Some adults I know have never had the joyous occasion to unclog their own toilet when it has blocked up let alone working on the throne of a complete stranger.
I was recently asked “MrTechnical, how do you unclog a toilet and not feel queasy?” I simply say that there is a right and a wrong time to contemplate any important lunch decision. Plunging a toilet does not have to be a heart wrenching experience but it does take some intestinal fortitude plus strong forearms will not hurt your chances of success.
The simplest tricks I know of are to just be patient and not try and win the battle in one fell swoop. If your goal is to stay clean and dry while you plunge the toilet then you must be patient and attack the crisis using both cunning and logic. Face it the thing is not really going anywhere so why rush into this job half cocked? Get ready physically and mentally by preparing your work area your tools and your attitude. I always figure what exactly is the worst that can happen on this job if things do go sideways on me? I am sure the customer will understand once I get the chance to explain exactly why I am exiting her shower wearing her favorite bath robe.
I usually try hard to first investigate the potential cause of the blockage without sounding like a nine year old that just learned that farts don’t always exit from the rear of the bus. Simply try to ascertain what the typical experience has been previously regarding the toilet you are about to plunge and discover its usual flow habits. For example is it one of those low flush toilets that require at least three flushes per session in order to keep it working properly? Did someone butcher a cow and could not pace themselves with regard to consumption of that freezer-o-meat?
If there is a plumbing problem which causes intermittent backups like this then you will likely be in for a long evening of stress before success. The fact is unless it is packed solid with rocks and toy army men then there is a very strong chance that you can save the day with some simple tricks and some elbow grease. Many toilet systems are still connected to septic systems which in reality could be plugged at the tank which in turn appears to be a clogged toilet when in reality it is simply blocked way down the line. Some systems have a crushed pipe under the house or in the ground on the way to the sewer and in cases like these you will probably get the Toilet working again but usually just for a short time before it locks up.
You will know within the first five minutes how severe your problem is. The first thing I do is turn off the water supply valve to make sure I can control the amount of new water allowed into the bowl. Next I will prepare at least two gallons of warm or even hot water. I will find the best plunger they own and get it in the room with me. Put on gloves face mask and safety glasses if you feel that these will save you from something catastrophic happening to you.
If the water is not overflowing the bowl then I will test the waters so to speak by centering the plunger cup over the exit opening in the bottom of the toilet. With the plunger held firmly between both hands I push down in rapid short pulses two to five times to see if there is any reaction in the bowl. Next I pour a quart or two of hot water into the bowl. Then I will try the plunging method of three to five rapid and firm strokes again. The hot water should begin to help open things up once you can plunge some of it into the depths of the blocked piping. Continue adding the hot water as the bowl level allows.
Having the level in the bowl be high while you plunge can actually help by putting a small bit of extra force towards the blockage. Another plunger trick is to try and use the plunger head to create a small suction when you pull the plunger upward. This can help dislodge a clog by working it back and forth in the pipe. The trick to this is to press the plunger into the bottom very slowly and then pull back swiftly.
The plunger head should never come up and out of the water, so just control the distance it travels and you may win this war with your shoes clean and dry. Realize that not all plungers are created equally and some of the more modern high tech units have a lot more plunging force than your grand fathers plunger did. One of the best I have used seems to be the type one that is all plastic and looks like a corrugated hose at the business end. This has a larger volume of displacement per stroke and I have unplugged toilets in one or two strokes using this type plunger. There is another type with an extended nozzle on the end which again adds displacement volume to the plunger head which helps you force more air and liquid down the drain per stroke.
Whichever plunger type you choose the best method of use is a series of short forceful strokes with the plunger end firmly inserted into the opening at the bottom of your toilet bowl. Once you are done with this tricky job it is wise to clean everything that came into contact including the plunger. Dunking it into a bucket of dilute soapy bleach solution is usually sufficient to clean it. Make a gallon of cleaning solution using water with a shot glass of dish soap and shot glass of bleach. Make sure someone cleans the bathroom well since things can really get moved around once you get into the vigorous plunging mode.
Once you have cleared the blockage chase the rest of the hot water down the toilet and follow this with at least two full flushes this way you are sure to push the blockage way down and hopefully into the sewer or septic. As preventative maintenance it is wise to plunge a slow draining system at least every couple of weeks to make sure it stays clear versus waiting for that particular shoe to drop.
There should be a rule that whoever was holding the burning bag of you know what then has to unclog the toilet. Happy plunging!