How To Guides

How to Unblock a Toilet

Toilet close up

So, the toilet’s blocked. It’s a situation we all dread, and one we are all likely to encounter at some point in time.

Though certainly not a pleasant problem, it is one that you can tackle yourself. With a few simple steps and a whole lot of resilience, you can hear the satisfying flush of clarity once more. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to unblock a toilet and restore serenity to your bathroom once again.


Close up of toilet

Before diving in, there are a few things to consider when attempting to unblock your toilet. First of all, if you are unsure as to why it won’t flush, try to locate the blockage. One way to do this is to check the chamber – if it is full of water but the toilet still won’t flush, it is likely that the blockage is somewhere far along the pipe beyond your reach. In this case, a plumber might be required.

If the chamber is empty or the water level is depleted, it is likely that the blockage is within range for you to have a go at unclogging the toilet yourself. There are a few different ways to do this, depending on the size of the blockage and the materials you have to hand.

How to unblock a toilet using hot water

If you don’t think the blockage is very large, and if it’s of an organic nature, you can try to unblock it using hot water. The aim with this method is to use gravity and the heat of the water to force the blockage to shift, either away down the pipe or back up into the toilet bowl.


  • Bucket
  • Hot water

1. Make sure there isn’t too much water in the toilet bowl

In order for this method to work, the toilet bowl needs to be as empty as possible. If it isn’t, you could try bailing water out, or jump straight to the plunger method.

2. Fill a bucket with hot water

Fill a bucket with enough hot water that you can create a steady stream, but not so much that it is too heavy for you to lift or that it will overflow the toilet, in case the blockage refuses to move.

3. Pour the water into the toilet

From about half a metre high, pour the water at a steady pace directly down the toilet. You will likely notice if this has worked, but give it a cautionary flush to test it out. If there’s no give, move on to the plunger method.

How to unblock a toilet using a plunger

Bathroom with a toilet

Failing the hot water method, or if you know that the source of the blockage is too large to be shifted by force and gravity, you can enlist the help of a plunger. The plunger should be shaped so that the seal fits over the opening of the toilet drain.


  • Plunger
  • Newspaper or old towels
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bag (for disposal)
  • Extra water or bucket for bailing water

1. Lay newspaper or old towels around the base of the toilet

As a precautionary measure, especially if the bowl is full of water, set out newspaper or old towels around the base of the toilet in case anything splashes out of the bowl and onto the floor.

2. Check the water level

Don your rubber gloves and check the water level. Add or remove water as necessary – the toilet bowl should be about half-full, so that the plunger is covered but the risk of splashing is at a minimum.

3. Fit the plunger

Hold the handle and navigate the plunger so the seal fits over the entire toilet drain opening.

4. Plunge away!

Start off slowly so the water doesn’t splash out of the bowl. Push down vertically, gently at first so the rubber seal can secure to the bowl and create a vacuum. Once you feel that you have gotten a grip, begin to speed up the process.

If at first you aren’t successful, don’t worry. Vary the pace, and make sure to release and reseal the plunger regularly to let out any excess air.

5. Clearing the blockage

If the water drains and the blockage clears down the pipe, count yourself as one of the lucky ones. If the blockage is released into the bowl, carefully remove it and seal it securely in a bag for disposal.

If neither of these methods work, it may be the case that the blockage is too large and you will need to seek professional help.

With a bit of determination and some nifty DIY skills, your blocked toilet can be a nightmare of the past. Assess the situation, get the right materials together and follow this handy guide to go forth and flush your troubles away.



Writer and expert