Updated January 18, 2024

Experiencing a backed-up toilet is a common household issue, but it can be daunting if you’re unsure of how to address it. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of a backed-up toilet and guide you through the steps to remedy the situation, even when the trusty plunger fails to do its job.

What is Causing My Toilet to Back Up?

There are several common culprits when it comes to toilet blockages:

  1. Excess Toilet Paper: Too much toilet paper or flushing non-flushable wipes can cause blockages.
  2. Foreign Objects: Accidentally dropping items like toys, personal care products, or other non-degradable items into the toilet can result in obstructions.
  3. Natural Accumulations: Over time, minerals or hard water buildups can narrow the drain passage.
  4. Drain Line Issues: If other drains in your home are clogged, there might be a larger problem in the main drain line.

How Do You Fix a Toilet That is Backed Up?

  1. Plunger Method:
    • First, wear rubber gloves and ensure the bathroom is well-ventilated.
    • Insert the plunger into the bowl, submerging the rubber part in water. This creates a vacuum.
    • Push and pull vigorously, keeping the seal intact.
    • After a few repetitions, flush to see if the clog clears.
  2. Dish Soap and Hot Water:
    • Pour a generous amount of dish soap into the bowl, followed by a gallon of hot (but not boiling) water.
    • Let it sit for a few minutes, then try plunging again.
  3. Natural Solutions: Combine equal parts of baking soda and vinegar, pour into the toilet, let it fizz for 20-30 minutes, and then follow with hot water.
  4. Toilet Auger: This long, flexible tool is designed to navigate toilet curves and dislodge blockages.
  5. Check the Toilet Trap: If you suspect the obstruction is in the toilet’s built-in trap, you may need to manually remove the toilet and clear the obstruction.

How Do You Unclog a Toilet When the Plunger Doesn’t Work?

When the plunger isn’t enough, consider the following methods:

  1. Enzymatic Drain Cleaners: These are eco-friendly cleaners that use bacteria to eat away at clogs. They’re safe for septic systems and can be found at most hardware stores.
  2. Professional Plumbing Snake or Auger: If you’re comfortable with tools, a plumbing snake can reach farther down the drain to dislodge blockages.
  3. Professional Help: Persistent clogs or recurrent backups may indicate a deeper issue. It’s best to call a professional plumber in such cases.


A backed-up toilet in Des Moines, IA, is a hassle, but with the right knowledge, you can address the most common blockages yourself. Remember, prevention is the best cure. Educate your household on what can and cannot be flushed, and perform regular maintenance to avoid significant blockages.

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