This story is partCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Clogged toilet? Put that piston down. It’s possible to fix it while avoiding all the gross drips and splatters that come with trying to do it with a plunger – and it’s a better, cleaner, easier way.
We’ll walk you through a method to unclog a toilet that’s not only less gross, but also more effective. Instead of reaching for a bacteria-riddled plunger, just grab some dish soap, hot water, and a bucket — then let the chemistry take care of it. Yes, the pistonless approach really is that simple! Here’s how to get there.
(For other useful tips, here, and .)
Everything you need is probably in your bathroom
Again, you will only need three supplies found in almost any bathroom: soap, hot water, and a container to transfer the water to the toilet bowl. Dish soap, hot bath water, and a 5 gallon bucket work best, but if secrecy is at a premium and leaving the toilet would blow your cover, a few pumps from a hand soap dispenser and some water. hot water from the sink in a small plastic bin will suffice. good.
First, run hot water in the sink or tub, that is, as hot as possible. Don’t overdo it, no need to boil water. At these temperatures, you could crack the porcelain or worse, injure yourself. Just let the tap water get as hot as it can go and you’ll be within reach.
While you’re waiting for hot water, go ahead and clean up everything on the floor: scales, bath mats…pets. You’re going to be extra careful to avoid any spills, of course, but better to be safe than soggy.
Let the chemistry do the work, but be careful
Your goal is to get the liquid in the toilet bowl as hot and soapy as possible, as quickly as possible, without letting it overflow. This is the step that requires the most finesse.
If you’ve already tried to flush the clog a second time and the toilet bowl overflows, add the soap directly to the toilet, then pour in as much hot water as you can – if you can.
If you have a lot of space, however, mix the soap and water first, then pour the soapy infusion into the bowl as quickly as possible. In a perfect storm, the heat and soap will lubricate the hoof as the force of the water pushes it through. That said, hopefully your reflexes are quick, as you may need to suddenly stop pouring if the clog doesn’t dislodge immediately.
A note on the soap: you really can’t overdo the soap at this point. You’re not going to swirl the solution too much, so the bowl probably won’t burst into a volcano of foam if you overdo it. I’m not saying you have to pour the whole bottle of soap in there, but I’m also not saying you shouldn’t. Catch my drift?
Don’t stir the toilet bowl, no matter what
Whatever you do, you don’t have to stir it around so that the hot, soapy water mixes with the cold, dirty water that was there first. Science will take care of it for you through a process called osmosis. If the clog doesn’t budge after your tsunami of soapy water, your next move is just to be patient.
Most emergency toilets aren’t 100% blocked, so chances are yours will empty slowly at first. Keep an eye on the water level and as it drops keep adding hot water to keep it full. If the clog isn’t too stubborn, the added pressure of a full bowl and the lubricating quality of the soap should help push through the accumulated material fairly quickly.
If all else fails, just give it more time
The worst case scenario is that the hoof is too tight and the above steps don’t push it out right away. If this happens, you don’t need to call a plumber or go to the hardware store yet.
Try giving it some time to let that warm, soapy water work at breaking the clog. Walk away, close the bathroom door, and wait 30-60 minutes before checking again. When you do, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that your problem has gone down the drain.
This may mean blowing your cover if you tried to unclog the toilet incognito. In this case, the best you can hope for is not to become the butt of future jokes.
Good luck with that too.