Although I may not have invented this method of plunging a toilet without a plunger — you’ll find variations at DIY and plumbing blogs galore — I can testify that it works. I’ve honed and practiced this ancient art ofover the course of many years, not just because I’ve wanted to, but because I sort of had to. This technique especially shines when you don’t have the usual tools (like a plunger) at your disposal and secrecy is key.
Say you’re at a friend’s house and got a little squirrelly with the TP. Can you un-stop the commode without having to reveal the nature of your business? Or you’re at home over Thanksgiving or Christmas, and one among your brood gets a little frisky with the bath tissue — and the box store won’t open again until the next day.
Even if you keep a trusty plunger in the bathroom, try this trick first the next time your toilet gets clogged and you might be able to avoid the drips, splashes, and general unsanitary mess that can come along with using a plunger. This guide is updated occasionally with new, er, data.
Most bathrooms have everything you’ll need
To perform this trick, you’ll need three supplies that can be found in almost any bathroom: soap, hot water and a vessel for transferring water to the toilet bowl. Dish soap and a 5-gallon bucket work best, but if secrecy is paramount and leaving the lavatory would blow your cover, a small plastic waste bin and a few pumps from a hand soap dispenser will do just fine.
To prepare, you’ll want to get the hot water running in the sink or tub and give it enough time to reach its maximum temperature. You don’t want (or need) to use boiling water, which could damage the toilet’s porcelain, or worse, injure you. Just let the tap get as hot as it can get — that’ll be hot enough.
While you’re waiting for hot water, go ahead and clear everything off the floor, like scales and bathmats. You’re going to be very careful to avoid any spills, of course, but better to be safe than soggy.
Mixing the magical potion
The objective is to get the liquid in the toilet bowl as hot and soapy as possible without letting it overflow. You can either pour (or pump) soap directly into the bowl and then add hot water, or you can mix the soap with the hot water before you add it to the bowl.
I prefer to add soap directly to the toilet bowl if the clog hasn’t left a lot of clearance (say, less than an inch). This ensures a high soap-to-water ratio. If, however, there’s ample space above the water line (an inch or more), premixing ensures more even soap distribution.
You really can’t overdo the soap at this point. You’re not going to be agitating the solution, so the bowl won’t erupt like a suds volcano should you go overboard. I’m not saying you have to pour the whole bottle in there, but I’m also not saying you shouldn’t. Anywhere from a tablespoon to a half cup should work.
Carefully and gently add the hot water
Mixing everything up in the toilet bowl is the step requiring the most finesse. You want to raise the average water temperature and get the soap into every crevice, but you don’t necessarily want to create a slurry with what’s already in there. You really, really don’t.
So don’t use anything to stir it up. Instead, don’t be shy about pouring your hot water — go ahead and dump it in there. Just be careful not to overfill.
Most toilet backups aren’t 100% blocked, so there’s a good chance yours will drain slowly at first. Keep an eye on the water level and, as it drops, continue to add more hot water to keep it full. If the clog isn’t too stubborn, the added pressure of a full toilet bowl should help usher the backed-up matter through pretty quickly.
If all else fails, time is on your side
The worst-case scenario is that the clog is wedged too tightly in place and the above steps don’t push it down right away. If that happens, you don’t have to call a plumber or head to the hardware store just yet.
Try giving it some time to let that hot soapy water work on breaking up the clog. Walk away, close the bathroom door, and wait 30 to 60 minutes before you check on it again. When you do, you may be pleasantly surprised to find your problem has disappeared down the drain.
Your toilet isn’t the only piece of household plumbing that can clog, but thankfully there are equally quick, clean and efficient ways of handling other simple home plumbing problems. If the drain in your kitchen is giving you grief, check out these . When your shower head just doesn’t put out the pressure it used to, here’s how to quickly . Once you get that disposal cleared up, consider putting it to good use and .