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 toilet paper alternatives such as tissues, paper towels and wet wipes instead. This is leading to a rise in sewer blockages. The paper products all appear flushable, but paper towels and tissues are designed to absorb water and don’t break down in 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
It’s worth being clear on what you can put down the toilet. It’s only the three ‘p’s – pooh, pee and toilet paper. The important thing to remember is that not just any paper can be flushed. 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 dread wet wipes. There are several versions of these and 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
- Dental floss
- Cotton buds
- Cigarette butts
Need Help Unblocking a Toilet?
Of course all the things we listed will successfully disappear from the toilet pan. Out of sight might mean out of mind, but having a blocked toilet is definitely an unpleasant problem to have. You flush the toilet and the water in the bowl, rather than swirling away down the drain, fills up 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 any water damage afterwards.
Don’t worry, most toilet 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 professional who will utilise tools such as CCTV cameras to inspect the drain. They might use electric drain cleaners or HydroJet 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. Other possible problems could include issues with your toilet cistern or your toilet not flushing properly meaning they might require a service or repair. Find out more about other causes of blocked drains here.
Best Way to Unblock a Toilet
Wondering what is the best way to clear a blocked toilet drain? For less serious cases, it is worthwhile to try a few simple techniques to unblock the toilet drain yourself. These methods are by no means 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. Often these long term problems only become noticeable if you have put a large amount of waste down the toilet or the wrong things, such as plastics or tampons. It might mean you require either a sewer pipe relining or stormwater pipe relining.
Here are a few easy toilet unblocker tricks to get your toilet drain flowing properly again. These simple techniques include unblocking a toilet with caustic soda or baking soda, a plunger and chemical or liquids.
Unblock Toilet With Plunger
For most simple toilet blockages, having a trusty plunger on hand is all you will need. A toilet plunger works best when you know you have put too much waste into your toilet or have put the wrong thing down the toilet.
The great thing about plungers is that they are easy to use. Simply place the plunger’s 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, things can get messy.
Unblock Toilet Caustic Soda
Do not have a plunger handy? Caustic soda and baking soda are two easy ways to temporarily unblock your toilet. Start by mixing baking soda and vinegar in the toilet bowl. Let it fizz and pop for a half an hour as it creates a chemical reaction which may help to dissolve small blockages.
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 the skin if contact is made. Using rubber gloves and eye protection, mix together 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. Jim’s Plumbing 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 pipes.
Toilet Unblocker Chemical
Another good solution is to purchase a toilet unblocker chemical or toilet unblocker liquid. These are very simple and easy to use. They generally simply need to be diluted with water or even just added to directly to the toilet. They work similarly to caustic soda or baking soda and can help to break up any blockages.
Know When to Call the Pros
Sometimes, you need to know when to call the pros if you need help unblocking your toilet. 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 your blocked drains or toilet pipes.