Toilet not flushing all the way? Test for a clog when your toilet won’t flush

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Ever uttered the words my toilet won’t flush? A poor flush means that your toilet drain is either partially or completely plugged. If your toilet won’t flush – a no-drainer – is obvious. The toilet bowl will fill to the brim with flush water and perhaps overflow. Give the water level 10 minutes or so to drop, then attack the problem with a toilet plunger to begin unclogging a toilet.

However, most clogged toilets are slow drainers. That is, flush water partially fills the bowl but doesn’t rush out and clean away the waste. The water level remains high, then usually drains down to normal height within a minute or two. You might not know the toilet is clogged until you flush it. So if you suspect a problem, test the drainage first. If it doesn’t drain, don’t flush it. Reach for the toilet plunger.

Remove the tank lid and lift the flapper valve slightly to let a cup or two of water into the bowl to see if the water goes down before trying to unclog the toilet. Flushing a clogged toilet may flood your floor!
Lift the flapper slightly to release a little water. That’s how to make a toilet flush. However, if there is a clog, the water won’t flush.

Unclog a Toilet: Begin with a plunger

For about 90 percent of clogged toilets, you only need one special tool—a toilet plunger. Buy a toilet plunger with an extension flange on the rubber bell-shaped end. A toilet plunger with an extension flange is designed to fit toilets better, so you can deliver more “oomph” to the plunge. You could pull a woodchuck from a hole with a toilet plunger with an extension flange. The toilet plunger will unplug sink and tub drains, too, if you simply fold the flange back into the bell.

Here’s how to use a plunger: The first step in how to unclog a toilet with a plunger is to plunge the toilet with the rubber flange pulled out to get a better seal. Push in and out vigorously, keeping enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger. Keep towels handy to wipe up water that splashes out. If this doesn’t fix the issue, keep reading on how to plunge a toilet.

Plunging Tips: How to Use a Plunger

A toilet plunger fits over and seals the toilet drain. Wear rubber glove—things can get messy—and follow these plunging tips:

  1. Make your first plunge a gentle one. Initially the bell is full of air. A hard thrust will force the air back around the seal and blow water all over the bathroom and you!

  2. Once you force out the air, plunge vigorously in and out, maintaining the seal. You’ll be forcing water both directions in the drain, which will effectively loosen most clogs. Stick with it, plunging 15 to 20 times if necessary.

  3. Be patient. Try alternating between steady strokes and occasional monster heaves.

  4. Keep enough water in the bowl so the toilet plunger stays covered. Trying to force air through the toilet trap won’t generate much pressure.

Most of the time, this is all it takes to clear the clog. But for tougher clogs, try using a toilet snake. (Note: If you have repeated clogging, it might be a toilet performance issue.