Formerly Jim's Plumbing

Toilet Roll Frenzy Leads to Blocked Sewers

As people empty the supermarkets of toilet paper and antibacterial wipes in preparation for a period of isolation, some odd consequences for the plumbing industry of the coronavirus crisis and toilet paper drought are coming to light.

Because people have run out of toilet paper, they are already resorting to using alternatives such as tissues, paper towels and wet wipes instead.  This is leading to an unprecedented rise in blocked sewer drain incidents.

The paper products all appear flushable, but paper towels and tissues are designed to absorb water and don’t break down in sewer lines the way toilet paper does.  The problem has already led to 20,000 litre wastewater spills and will likely cause a rise in toilet blockages in private homes.

The 3 Ps That Are Sewer Drain Safe

It’s worth being clear on what you can put down the toilet. It’s only the three ‘p’s – poo, pee and toilet paper that are safe for the main sewer line. The important thing to remember is that not just any paper can be flushed through your plumbing system.  It’s only toilet paper that you can use.

The most common things we find that cause toilets to clog are facial tissues and the dreaded wet wipes. There are several versions of these and, when it comes to a sewer blockage, they are all as bad as each other.

Never flush baby wipes, disposable wipes, moist wipes, antibacterial wipes, cleaning wipes or even the ones that claim to be ‘flushable wipes’.  They’re not.  While we’re on the topic, never put any of these things down the toilet:

  • Sanitary pads
  • Tampons
  • Condoms
  • Nappies
  • Dental floss
  • Cotton buds
  • Hair
  • Cigarette butts

Of course, all the things we listed will successfully disappear from the toilet water. Out of sight might mean out of mind, but having a blocked toilet is undoubtedly an unpleasant problem to have. So when you need to clear the blockage, knowing what to do is vital.

Need Help Unblocking a Toilet?

So you flush the toilet after “taking care of business”, to put it tastefully. But instead of flushing properly, you find the toilet water filling up in your toilet bowl, threatening to spill over the edges and flood your bathroom. You are left watching, feeling helpless and wondering what to do as you imagine needing to clean up the mess and pay for both the drain repair and any water damage afterwards.

Don’t worry, most toilet or sewage drain blockages are easy enough to solve with the right tools and knowledge. Sometimes, your drain blockage can be more serious and might require the expertise of a local plumber who can use tools such as CCTV cameras to inspect the drain. They might use electric drain cleaners or Hydro Jet machines to clean and clear the pipe or drain.

In the worst cases, and as a last resort, they may also need to excavate the drain and replace a damaged pipe. This is often necessary when invasive tree roots have caused your sewer blockage. You might also with your toilet cistern or your toilet not flushing properly meaning they might require a service or repair.

The Best DIY Ways to Unblock a Toilet

Wondering what is the best way to clear a blocked toilet drain? For less serious cases, you can try a few simple techniques to unblock the toilet drain yourself.

By no means are these methods foolproof or even a long-term solution. Often, having a blocked toilet drain can mean you have a problem further down the drain or pipe which will require a more long-term solution such as pipe relining.

Often these deep-rooted sewer blockages only become noticeable if you flush large quantities of waste down the toilet, or the aforementioned wrong things, such as plastics or tampons. It might mean you require a sewer or stormwater pipe relining to resolve the sewer blockage.

Here are a few easy tricks to deal with pipe blockages and get your clogged toilet drain flowing properly again.

Using a Toilet Plunger

For most simple toilet blockages, having a trusty toilet plunger on hand is all you will need. This approach works best when you know you have put either too much waste or the wrong product down the toilet.

The great thing about plungers is that they are easy to use. Simply place its rubber flange over the mouth of the toilet drain pipe. Pull back the plunger slightly to ensure you have created a seal.

Pull the plunger in and out vigorously for several minutes or until you hear the toilet make a gurgling sound. Make sure to keep the rubber flange covered in water to ensure it remains sealed. Keep some old towels on hand, because things can get messy as waste water gets all over the floor.

Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

Don’t have a plunger handy? Mixing baking soda and vinegar can be a safe and surprisingly effective way to temporarily unblock your toilet. Pour each into the toilet bowl. Let it fizz and pop for half an hour as it creates a chemical reaction that may help to dissolve small blockages.

Using Toilet Chemical Cleaners

Failing that, it might be time to bring out the big guns. Caustic soda is very corrosive and should only be used with caution because it will burn if it makes contact with your skin. Using rubber gloves and eye protection, mix one kilogram of caustic soda in a bucket of water. Pour this solution into your toilet bowl, close the lid and wait for an hour or so.

This should erode more resistant blockages.  But if any of the liquid gets on your skin, it is important to wash it off immediately. When mixed with water, caustic soda creates toxic fumes, meaning you will need to properly ventilate your bathroom and try not to breathe in the fumes.

Liquid Chemical Products

Another good solution is to purchase a liquid chemical cleaner. Like caustic soda, these products are very simple and easy to use. They generally simply need to be diluted with water or even just added directly to the toilet. They work similarly to caustic soda or baking soda and can help to break up any blockages.

Plumber Near Me doesn’t recommend this method because apart from the immediate hazard to you, such substances are not environmentally friendly and can cause damage to drainage and sewer pipes.

Know When to Call the Pros For Your Blocked Sewer Drain

Sometimes, you need to know when to call the pros if you need help unblocking your toilet or a blocked sewer line. If you have tried to unblock your toilet with a plunger, caustic soda or a chemical solution and are still having problems with a toilet blockage, then it probably means you have a more serious problem on your hands.

In these cases, you might need the services of an emergency plumber who can service and fix your blocked drains or toilet pipes.

Contact Plumber Near Me when you need a licensed plumber who can install, service and repair your toilet and any other plumbing fixtures in your home.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.