For many years I have practiced and honed the ancient magical art of unloading an enlarged toilet without using a flask. This particular piece of toilet guide is especially handy if you ever find yourself staring down a stuffed chest of drawers in someone's other's bathroom a situation where you may be understandably reluctant to require backup.
I did not invent this process of throwing without a piston – the same basic technique is peppered across the web on plumbing blogs, both mainstream and obscure – but I can attest to its power and power.
In fact, the next time you stop a toilet for some reason, even if you have have a flask that is handy, you might want to try this instead and avoid the splashing, drippy, unhealthy mess a piston can do.
Most bathrooms have everything you need
To perform this trick, you need three things that are found in almost all bathrooms: soap, hot water and a vessel to transfer the water to the toilet bowl. Dish soap and a five-gallon bucket work best, but if privacy is paramount and leaving the toilet would blow your protection, a small plastic waste container and some hand soap pumps will do well.
you want the hot water to run in the sink or bathtub and give it enough time to reach its maximum temperature. You do not want (or need) to use boiling water, which can damage the toilet's china, or worse, damage you . Just let the tap get as hot as it can get – it will be hot enough.
While waiting for warm water, go ahead and clean everything off the floor, like waves or bath mats. You will, of course, be very careful to avoid spills, but better to be safe than damp.
Mix the magic potion
The goal is to get the liquid in the toilet bowl as warm and bubbly as possible without letting it float over. To do so, you can either pour (or pump) soap directly into the bowl and then add warm water, or you can mix the soap in the warm water before adding it to the bowl.
I prefer to add soap directly to the toilet bowl if the threshold has not left much room (say less than an inch). This guarantees a high soap-to-water ratio. However, if there is plenty of space above the waterline (one inch or two or more), premixing guarantees a more even distribution of soap.
You can't exaggerate the soap right now. You will not agitate the solution, so you will not play a volcano with clay if you go overboard. I'm not saying you have to pour the whole bottle there, but I'm not saying you shouldn't. Everywhere from a tablespoon to half a cup should work.
Carefully add water and gently
Mixing everything up in the toilet bowl is the step that requires the most finesse. You want to raise the average water temperature and get the soap in every crack, but you don't necessarily have to create a slurry with what's already there.
So don't use anything to wake it up. Instead, don't be shy about pouring your hot water – go ahead and dump it there. Just be careful not to overfill.
Most toilet backups are not total clogs, so there is a good chance that yours will be dropped slowly from the beginning. Keep track of the water level and continue adding more hot water as it sinks. If the clog is not too stubborn, the extra pressure from a full toilet bowl should help launch the backup material fairly quickly.
If all else fails, time is on your side
The worst case is that the quilt is too tight in place and the steps above do not shoot it down immediately. If that happens, you don't need to call a plumber or go to the hardware store just yet.
Try to give it some time to let the hot soapy water break the clogging. Walk away, close the bathroom door and wait 30 to 60 minutes before checking it again. When you do, you may be surprised that your problem has been flushed down the drain.
Your toilet is not the only household plumbing appliance that can clog, but thankfully there are equally quick, clean and efficient ways to deal with other simple home plumbing problems. If the drain in your kitchen gives you grief, check out these. When your shower head just doesn't put out the pressure it used to, so quickly . Once you have removed that disposal, you can consider using it and .
Originally published earlier this week.