male hands holding plunger to unclog toilet

3 Ways to Unclog a Toilet—Quick and Easy!

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.

male hands holding plunger to unclog toilet

Quick! Stop it from overflowing

The moment you realize something’s wrong, and the water level is rising, you need to act fast to turn it off. There are two ways to unclog a toilet. I’d do both just to be sure: 

  1. Remove the lid on the back of the toilet and set it on the floor.
  2. Reach in (that water is clean) and close the open flapper. 
  3. Bend down and reach behind the toilet near the floor and turn off the water supply by turning the handle clockwise.

toilet collage showing flapper and shut off valve

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

Plungertoilet plunger

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 this 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.

  1. Put on rubber gloves if you have them.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. Turn on the water supply (that handle behind the toilet near the floor where you turned it off) to allow the toilet to refill.
  5. Flush and get you on your way.

Dish soap and hot waterA close up of a bottle blue dawn dishwsashing liquid

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

  1. Pour about half a cup of liquid dish soap, like Blue Dawn, into the toilet to help coat the clog and get it moving.
  2. While that sits and works to soften the clog (give it a few minutes), heat up one gallon of water on the stove (16 cups). You want it hot but not boiling.
  3. Carefully pour the hot water into the toilet. Wait a couple of minutes longer, then flush.



Baking soda and vinegar

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. 

    1. Pour one cup of baking soda into the toilet. Wait a couple of minutes.
    2. Follow with two cups of white vinegar, pouring it in slowly. Allow the vinegar and baking soda to work for several minutes.
    3. Turn the water supply on, allow the tank to fill, then flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared.

baking soda and vinegar

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

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

There you go—the secrets of dealing with a clogged toilet like a pro! This valuable information for how to unclog a toilet will come in handy should you face future embarrassing bathroom situations!

MORE: The Night Old Faithful Visited San Francisco

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12 replies
  1. Kathy C says:

    Mary, the baking soda and vinegar solution, will it work in the garbage disposal? Mine seems to fill up the sink often and we don’t put much down there other than maybe cleaning off plates usually after scraping the large scraps in the trash. The other idea I had was possibly running hot water down the drain for a while thinking the “blockage” may be further down the line.

  2. Elaine Ford says:

    Last week we had a clog in the toilet. We had wrong kind of plunger and it worked only a little bit. I have tried this remedy before and it worked again perfectly: removed the liner from the bathroom trash basket, filled trash basket with water from the bathtub spigot which took only seconds. Quickly dumped the entire basket of water into toilet and WOOSH! everything cleared instantly. Then poured a bit of bleach and dawn into the toilet and swishes with the toilet brush. All fresh and clean and no more clog!

  3. Barb says:

    I always remember your story about clearing the clog in a hotel ! I loved that story.
    I’ve recommended the dawn and hot water to my sister and it worked great !

  4. Gina Stevens says:

    These new toilets use too little water, so they clog easily. They have to be flushed more often. Hence, they are not water-saving devices.

  5. Lucienne says:

    Great tips. I would suggest the first step should be shutting off the water supply as it would be faster than taking the tank lid off and closing the flapper. I have had to deal with clogged several times. Turning off the water first has allowed me time to figure out what to do next.

  6. Leonard Rodgers says:

    Great advise. You may clear the clog and still have it come back if something small is lodged in the toilet’s trap. such as a toothbrush or small plastic child’s toy.If it comes back try to look inside the toilet trap with a small mirror (like a dental mirror) If you see something stuck it may not pass and you will need to try and pull it out with pliers or a piece of coat hanger wire.I had a toothbrush in there and every few days toilet paper would get stuck and plug the drain.

    • Don says:

      Good info. Years ago we had a toilet that clogged repeatedly. We finally paid to have a plumber come out. He found a short pencil was floating around in the toilet trap, causing the clogs.


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