For most people, the very definition of their worst plumbing nightmare would be an overflowing toilet. This is when a toilet drain becomes clogged, the waste cannot be flushed away, and when a flushing operation is carried out, the toilet contents back up and flow out onto the floor. Dealing with a water leak is bad enough, but when that water also contains raw sewage, it’s far worse. We rely on our plumbing systems to work correctly, and our toilet is no different. The toilet needs to flush easily, and if it overflows, what can you do about the situations. In this article, we will show you six ways to manage an overflowing toilet and get the situation back under control quickly.
- The Initial Reaction
Let’s face it, many of us don’t react in the correct way under pressure, and it’s easy to panic and make the wrong decisions. This is why it’s important to pause for a moment and evaluate what is happening to formulate the correct response. When the toilet is overflowing dirty water into your bathroom, the very first thing that you must do is shut that water off. This will stop the flow of water, minimizing the volume of water released, and it will go a long way to prevent more water damage in your home. The faster you can do this, the better and the last thing you need in a high pressure situation is to start looking for the shut off valve. Take some time to locate the shut off valve before an emergency occurs, and it will be easier to turn it off when you need to do it quickly.
- The Shut Off Valve
This is the first line of defense to prevent the problem from becoming much worse. The shut off valve can be located by following the pipe that leads from the bathroom wall to the toilet itself. Somewhere along that section of the plumbing pipe, there should be a hand crank to stop the flow of water to the toilet. The shut off valve needs to be checked regularly to ensure that it will work in an emergency. The hand crank needs to kept clean, and it should be lubricated from time to time. Then you know that it won’t jam when you need to turn the water off quickly. But, what happens if you cannot reach the shut off valve or it isn’t working correctly?
- Checking the Toilet Tank
If you cannot get to the shut off valve or it’s jammed, the next course of action is to get into the toilet tank itself. Lift off the lid that covers the toilet water tank carefully and place it to one side. There is a rubber part inside the tank called a “flapper” it’s usually located at the bottom of the tank. This part is used to control the flow of water for refilling the tank after the flushing operation has occurred. If the flapper is in the closed position, the water will continue to flow and overflow into the bathroom. The flapper is usually connected to a part called a “float ball” that sits on the surface of the water to make sure the water level doesn’t rise too high. If your toilet tank has a float ball, lift it gently, and it may shut the water off.
- Cleaning the Water and Waste
This is extremely unpleasant, but once the water is shut off, it’s important to clean the waste away and mop up that dirty water. Always wear gloves, place the waste in garbage bags, double bag it, and place it in the trash. Next, use water mixed with plenty of bleach and mop up the dirty water. After the mopping is finished, you may probably want to toss out the mop head as well. Open up the bathroom windows to allow the foul odor to escape, and you can dry out the area more with old towels and rags. It may take repeated cleanings to get the floor and surface clean again, and white vinegar mixed in a 50/50 ratio with water in a spray bottle makes a great cleaner. Spray the surfaces, leave them for at least 30 minutes and then clean them as usual to kill any bacteria present. If a high volume of water escaped into your bathroom, you might want to use a dehumidifier for a few days to dry the room out.
- Removing the Toilet Clog
An overflowing toilet is usually caused by a toilet clog in the drain, which has blocked the drain entirely. When the flushed water hits this barrier, and it is then backed up into the bathroom. Most people approach this situation in the wrong way; they try to clear the clog using a chemical drain cleaning product. But, these contain caustic chemicals, and they can damage your plumbing pipes leading to an expensive plumbing repair. A manual removal is the best approach; the first option is to use a cup plunger fitted with a rubber flange to remove toilet clogs. In many cases, this works, but it may be necessary to use a plumbing augur (snake) that is fed into the drain and cranked to break the clog apart. If the clog cannot be easily removed or it returns again a short time later, it’s known as a recurring clog. This is a sure sign that there is an underlying plumbing problem that needs fixing; this could be a sewer line issue, and a professional plumber should be contacted.
- Preventative Measures
Prevention is better than the cure, and there are things that you can do to minimize the chance of your toilet overflowing. First, make sure that only human waste and toilet paper is flushed to prevent the formation of clogs. Everyone in the home should follow this rule, and taking this simple step will prevent the vast majority of toilet clogs. Secondly, supply a waste bin with a liner for other items that need to go in the trash, such as sanitary products, floss, nail clipping, and other bathroom waste. Finally, schedule some regular plumbing maintenance for your home to make sure all of your systems are in good shape. If you need to know about plumbing maintenance programs or removing a stubborn clog, contact your local certified plumber
for expert help and advice.