Inadvertently clogging the toilet is one of the more embarrassing plumbing mishaps. And it can also be a tricky one to address because there are so many potential causes.
The good news is that most toilet clogs can be avoided altogether with an ounce of prevention, and many more can be cleared up with just a minute or two of vigorous plunging. But for those other, more difficult causes, you may need to call upon your local plumbing pro.
Learn more about what causes toilets to clog and how to prevent it from happening again.
Why Do Toilets Clog? The Six Main Reasons
If it’s not an issue with toilet paper or waste, why does a toilet clog? Here are six of the most common reasons:
1. You flushed the wrong stuff
The toilet is for disposing of human waste and toilet paper – and that’s it. You’re taking a risk whenever you flush anything else, like tissues, “flushable” wipes, cotton balls, cotton swabs, dental floss, feminine products, or dirty cloth diapers.
If these things get caught somewhere in the drain line, they won’t break down and move on like toilet paper can. So resist the urge to flush anything else, and if you have children in the home who might be tempted, be sure to talk to them about what can and can’t be flushed down the toilet.
Related Content: 5 Ways to Unclog a Toilet
2. A jam in the trap
All drain pipes have something called a trap – a U-shaped bend in the pipe that remains filled with water. That water acts as an important barrier against foul odors that might otherwise waft into a home from the sewer line. Your toilet’s trap is great at getting this job done, but unfortunately, that bend in the pipe also makes a good place for a clog to develop.
Even if you’ve been careful about what you flush, something like using too much toilet paper can create a clog there.
3. Ineffective flapper
If you take the lid off your toilet tank, you should see a round rubber gasket at the bottom. This is the flapper, and it opens during flushing to allow the water in the tank to flush down into the bowl. If the flapper doesn’t open fully, you may get a weak flush, which can cause clogs by failing to push the contents of the bowl far enough down the drain pipe. This is easy to fix though – the flapper is usually attached to the flush arm with an adjustable chain, so move the chain a few links to shorten it and try a test flush.
4. Outdated low-flow toilet
Water-conscious homeowners have been buying low-flow toilets for years, but the early versions weren’t as powerful as the ones you can buy today. And just as with the flapper example above, the first low-flow toilets may not always flush hard enough to push the contents through. If you’re consistently having trouble with one of these models, it may be time to consider an upgrade.
5. Roof vent clog
When your toilet won’t flush, it’s possible that the clog isn’t in the drainpipe, but in the toilet’s vent. Plumbing fixtures typically vent to a home’s roof to allow fresh air into the plumbing system, where it replaces the vacuum of air created when water drains. When this vent becomes clogged with leaves or debris, it can cause slow gurgling or stopped drains, even in the toilet. This job is best handled by a professional plumber because the vent will need to be cleared out from the rooftop opening.
6. Sewer line issues
If the source of the problem isn’t in the toilet, the drainpipe, or the vent, how does a toilet get clogged still? The answer: the sewer line. This is often a worst-case scenario if a problem occurs in a section of sewer pipe located under private property because it often involves digging up the yard and racking up several hours of labor. Sewer line problems aren’t always caused by what’s flowing through the pipes; tree roots can put pressure on these lines over time, leading to a break. To find out what’s going on in the sewer line, request a camera inspection from your local plumber.
What If Your Toilet Clogs All the Time?
If your toilet always clogs, and you’ve ruled out the issues above, it’s likely the toilet itself is due for an upgrade. Though most toilets can last up to 25-50 years, mineral deposits, surface cracks, and general outdated features of older models can result in frequent clogging. A newer model is usually the more cost-effective option overall because they greatly reduce the number of gallons per flush used.
To determine whether you need an upgrade, count on our plumbing professionals to provide you with options best suited for your needs – and replacement when it’s time to install.
Related Content: 5 Signs You Need a New Toilet
How to Prevent Future Clogs
Learning what causes a clogged toilet first is most important for preventing this issue from happening again. Based on the common causes listed above, here’s how you can prevent future clogs:
- Talk flushable basics. If the frequent clogs are due to incorrect toilet paper use, or non-flushable items, having a conversation with everyone in your household about what’s flushable will be most effective in preventing unnecessary clogs.
- Install a bidet. Using less toilet paper overall is not only the better option for preventing clogs, but it’s also more environmentally conscious! The licensed plumbers at your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing can help you make the switch.
- Schedule necessary maintenance. Even if you’re careful, soap scum, debris, and other buildup inside your drains can eventually lead to major clogs and even damage. Scheduling annual drain cleaning and inspections can prevent costly repairs or replacements throughout your home.
- Address repairs or replacement. For more immediate issues like leaks, unusual noises, or odors, be sure to address these repair needs sooner rather than later. We can diagnose the issue and get to the root of the problem before it becomes a more costly replacement.
Clear the Clog with Benjamin Franklin Plumbing
A toilet that’s clogged or stopped flushing right is a nuisance to deal with, especially if you don’t know the cause or can’t clear it on your own. Count on the licensed plumbers at your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing to make a repair on the spot! Call us today at 1-877-BEN-1776 or book an appointment online.