Woman unclogs a stinky toilet with plunger

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 deal with the situation.

Woman unclogs a stinky toilet with plunger

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 do this. I’d do both just to be sure: 

  1. Take off the lid, then reach in (that water is clean) and close the open flapper. 
  2. Reach behind the toilet near the floor and turn off the water supply off 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 it is the best option. Of course, this assumes you have the right kind of plunger for a toilet. Every household needs this basic very inexpensive tool. You want a plunger with a flange on the bottom that is designed to fit a toilet—not a flat one, which is better for drains and showers. 

First, put on rubber gloves if you have them. Next, put 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. 

Last, 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. Don’t forget to turn on the water supply to allow the toilet to refill and get you on your way.

Baking soda and vinegar

If you don’t have a plunger handy, 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 one cup of baking soda into the toilet. Wait a couple of minutes, then follow with two cups of white vinegar, pouring it in slowly. Allow the vinegar and baking soda to work for several minutes, then flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared.

If not, 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.

OH MY: How I Inadvertently Saved the Day for One Historic San Francisco Hotel

Dish soap and hot water

If you don’t have a plunger and the baking soda and vinegar didn’t do the trick, here’s a third option.

Pour about half a cup of liquid dish soap like Blue Dawn into the toilet. 

While that sits and works to soften the clog, heat up one gallon of water on the stove (16 cups). You want it hot but not boiling. Carefully pour the hot water into the toilet. Wait a couple of minutes then flush.

Tip: If you want to perform this trick without leaving the bathroom, give shampoo and hot tap water a try. It can’t hurt, and chances are it will work and no one will be the wiser.

MORE: 25 Remarkable Ways to Use Blue Dawn Outside the Kitchen


No matter the household challenge, it’s good to have options. Do you have a reliable method for unclogging a toilet? Let us know about it in the comments area below!


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