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How to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

Got a toilet clog, with no plunger in sight? Read this guide to learn how to unclog a toilet using only simple household items you probably have at hand.

Toilet with lid up in a bright bathroom. iStock

It’s a houseguest’s nightmare: A clogged toilet with no plunger in sight. But never fear! You can conquer a stopped-up toilet without this bathroom tool. Here are a few ways you can unclog a toilet; with some simple household items you probably have at hand.

Note: These techniques work with biodegradable material, not a flushed toy or something solid and nonorganic.

The Simple Solution: Hot Water and Soap

Items needed:

  • Hot Tap Water (not boiling)
  • Bucket/Pot/Basin/Pitcher for pouring
  • Dishwashing soap

All this technique requires is hot water, soap, and a bit of time. If you don’t have a plunger around, grab a large pot or other vessel, and fill it with very hot water. (Do not use boiling water, as it could crack your toilet bowl.)

Add about ¼-1/2 cup of dish soap to the toilet bowl (or mix it with the hot water). Pour the water slowly into the toilet, from about waist height to add some power to the stream and wait. (Be careful to not overfill the toilet!) The hot water and soap should break down the material clogging the pipe, but it may take some time (even overnight), so be patient.

The Science Solution: Make a Mini Volcano

Items needed:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar (white vinegar is great, but any will do)

Do you remember science experiments as a kid, where you made a “volcano” erupt with lava concocted from baking soda and vinegar? Well, that same chemical reaction can help clear your clogged toilet bowl.

Most chemical drain clog treatments are not for use in toilets, instead try some pantry staples to gently clear the stoppage. Scoop out water from the bowl if it is already full.

Add 1 cup of baking soda. Next, add 2 cups of vinegar (boost the effectiveness by also adding 2 cups of hot water).

Wait approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, and the reaction should have broken up the clog enough to flush it down.

The DIY Tool Solution: Break It Up

Items needed:

  • Wire hanger or toilet brush

You can always try to break up the clog with a stand-in for a short pipe snake, such as a bent wire hanger (using the less sharp curved corner, not the pointed end of the hook). Alternately, try using your toilet brush to break up the clog.

These “alternate use” tools should work if the hanger or brush can reach the blockage (that is, if the blockage is high enough in the drain). They can also be used in conjunction with the hot water treatment solution above.

The Handyman’s Solution: A Drain Snake

Items needed:

  • Drain snake/drum auger

The bathroom might lack a plunger, but some tool junkies keep other tools around that take clearing drains to another level. The drum auger is designed to clear out clogged pipes, and your toilet is just another stuck drain. (It’s also a useful tool to have on hand if your home has a history of clogged pipes.)

You simply feed the flexible cable down into the clog and crank the handle to break it up. You can feed more of the cable down and repeat the process until the clog is clear.

As always, when you’re done clearing your clog, make sure to thoroughly clean up any spilled or dripped toilet waste with appropriate germ-killing cleaners, like ones with bleach that are meant for bathroom surfaces. And of course, this goes for any tools used in the unclogging process as well.