A blocked toilet might not seem like an urgent matter, until you need to use the toilet… well, urgently. A seemingly partial blockage where the water rises to a rather ominous level after flushing before returning to normal might be a cause for alarm. It can also be that the toilet had to deal with more than its usual capacity in a one-off basis. And yet when it blocks completely, or when a partial blockage occurs with some regularity, you need to take quick action because it's only going to be a matter of time before you will need to use it. If it happens to be the only toilet in your home, the matter can become rather critical, rather quickly. And yet what are some common causes for a blocked toilet? And what can you do when it happens to you?
Common Culprits for Blockage
A toilet's plumbing and flush (and indeed, the toilet itself) should give you many years of uncomplaining service. A well-maintained toilet could essentially last indefinitely. But you run the very real risk of shortening its lifespan when you flush things that have no business being flushed. These things can include:
Kitchen waste, including used cooking fat, is not a case of just flushing it away. The grease from cooking fat can congeal inside your pipes, with a gap that narrows and narrows until it closes altogether.
Paper towels are not the same as toilet paper, and their absorbency can result in them expanding when flushed. If enough of them are used, then a blockage can occur rather quickly.
Just because some brands of wet wipe say that their product is flushable, it doesn't mean that it should be. New York had to spend $18 million over five years in order to repair wet wipe damage (blockages) in their sewer system, and you don't want to contribute to your own fair Australian city's wet wipe problem!
Some Quick DIY Solutions
When your toilet is blocked, you might be able to rectify the situation yourself.
Try boiling your electric kettle and then pouring the contents into the toilet bowl. Of course the boiling water will cool quickly when introduced to the cold water in the bowl, but the blast of hot water can be enough to clear minor blockages.
A good old fashioned toilet plunger and some elbow grease can also be effective.
You can try some chemical drain cleaner, but use it sparingly. It's heavier than water, so its active ingredients will penetrate the water in the pipes and reach the source of the blockage. Remember that it's corrosive and can damage your pipes, so exercise caution.
If your efforts don't end in the desired result, you'll need to call in the professionals. Your local plumber can quickly take care of your blocked drain clearing needs. This is also adviseable in the case of recurring partial blockages as there might be something lurking in your pipes which will need to be cleared before it causes true damage.