With the kids at home more than ever, I’ve seen a big increase in kid-related plumbing incidents, usually involving toys and other assorted items being flushed down the toilet

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If your toilet is clogged because you’re pretty sure your kid flushed something down there, you may be able to resolve the issue at home, without calling a plumber. Here’s what to do.

1. Check if you can feel it

Put on some gloves and do a manual inspection. Yes, this means you’ll have to physically stick your gloved hand into the toilet and see if you can feel the toy. Toys will often become lodged at the first bend in the toilet’s drain. If this is the case, simply use your hands, a coat hanger, needle nose pliers or whatever you can to pull the toy out.

2. Break out the plunger

If you can’t feel the toy in the toilet, a plunger is your next step. The goal is to push that toy right down past the toilet and into the plumbing system.  Usually, if it makes it into the drains, it won’t cause issues in the future.

Ideally, you’ll use what’s called a “flange plunger,” which is made specifically for toilets, and is slightly different than the “cup plunger” most people have, in that it has an extra piece of rubber that properly seals the toilet drain. You get bonus points for running your plunger under hot water for a few minutes to soften the rubber, creating a better seal. If after a few minutes of plunging you still can’t clear the toy, don’t bother anymore; it doesn’t look like a plunger will work!

3. Try a closet auger

A closet auger, also known as a toilet auger, is a type of drain snake. But it’s preferable for this job  because it houses a larger cable in a steel tube that can act more forcefully on whatever is lodged in the toilet.  When using the closet auger, you’re trying to either hook the toy and pull it back out, or push it through the toilet into the drain. It’s better if you can pull it out, but it is often quite difficult to do this and the blockage winds up being pushed through.  Again, once whatever was blocking the toilet is through to the drain, very rarely does it cause further issues.

4. If all else fails, remove the toilet

If none of the previous steps has worked, you’ll need to take the toilet off and see if you can get the toy from the underside. Often, toys and other items will be lodged at the lowest point in the toilet, right before the drain.  To do this, make sure you clear the bowl and tank of any water (yes, you have to do this by scooping), turn off the water supply and disconnect the toilet.  It is usually best to then either put it in the tub, or to bring it outside and flip it over!

5. Worst-case scenario: Get a new toilet

If you still haven’t been able to clear the blockage from the toilet (and are sure it’s not in the drain), this unfortunately the only other thing to do is replace the toilet altogether.  This is an expensive solution, but sometimes necessary! Of course, most people will want to have a plumber run through the steps above before starting fresh with a new toilet.

Geoff Burke is the owner/operator of Watermark Plumbing Services Inc., which services residential and commercial customers in the Greater Toronto Area. Follow his weekly blog, “How NOT to Call the Plumber,” by clicking on the link above.

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