Toilet clogs are messy and embarrassing, but repeated toilet clogs are just plain frustrating. There are lots of different reasons why toilets can get clogged, and it’s one of the most common questions we get.
Here’s our guide to some of the many reasons your toilet can be prone to clogging.
1. There’s Something Stuck in There
We’ve pulled a lot of strange things out of toilets over the years, most often toys. For some reason kids like to start their science careers by experimenting with the household plumbing. If water alone flushes just fine, but anything solid gets stuck, it’s likely that the issue is a foreign object.
Feminine hygiene products are also common culprits. If you have frequent guests, make sure there’s a covered garbage bin within easy reach of the toilet. It’s possible some women may be trying to flush sanitary products because they don’t know what else to do with them and are too embarrassed to ask.
The only things that should go down the toilet are bodily waste and toilet paper. Not Kleenex, not floss, paper towels, or anything else. Also, plumbers all over the world agree that those so-called “flushable” wipes are really not that flushable. You might as well try and flush a t-shirt.
2. You’re Using the Wrong Paper…Or Too Much
Toilet tissue is supposed to dissolve easily when it touches water, but not all brands dissolve properly. We’ve seen pricey “luxury” and cheap toilet paper brands alike refuse to fall apart properly. Some paper we’ve seen is almost as strong as newsprint…ouch!
If the toilet doesn’t flush well even when you’re just flushing water, there may be an accumulation of toilet paper and organic matter somewhere in the line. You’ll have to try a plunger, a snake, or get a licensed plumber to come in with a professional grade snake.
If you find you’ve got clog-prone TP, switch brands immediately. You can also try flushing before you wipe for larger (ahem) deposits.
3. Your Toilet Isn’t Strong Enough
While we’re plumbers, not doctors, it’s clear that some people with heavily meat-based diets can produce poo that is very solid and more likely to get stuck. Some medications can produce this effect as well. If the toilet doesn’t clog all the time, just when some people use it, this may be the cause.
Try adding several servings a day of vegetables and fruit to your diet. Also, talk to your doctor, because this isn’t good for your body’s internal plumbing either!
If there’s no way to fix the issue from a health standpoint, you may need to invest in a power-assist toilet with more flushing power. You often see these in public washrooms, where they can’t take chances on clogs. The good news is that power-assist toilets don’t cost much more than regular ones, but they do use a lot more water.
4. There’s Not Enough Water in Your Tank
If there’s a problem with the toilet’s incoming water supply line, the tank may not be filling up fully. The result is that you don’t get the right amount of water coming into the bowl when you flush.
The easiest thing to check is that the knob on the water supply line is open all the way. You can also ask your plumber if the rubber float in your tank is set too low.
5. Poor Toilet Design
Like anything else, a toilet can be designed well or badly. While I’ve seen some complaints about low-flush toilets, the problem isn’t limited to them, and in fact many low-flush toilets work fine. No matter how much or little volume of water is being used to flush, things like the width of opening or “throat” of the toilet drain, the angle of the bowl, and other details of the shape of the toilet can either help or hurt each flush.
When buying a toilet, look for one with a MaP score of 500 or better. MaP is an independent agency that tests toilets from all manufacturers in detail.
6. Venting Issues
Your drainage system needs airflow in order to work. This is to prevent a vacuum forming and holding wastewater in place. You can read more about how this works here.
If there’s an issue with the ventilation pipe that goes to your roof, pressure alone may be preventing a proper flush. Sometimes the vent wasn’t designed or installed correctly, and sometimes there may be a blockage in the pipe, like a clump of old leaves.
7. Your Water is Too Hard or Too Chlorinated
Hard water is water that is full of minerals like calcium. Over time the minerals get deposited inside the toilet and especially inside the drain pipe. If your toilet is really old and it’s consistently a poor flusher, this may be the issue. Ottawa has water that’s on the hard side, but this is a problem that mostly affects rural areas where people rely on wells. You may need to get the drain replaced, and invest in a water softener.
In the city, the chlorine added to our water to kill bacteria can have a bad effect on any plastic or rubber parts in your toilet. Imperfect seals within the toilet may be hurting the flushing power of your toilet.
If the Plunger Doesn’t Work, Call a Professional
As you can see, there are lots of things that can go wrong with a toilet.
If your toilet is clogged or is having trouble flushing, and plunging doesn’t take care of the issue, it can take some work to get to the bottom of the problem. That’s when you need expert help from the licensed professionals at Out of This World Plumbing.