now you can stop worrying about flooding the place and move on to freeing the clog using one of the following methods.


Sounds pretty basic, but a plunger really is the best option for how to unclog a toilet. Of course, this assumes you have the right kind of plunger.

Every household needs this basic, inexpensive tool. You want a plunger like the NEIKO toilet plunger with a flange on the bottom that is designed to fit a toilet — not a flat bottom, which is better for drains and showers.

—Put on rubber gloves, if you have them.

—Place the plunger into the toilet bowl and push down gently, just to remove the air in the flange without splashing yourself with dirty water. This should create a good seal. Next, use force to pump the plunger up and down without breaking that seal.

—Pull the plunger up quickly. This will break the seal, dislodge the clog and free you from this mess. You may have to repeat this process a few times to fully clear the clog.

—Turn on the water supply (that handle behind the toilet near the floor where you turned it off) to allow the toilet to refill.

—Flush and get on your way.

How to Unclog a Toilet -- Quick and Easy! DEAR ANNIE


If you don't have a plunger, or using it didn't clear the problem, move on to this option:

—Pour about half a cup of liquid dish soap such as Blue Dawn into the toilet to help coat the clog and get it moving.

—While that sits and works to soften the clog (give it a few minutes), heat up a big pan of water on the stove. You want it hot but not boiling.

—Carefully pour the hot water into the toilet to chase the dish soap. Wait a couple of minutes longer, then flush.

If you want to perform this trick without leaving the bathroom, give shampoo or hand soap a try, followed by hot tap water. It can't hurt, but chances are good that it will work, and no one will be the wiser.


If you don't have a plunger handy, this option is likely to do the trick, provided the water level in the bowl has mostly subsided, and the water supply shut-off valve is still turned off.

Head to the pantry and grab baking soda and vinegar. This can be tricky because baking soda and vinegar when combined create a powerful fizzing action that can do more than just produce an impressive amount of bubbles; it can also release even the most stubborn of drain clogs. You don't want to go overboard, but you want to clear this clog, so follow these instructions exactly.

—Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the toilet. Wait a couple of minutes.

—Follow with 2 cups of white vinegar, pouring it in slowly. Allow the vinegar and baking soda to work for several minutes.

—Turn the water supply on, allow the tank to fill, then flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared.

If needed, you can safely repeat this process once more, but wait for a little while.

Safety Warning: Do not pour vinegar or baking soda into your drain either before or after using drain-cleaning chemicals such as Drano.

There you go — how to deal with a clogged toilet like a pro!

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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