With the kids at home, we’ve seen a big increase in “child related plumbing incidents”. These incidents usually involve toys and other assorted items being flushed down the toilet. So, I thought it would be good to give you an idea of the steps you can take when your child does this, and hopefully avoid calling the plumber in the process!
Here are the 5 steps to take when your child (or you) flushes something down the toilet:
1. First, we need to put on some gloves and do a “manual” inspection. The first step we always need to take is to physically stick our gloved hand into the toilet and see if we 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, the plunger your next step. We are going to try 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 issue in the future. There are a few different styles of plungers made specifically for toilets, called “Flange Plungers”. These are slightly different than the “Cup Plungers” many of you have, as they have 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. The next tool in line is the Closet Auger. A closet auger is different from the regular drain snake many of you already have, as 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, we are trying to either hook the toy and pull it back out, or push it through the toilet into the drain. Of course, it is better if we can pull it out, but it is often quite difficult to do this and the blockage winds up being pushed through! As I mentioned earlier, once whatever was blocking the toilet is through to the drain, very rarely does it cause further issue.
4. Our last step is to take off the toilet. If all else has failed, we need to take the toilet off and see if we 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. If you STILL haven’t been able to clear the blockage from the toilet (and are sure its not in the drain), unfortunately the only other thing we can do is to replace the toilet altogether. This is an expensive solution, but sometimes necessary!