What to do if your toilet overflows

Plumbers are one of the most sought after service providers on Angie’s List, and those serving the Los Angeles area are no exception.

From May to August 2011, Angie’s List members in Los Angeles made more than 6,400 searches for local plumbers. While the list contains more than 1,000 highly rated service providers who can help with your plumbing needs, there are several ways to immediately address a toilet overflow emergency.

Locate your water shut off valve near the base of your toilet. Turn the valve until the water shuts off to prevent additional overflow. If your toilet does not have one, open the tank and rig the float to stay in its position and not let any more water fill the tank.

If water has spilled over the bowl and onto the floor, immediately remove it. Use towels to clean up a small amount or a Shop-Vac to help with larger spills or to soak water out of carpet and other fabrics. Be sure to wash and disinfect all surfaces that were dampened by the toilet water.

If a clog is the culprit of the overflow, grab a toilet plunger and try plunging it free. A sink plunger could work if you do not have a toilet plunger, but it likely won’t be as effective. You can also try using a plumbing snake if you have one accessible.

If you have time on your side, put 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar in the toilet and let it sit for about eight hours. The chemical reaction that occurs between the two substances might help break down whatever is clogging the drain.

If you know there’s a foreign object preventing the toilet from flushing, get some rubber gloves and try to remove it.

To prevent future clogs:

  • Try using less toilet paper. If you need to use more, flush multiple times.
  • Never flush feminine products down the toilet. Even if the products claim to be flushable, always throw them in the nearest trash receptacle.
  • Keep the counter space around the toilet and the back of the tank clear of small objects that could easily fall in. Smaller objects might fall in without notice and be accidentally flushed, which could create a clog. By keeping the space around the toilet, you decrease the chance of this happening.


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