Friday, August 28, 2009

So Your Toilet Won’t Flush

First of all, is it that your toilet will not flush or you don’t want to flush because it is CLOGGED and flushing it would cause it to overflow?  Today’s discussion is how to unplug your toilet. There are a number of reasons that would cause a toilet to plug.  From there is or was a disruption in the water supply to an obstruction inside the toilet or a more major problem as a sewer drain line plugged.  Main sewage line plugs are usually out of the realm and capability of the average home/small business owner and calling a plumbing professional is recommended.   
Note: Plugged toilets are very unsanitary and nature and I suggest that you take precautions to prevent being contaminated with what is inside the toilet.  First, it is always advisable to wear rubber gloves. Second, if the toilet is full of water drain it using a disposable cup and scooping the water into a 10 quart pail where you can later pour it back into the toilet after it is unclogged. Third, line the area around the toilet with news papers or old rags to protect the floor in case you splash. 
First thing I suggest is try to find out what is obstructing the toilet if you can.  Ask! There are only a few things that belong in the toilet - toilet bowl cleaner, toilet tissue, and human waste.  Anything else makes the toilet highly susceptible to a plug.  
Pliable objects such a toilet paper can usually be dislodged with a plunger and pushed on down the sewer drain.  Be aware that foreign objects, objects that don’t belong in a toilet, may be dislodge with a plunger but can cause a plug further down the sewer drain.  Most paper products absorb water and eventually dissolve with time and are usually not a problem.  
First, I would try a plunger.  There are different qualities of plungers, but I suggest that you spend a few dollars more and invest in a good one.  A good plunger is one that has an extra cone that extends past the plunger’s cup and further into the bowl for a better seal.  How a plunger works is that it pushes and pulls at the clog and dislodges it.
Don’t have a plunger? you may try using hot water to dislodge the clog.  I have not personally tried this method but I don’t doubt that it works if the toilet is plugged from using too much tissue and is draining slowly.  Usually there is a bath tub close by.  Run the water in the tub as hot as you can, get and fill a 10 quart pail with it and then at waist level pour it down the drained toilet.  After a few minutes the toilet paper should dissolve, free itself and go down the toilet.  Flush it once to ensure that the toilet is no longer clogged.
Another method, I think the best, is to invest in a toilet or closet auger, They cost as little as $10 for a cheap one to as much as $50 for a better more expensive model.  The closet auger cable is designed to go through the toilet completely and reach the toilet flange to free what is plugging the toilet.  More expensive models can be extended past the flange if necessary. Closet augers are handy because they can be used to retract/snag/grab items that are clogging the toilet. With the auger retracted so the tip of the auger is at the end of the guide and insert the tip of the auger and the curve of the guide into the bottom of the toilet drain.  Crank the auger in one direction gently pulling and pushing the cable in and out, if the cable is stuck then crank in the other direction until it frees itself.  Occasionally pull the cable all the way out to see if auger has attached itself to anything. Repeat this method until the auger has gone as far as it will go through the toilet and hopefully freeing the plug.  Never force the auger, the auger cable can break inside the toilet and or damage the toilet itself.  Flush the toilet to ensure that the clog is cleared then resume using.
After the clog is cleared, using one of the methods above, attempt to flush the toilet to see how quickly the water rushes into the bowl and the waste is flushed away.  If the toilet does not flush then take the toilet tank lid off and see if the water is reaching its proper level, usually indicated by a line inside the tank, check and see that the flush handle is not broken and attached to the flapper.  Toilets require an adequate amount of water to completely flush and remove the waste from the toilet bowl into the sewer drain lines. 
Flush the toilet and observe how long it takes for the toilet tank and bowl to refill.  Water should fill the tank at a steady rate and not too quickly, too much water pressure will damage the fill valve.  When the tank is filled to its proper level the toilet bowl should have reached its proper level as well.  
If the tank seems to be filling very slowly or the bowl does not fill properly and has a low water level then the flush value needs to be rebuilt or replaced.  If the tank seems to never stop filling, I recommend that you also inspect the flapper valve and if it is warped or deteriorated, replace it. 
If a solid object was put, dropped, or has fallen in the toilet then using a plunger or a toilet auger will not remedy the problem and removal of the toilet is required.  But before removing the toilet there are some supplies you need to replace the toilet. You can purchase these items from your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any hardware/home improvement store.  I suggest that you purchase at least one possibly two wax rings, a couple of packages of brass closet bolts, a roll of paper towel, some small plastic wedges in case leveling the toilet is required, and a couple of trash bags for waste.  Then you need some simple tools to remove the supply line from the toilet and toilet bowl from the floor.  I suggest that you have ready a pair of channel locks, small crescent wrench, screw driver, a small putty knife, a clothes hanger and or an  auger, a hack saw or bolt cutters  and possibly a hammer.
Removing a toilet is not complicated, but it can be helpful to have some help.  
First make sure you turn the toilet’s water supply off, The Valve is usually locate behind the toilet on the left side near the floor. now remove the tank lid and set it safely to the side.  
With a sponge or rag soak up and remove as much water as possible from the toilet tank by wringing out water in a pail.  Since the water inside the tank is clean and not contaminated it can be carefully dumped into a nearby bath tub or sink.  Then remove as much water and debris from the toilet bowl with a disposable cup into a small pail or bucket.
Now you’re ready to remove the toilet.  
With the channel locks  or crescent wrench carefully remove the tank supply line.  
Note:  sometimes for ease in removing the toilet it is wise to remove the toilet seat, but it is not necessary.  
Now remove the closet bolts caps and bolts nuts, cap washer and washer at the bottom of the toilet.
Rock the toilet from side to side to break the seal form by the wax ring under the toilet.  If possible, I suggest you carry the toilet outside for maintenance; first lay a trash bag spread out and put the toilet on its side or completely upside down on it.  Use the second trash bag for waste.  
Note: Be aware that with the toilet removed,  dangerous gases can escape from the closet drain. As a precaution it may be wise to stuff the drain with paper towels or a rag. However be careful you don’t lose the rag and stop up the drain.
Use the putty knife and paper towels to clean off the wax ring from the bottom of the toilet bowl and the from the toilet flange inside the bathroom.  Clean old caulking from the bottom of the toilet and or floor.
Now look up  and see if you can see what is lodged inside the toilet.  If you can see what is lodged in the toilet, use the screw driver, clothes hanger, and or auger to free the obstruction from the toilet.  If not, try using an auger to find and dislodge the object from the toilet.
Now it is time to reinstall the toilet.  Remove the old closet bolts and replace them with new ones, remove the rags/towels from the drain,  then lay the wax ring on top of the flange then pick up the toilet and carefully position the toilet over the flange and bolts and gently lower it onto the flange.  Loosely place toilet washer and nuts on bolts and firmly press the toilet down against the wax ring to seal.  Alternating sides evenly tighten the toilet down onto the flange take care not to over tighten bolts.  Over tightening bolts can result in damaging the toilet and or flange. Use the hack saw or bolt cutters to trim bolts and reinstall toilet caps.
If the toilet wobbles then insert plastic wedges under the base of the toilet and gently tap in the wedges until the toilet stops wobbling and is level.
Reinstall and turn on the tank supply line. Flush the toilet a number of times to ensure that it flushes properly and that there is no water leaking at the base of the toilet.  If the toilet leaks water between the base and floor this indicates the wax ring hasn’t made a seal. The toilet will have to be removed and the wax ring will have to be replaced a second time.  If no water exists then re-caulk the toilet base to the floor if needed, replace the tank lid,and toilet seat if removed and resume use.
Robert to the rescue.

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