An overflowing toilet is a common occurrence and it is natural to panic whenever this occurs because it can lead to a horrible mess. Knowing how to deal with this situation is important because it will help prevent your bathroom from becoming a disgusting mess or even causing more serious damage that will have to be repaired. Knowing how to plunge your toilet properly, is equally as important.

The first thing you must do when your toilet overflows is to stop the water and there are three different ways of doing this:

  • The first and best way is to shut the water off, is at the shut off valve behind the toilet on the left. This will stop any more water from entering the toilet tank and bowl. If your shut off valve is old and/or worn, it may not completely stop the flow of water or it could even be seized in place and difficult or impossible to turn. If you cannot shut off the valve or locate this valve, move to the next step.
  • Your second option is to remove the tank lid and push down on the flapper in the bottom of the tank. The flapper is the rubber seal that when flushed, will open and allow water to enter the bowl from the tank. Don’t worry, the water in the tank is clean water! Once you have pushed the flapper down, gently lift the ball or float up to stop the water from filling in the tank. Hold the ball or float until the water level slowly begins to decrease in the bowl. Once you let go of the ball or float, it will automatically start to fill again so if the water level in the bowl doesn’t decrease at all, move on to the next step.
  • The third way to stop water is by turning off the main water shut off to your house. This shut off is usually located in the basement, in the mechanical room. It will look like a knob or lever that will be on the vertical portion of the water supply pipe coming out of the ground, before the water meter. Turn this lever or knob all the way off. When turning the water back on after, it is very important to turn the knob or lever VERY SLOWLY so as not to create unwanted high pressure in your home. It is also best to open all the faucets on the highest level possible in your home prior to turning the main water valve back on. As you slowly turn the valve back on, the open faucets will allow the air in the line to discharge through the faucet. Once you have turned the main water valve all the way on and it is only water (not air) coming from the faucets, you can shut them off.

Once the water is turned off, you can take a deep breath and relax for a minute.

Next, you will have to plunge the toilet. It is important to know the difference between a toilet plunger and a sink plunger. A toilet plunger (also known as a flange plunger or an accordion plunger), is specifically for toilets and often confused with the common sink plunger.

The following examples are toilet plungers.

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This is an example of a common sink (cup) plunger.

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Toilet plungers have a larger cup on the bottom to create a good seal in the toilet bowl. You will need to submerge the plunger in the toilet bowl and fit the cup into the drain opening in the bottom of the bowl. Now pump the plunger straight up and down in a vigorous motion to create suction. It may take several minutes of plunging to release the blockage. Once the blockage has released, the toilet will immediately begin draining down. You can go ahead and flush your toilet now! You can repeat these steps if necessary if the toilet is still not flushing properly.

**Do not plunge the toilet if you have poured any chemicals into it. This can cause splash back on you and your clothing which can lead to injuries such as burns and serious eye irritations.

The most effective way of preventing clogs is to avoid flushing the wrong things down your toilet. Human waste, water and toilet paper are the only things that should be flushed because they are appropriate for the sewers and septic tank, whereas other items are not. Paper towel, Q-tips, dental floss and feminine products should NEVER be flushed down the toilet. This is also true for “flushable” personal wipes. Despite what the package says, do not flush these wipes as they are a leading cause of toilet back ups and can also cause issues at city sewage processing facilities.

Some clogs can happen further down near the toilet floor flange or inside the drain pipe. If plunging doesn’t work, you may want to call a professional plumber to come to your home. Removing the toilet from the floor and/or using a power auger may be required for difficult clogs or if a foreign object such as a child’s toy, is the reason for the backup.

Oliver Plumbing & Heating offers residential and commercial plumbing services and we can help with all of your plumbing related needs. We also specialize in furnace repair and replacement, so if you are in Edmonton, give us a call today!