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How Do I Fix a Toilet Overflow?

A plunger is used to release plumbing stoppages.
The first step in fixing a toilet is determining the cause of the issue.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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The best way to fix an overflowing toilet depends on the severity of the clog. You can fix most overflows with the use of a plunger, but for more serious clogs, it might be necessary to use an auger or to remove the toilet in order to fix the problem.

If the water level is unusually high, do not attempt to stop the overflow by flushing the toilet again. This will only refill the bowl and make the problem worse. If the toilet is overflowing quickly, turn off the water by turning the valve behind the toilet. If you are unable to turn off the water, then open the tank lid, lift the float ball and secure it so that it does not drop to the water. Then turn off the water at the main shutoff.

For a slow toilet overflow, first attempt to clear the blockage with a plunger. Place the plunger over the large hole in the bottom of the bowl and press down slowly. Start to pump firmly but with a slow pace. Gradually increase the speed and intensity of the pumping and then pull the plunger back quickly. Repeat these steps two to three times or as necessary, until the bowl begins to drain.

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If the bowl does not clear after plunging, an auger — a variety of plumbing snake with a bent end, enclosed in a protective tube — can be used to clear the clog. Do not use a regular plumbing snake, because it can cause scratches and damage the bowl. Carefully feed the auger coil into the drain. After the auger is in position, slowly turn it clockwise while steadily pushing down until it can no longer be turned. Then turn the auger counterclockwise.

After repeating the turning process once more, slowly remove the auger from the drain. If the drain is not yet clear, use the plunger again. Then reinsert the auger and repeat the turning process.

For a severe overflow where a plunger and auger are ineffective, it will be necessary to remove the toilet and clear the blockage from underneath the bowl. With this method, the water must be shut off. After the toilet has been removed, reach inside the pipe and clear out the blockage manually.

When the blockage has been cleared, reassemble the toilet and turn the water back on. Try a test flush to ensure that the toilet has been reassembled properly and that the overflow has been stopped.

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Discuss this Article

wavy58
Post 11

I had major problems with the toilet at my parent’s house. It didn’t want to stop flushing, so the water would continually rise.

I kept having to lift the lid off the back and pull the ball up by the chain. Eventually, it got to the point where I had to do this every time I flushed. I told my dad about it, and he decided it was time to replace some of the inner workings in the tank.

After he did this, we never had any more problems. I guess those balls and chains do wear out from time to time, though we never really think about their existence, much less the fact that they won’t work forever.

seag47
Post 9

My friend’s parents were out of town when she caused the toilet to overflow. I was there, and we were both freaking out as the water poured over the edges.

She had simply put too much toilet paper in the bowl before flushing. It clogged, and the water just kept rising.

When we realized it wasn’t going to stop, she grabbed the toilet brush and stuck the handle end down through the nasty water into the hole. She began scraping fervently.

It did make the paper disintegrate into bits, so the water finally drained out, but it had already soaked the linoleum in the bathroom. Her parents had to replace the flooring, and they were not happy about it. They gave her a stern lecture about not overloading the bowl with paper.

orangey03
Post 8

I tried using a plunger once. It didn’t work for me.

I clogged up the toilet in my office building, and I wanted to be courteous and fix it myself. I grabbed the plunger from the supply closet in the bathroom and started pumping.

I have a really small body frame, so I’m not very strong. It is possible that I was doing it wrong, but it is also likely that I just don’t have the power to pump hard enough to fix a clogged toilet.

So, I did the thing you’re not supposed to do. I tried flushing one more time. It overflowed, and I had to tell the janitor.

Oceana
Post 7

The toilet at work is shared by everyone. We don’t have a separate ladies room and men’s room.

The bad thing is that the toilet can’t hold much paper at all before it clogs. I usually try a couple of times to flush it, because sometimes it will drain totally out on the second flush.

The boss can’t understand why people don’t let him know when they have clogged the toilet so that he can get the plunger. It is really embarrassing for your boss to be standing over the mess you just made, knowing it came from you. If I clog the toilet, I just wait for someone to find it out themselves.

strawCake
Post 6

@JaneAir - Plumbing issues in the middle of the night are no fun! They aren't that fun during the day either though - I recently had an overflow situation during the middle of the day and all the maintenance people in my building were too busy to come right then.

I did a bunch of searching online and tried a bunch of the tips I found, but I just made it worse. I tried this thing where you fill a two liter soda bottle with water and try to use the force of the water to dislodge the clog. Unfortunately, it didn't work. My toilet overflowed even more after I tried it!

Eventually maintenance came and rescued me, but not until I made a huge mess. Next time I will leave it to the professionals!

JaneAir
Post 5

I hate dealing with toilet overflow. Once at my old apartment my toilet started overflowing in the middle of the night! I didn't want to wake anyone up, so I tried to take care of it myself.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a plunger. What I ended up doing is using a wire coat hanger. I was able to remove the toilet paper that was clogging the toilet and making it overflow. It was pretty gross, and the hanger left some marks on the bottom of my toilet, but at least it worked!

I went out and bought a plunger the next day!

Sara007
Post 4

Our kids usually end up causing most of our toilet overflow. For some reason our youngest has taken it upon himself to start flushing random toys down the toilet to see what will happen. Having a clogged toilet is no fun, especially when you have no idea how to get the offending object out.

We had a plumber come in at quite an expense because of the plumbing toilet repair we needed done. My son flushed some small stuffed animals down the toilet and let me tell you, it made quite the mess! At least we didn't have to go through an entire toilet tank replacement, that would have been horrible.

drtroubles
Post 3

It seems to me that a lot of toilet problems such as toilet overflow can be taken care of by yourself. Our old home had an ancient plumbing system and we often battled with overflowing toilets and clogged drains.

One short-term thing that helped us was investing in some new toilet parts. We ended up replacing the toilet tank and some of the plumbing itself, and it did wonders. Unfortunately toilet repair parts can get expensive, so it may actually be easier to just buy an entirely new toilet if your piping isn't to blame. We luckily had a plumber friend who was able to secure us some discounts on what we needed to pick up.

browncoat
Post 2

I've been in that situation too, where you can't really afford professional help to do a toilet repair. It's a bit tough when really, it's the landlord's responsibility as well.

I found that it helped if I used a drain clearing liquid. You can get them at the hardware store, or even the supermarket.

They are quite dangerous, so you have to read the instruction carefully, but we found it did wonders and made the toilet much less prone to clogging. Sometimes with old plumbing, that's all you can do really. Just keep nursing it along and hope!

KoiwiGal
Post 1

Having a toilet that is prone to clogging is awful. You are always on edge, waiting for it to happen. We lived in a real dump of a place for a year while I was at university, and we couldn't afford anything better.

At first, every time it overflowed I was just overwhelmed by it, but eventually I just learned to push up my sleeves and grab the plunger.

I'm sure there was some major problem wrong with it that would eventually have to be fixed, but of course, the landlord wasn't going to do anything about it, and at the time we just couldn't afford to call out a plumber.

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