White Toilet Bowl

How to Fix an Overflowing Toilet

Everyone dreads the sight: you flush the toilet and start to turn away, expecting to hear the quick and clean rush of water toward the drain. But it doesn’t. The water instead starts to rise, and rise, and rise.

We’ve all been there before, and it isn’t pleasant. But as common as this issue is, it doesn’t mean we’ve all gotten any better at fixing a toilet when it overflows.

Blocked pipes that lead to overflows are a plumbing inevitability. Since you can expect it to happen again, you can start preparing now so that you can respond quickly the next time it occurs.

Check out how to fix an overflowing toilet with this handy guide from All Dry USA.

What to Do When a Toilet Overflows

If and when you’re the one tasked with dealing with an overflowing toilet, the key is not to panic. It happens all the time, and with some training and preparation, you can easily fix just about any problem. Follow these six steps:

1. Keep Your Supplies Handy

To unclog an overflowing toilet, you’re going to need a few things:

  • A plunger and/or drain snake
  • Towels
  • A bucket
  • Cleaning product
  • A mop
  • Fan or dehumidifier

The first supply is for the declogging, and the rest are for cleaning. It’s best if you keep these supplies on hand because your toilet isn’t going to let you know ahead of time when it’s going to overflow.

2. Turn Off the Water

Unlike a clogged toilet, which will stop filling after the flush cycle ceases, an overflowing toilet won’t stop filling. You must turn off the water line before you can get to work on it.

3. Try Plunging the Toilet

Remove the excess water from the toilet so that you don’t slosh it all over while you plunge. For most basic pipe clogs, plunging will do the trick.

If you see signs of something bigger, like septic system failure, go ahead and try plunging. However, know that you’ll probably need to call in professional help.

4. If That Doesn’t Work, Try Snaking

If plunging doesn’t work, the problem will not necessarily be as big as a septic compromise. Bust out your drain snake and get to snaking. You may snag something clotted far down the drain that plunging couldn’t reach.

5. Remove Standing Water and Sanitize

If you manage to unclog the toilet, congratulations. Now all you need to do is clean. The first step is to remove the water that overflowed and sanitize every surface that it touched.

6. Tend to the Affected Rugs and Cabinetry

Whether or not you had contaminated water overflowing, many surfaces don’t react well when touched by water.

If you have any wooden cabinetry in your bathroom, take a towel to it immediately. The same goes for rugs, which need washing and hanging out to dry. Waterlogged rugs can produce dangerous mold, so they need thorough treatment.

White Ceramic Toilet Bowl

What Causes a Toilet to Overflow?

You know now how to unclog an overflowing toilet, but what causes an overflow in the first place?

A Clogged Drain

The most basic reason a toilet might overflow is that the drain that leads down from the bowl has clogged up with material. Plunging can fix this.

A Float That Needs Adjusting

The float is the device in the tank that controls the fill of the toilet bowl. These can get out of whack, letting in too much water when they should shut off the supply.

A Blocked Air Vent

Vent pipes allow air into your plumbing lines, and they, too, like drains for water and waste, can get clogged. This one is a fix that requires professional help. Don’t try to unclog air vents by yourself.

Septic System Issue

This is the big kahuna of all plumbing problems. The septic system is an underground waste treatment system that may deal with just your house or maybe hooked up to the whole street.

Septic problems can lead to harmful gases and toxic waste crawling back up your pipes. Don’t let a septic issue go unchecked, even for a day.

Be Prepared, Breathe Easy

When you’re ready for the worst, the worst can’t take you by surprise. But knowing how to plunge and snake drains isn’t going to save you from the more complicated kinds of toilet issues.

When you need real help, don’t hesitate to call in the pros. All Dry USA professionals work around the clock to solve life’s most pressing plumbing issues, from leak detection to water damage repair and more. We’re here when you need us most. Call the experts today.

Ben Suiskind
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