Homeowners know there are a few maintenance issues that tend to be more inconvenient and troublesome than others. One of the most common and challenging can be a toilet clog. In addition to being an inconvenience, toilet clogs can be quite a challenge, especially for single bathroom homes. While some backups and clogs are remedied using a plunger, you may not have a plunger. Not to mention, some clogs require more work to get the plumbing flowing again.
In some cases, simple toilet clogs can actually lead to major plumbing problems down the road if not handled properly. Some homeowners choose to handle these plumbing repairs through their home warranty coverage to offset some of the costs.
What Causes Toilet Clogs?
There are a variety of things that can cause a troublesome toilet clog. One of the biggest problems often occurs when something drops into the toilet without a person’s direct knowledge, and it gets flushed down into the system. This can happen when a child or pet drops something into the toilet bowl without anyone knowing it’s in there. Once the item toy or other item is flushed into the system, a backup usually occurs.
Another common cause of clogs includes flushing paper towels or excess amounts of toilet paper into the system. Certain toilets, or even pipes can’t always handle this, especially with older models and lots of wear and tear.
Clogs can also arise from people placing things in a toilet that they think should be fine but inadvertently causes a clog. Knowing what is safe to flush down a toilet and what isn’t is essential to ensure things flow smoothly through the system and avoid significant backups and clogs.
In some cases, a stoppage can occur because of more serious issues like broken pipes or roots.
Using an Auger for Toilet Clogs
When a plunger fails to free up a clog, it’s best not to fill the toilet with many drain cleaners as this can make the problem a high risk for chemical exposure to the person trying to de-clog it. Using a little bit (about a cup) isn’t too problematic, but you don’t want to go overboard and risk damage.
The next best step in clearing a clogged toilet if a plunger fails is to use a plumber auger. Plumbing professionals design these mechanical devices to deal with the unusual construction of a toilet drain in a safe way that does not harm the pipes or the toilet bowl fixture.
A toilet auger is a snake-like tool designed to maneuver through the toilet drain piping to remove items clogging up the drain system. When purchasing an auger, it’s essential to buy one that plumbing professionals specifically design for toilets. A toilet auger has a manual crank at the top with a bowl guard, shaft, and a wired snake. They can be purchased at most hardware stores, but it’s important to buy a good name brand that can be trusted to ensure durability and resistance to corrosion.
How to Unclog a Toilet Using a Toilet Auger
Toilet augers are meant to help push through a clog or help to pull up and remove an item that may be causing a drain blockage. Using them is relatively easy and does not take extensive time or manpower to be effective. The use of standard augers requires less physical effort than the use of a standard plunger.
There are ten basic steps when using a toilet auger:
1. Use Gloves – If the clog has been treated with drain cleaner or is septic back up, the use of gloves and placement of newspapers around the toilet base is recommended.
2. Pull Auger Cable Back – The auger cable slowly winds into the toilet tank, so it should be started with the cable, otherwise known as the cable snake, completely retracted into the base.
3. Start The Snaking Process – The first step to getting the cable in the toilet pipeline is placing the snakehead into the toilet bowl drain. It’s essential to be careful not to scratch the porcelain with the cable line when starting, as this can discolor and damage the coating.
4. Feed The Snake Into the Drain – Firmly clasp the crank and place the other hand on the shaft entering into the toilet drain and start to move the crank auger slowly, so the snake cable pushes deeper into the toilet drain pipe.
5. Reaching The Clog – Continue feeding the cable into the drainpipe until the snake stops at the clog.
6. Maneuvering The Cable – Once the clogged area is reached with the auger cable, gently crank the line a little into the clog and pull it back into the auger by about 4-5 inches. Doing this several times can help loosen things up to allow for restored flushing.
7. Retracting the Cable – Once the clogged items attach to the auger, turn the crank to bring the cable back up out of the drain and remove the debris. This may need to be done several times if the clog consists of wads of paper towels, toilet paper, or other spongy material.
8. Removal of Debris – After removing the debris, flush the toilet and watch how well the water drains down the drain pipe. If the flushing drains, slowly repeat this several times until the clog has been removed enough for a clean flush.
9. Plunging – If the drain continues to move slowly, you can retract the cable and attempt a plunging. It is recommended to have a good plunger for the job and not just a cheap one that may not offer enough pressure.
10. Clean the Tools for Storage – Once the clog is cleared, clean the toilet auger and plunger to protect against corrosion and early wear.
When Should I Call a Professional Plumber?
If these steps fail to remove the clog, removal will likely require the assistance of a professional plumber. This is especially true if the lodged item does not attach to the auger, then it will probably not be effective at removing whatever is in there. Some clogs can get substantially lodged into the drain system, or the clogged items may be set further back than a regular auger can reach. This is when you should contact a professional plumber to help get the system free and clear of debris and build-up.
On occasion, items that clog a drain system are more complex such as invasive tree roots or broken piping. In these situations, only a professional plumber can address these issues adequately to get the system up and running again.
What’s the difference between an auger and snake?
Why won’t my auger go in very far?