The house is alive with music, laughter and lights. Uncle Eddie is doing his best impression of The Grinch and Grandpa is entertaining the kids with a slightly off-key rendition of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (while shooting pointed looks at Grandma herself). Suddenly, in the middle of your festive celebration, a shout rings out: "The toilet won't flush!" It's a sentiment that can ruin any celebration, but fortunately, there's often an easy fix. If you're finding yourself short a commode this holiday season, here are the steps you need to take to remedy the situation:
Start With the Easiest Fix
Before you dial up an emergency plumber, do your level best to fix the problem yourself. Generally, this can be accomplished with nothing more than a plunger. There are plenty of plungers on the market but they generally fall into one of three categories: the cup, the flange or the accordion.
- Cup plungers are by far the most common, often available from "$1 or less" stores. These plungers resemble their name – a cup. While they're great at unstopping a sink, they're not so good at unclogging toilets due to the inability to maintain an adequate seal.
- Flange plungers are a bit better at toilet triage. They've got a rubber flap that unfolds from the main cup, allowing for a tighter seal and better suction. A flange plunger is an all-purpose tool, since the flap that makes it so fantastic for toilets will easily fold back up into the cup, allowing it to plunge sinks once more.
- An accordion plunger has a smaller cup but a larger receptacle, providing more air to suction with while still keeping the part that comes into contact with the toilet relatively small. However, this plunger won't pull double duty: accordion plungers are best suited to toilets alone.
In an emergency, any plunger is better than none, so work with what you've got. It's important to have enough standing water in the bowl to fully cover the head of the plunger. Once you've achieved a good seal, adopt a two-handed grip on the handle and do your best.
It doesn't really matter if the clog is pushed down the drain or sucked up to the top; the important thing is that it moves somewhere.
Try a Snake
If plunging doesn't work, you're going to have to bring out the big guns. A plumbing snake, sometimes called an auger, consists of a flexible cable designed to "snake" its way down into your system with the use of a hand crank, hopefully breaking up the troublesome clog along the way.
You'll need to get the cable all the way down into the recesses of the toilet. While attempting this method, you should only be able to see the housing of the auger. Begin turning the hand crank to get the cable further down your plumbing system.
With snakes, there is no such thing as "lefty loosey, righty tighty." Crank until you can't crank anymore and then reverse direction to keep your snake going down.
Once you've reached the end of your rope (both literally and figuratively), slowly pull the cable back out. Try an experimental flush: if everything looks good, flush a few more times to ensure that the clog has "gone out to sea" and resume regular use of the toilet.
Call a Plumber
If your ministrations with plungers and augers have failed, you'll need a plumber to get your jolly holiday back on track. A 24 hour emergency plumber can be a huge help for those late-night disasters, but if you've got an extra bathroom and some time to spare, you may be able to save some money by waiting until morning.
The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family but unfortunately, all those extra guests can put a strain on your plumbing system. When you know how to react to common toilet drain disasters, you'll be prepared for whatever comes your way. For more help or information, contact a company like Custom Comfort.