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7 Clever Ways to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger – Bob Vila

It can be quite a predicament: A quick trip to the bathroom only to find yourself faced with a clogged drain or, worse yet, an overflowing toilet after a single flush. If you don’t have a plunger on hand or you’re unsure how to use one, don’t worry. There are several methods you can try to unclog your toilet before resorting to calling a plumber. In fact, you may already have the necessary items in your bathroom or kitchen cabinets. Read on to discover effective ways to fix a clogged toilet, and remember to wear protective gloves throughout the process.

1. Utilize Hot Water (Not Boiling)

When confronted with a stubborn clog or a toilet that won’t flush, your best course of action is to pour hot water down the drain. You can either turn on the hot water tap in your bathroom sink or tub or heat up water on the stove. However, be careful not to let the water reach boiling point. Pour the hot water into the toilet and let it sit for a few minutes to see if it loosens the clog. If you notice the water starting to drain, give the toilet a couple of flushes. In many cases, hot water alone is sufficient to break up the obstruction.

Pro-tip from a Bob Vila editor who recently tried this method: Using cupfuls of hot water is not very effective, but larger quantities work wonders. Fill a water pitcher, small bucket, or even your bathroom wastebasket with hot water, as long as your toilet water level isn’t dangerously high. Pour the water while standing up, and repeat the process as necessary.

2. Employ Dish Soap

If you need to step up your unclogging efforts, grab some dish soap from your kitchen and squeeze about a quarter cup into the toilet bowl. Allow the soap to sit for approximately 5 to 10 minutes, giving it enough time to move down the drain and reach the clog. Then, add hot water (again, not boiling) to the bowl and let the soapy mixture sit. In most cases, the dish soap will act as a lubricant, greasing the toilet drain enough to get everything flowing smoothly once again.

3. Combine Baking Soda and Vinegar

Who would have thought that an elementary school science lesson could come in handy for unclogging a toilet? If your toilet bowl isn’t already filled to the brim, pour 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar down the drain. The combination of vinegar and baking soda causes a natural chemical reaction that will bubble up and dislodge the clog. After approximately 30 minutes, follow up with hot water and see if the toilet drains properly. If not, repeat the process once more.

4. Utilize the Toilet Brush

While it may not be the most pleasant option, if you’re in a bind without a plunger, you can employ a toilet brush. Angle the bristles down the drain and pump it up and down a few times. This should be sufficient to loosen the clog and clear it out. If you want to have a plunger on hand for future use, be sure to check out our researched guide on the best plungers.

5. Unwind a Wire Hanger

If you don’t have access to a drain snake, you can fashion your own using a wire coat hanger from your closet. Unwind the hanger until it is completely straight, except for the hook. Then, wrap a small rag around the hook to prevent any scratches or damage to the porcelain. While wearing rubber gloves, gently insert the hanger down the drain until you locate the clog. When the water starts to drain, flush the toilet a few times to ensure complete clearance.

6. Create a DIY Drain De-Clogger

There’s no need to rush out and purchase a commercial drain unclogging product. Instead, you can make your own de-clogger using just a few ingredients. Mix together 2 cups of baking soda, 1/4 cup of Epsom salt, and 8 to 10 tablespoons of dish detergent (adding 1 tablespoon at a time). Pour the mixture into individual muffin liners and let them dry and harden overnight. Drop one of the homemade de-cloggers into the toilet bowl the following morning, add 4 cups of water, and let it sit for a few hours to see results.

7. Resort to the Shop Vac

As a last resort, you can rent a wet/dry vacuum from your local hardware store (not a standard vacuum). Begin by using it to remove the water from the toilet bowl. Next, wrap the hose with an old rag to create a seal and insert the wet/dry vacuum a few inches down the drain. When you turn on the vacuum, it should suck out the clog. Once again, remember to wear rubber gloves during this process.

By following these clever techniques, you can save yourself from the frustration and inconvenience of a clogged toilet without relying on a plunger. Remember to utilize the E-E-A-T principles and consider your own experience and expertise when attempting any DIY fixes. For more helpful tips and tricks, visit

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