TOILETS are one of those things modern society has come to take for granted. Until they malfunction, that is. Since most of us, perhaps in the name of modernity have eliminated the traditional pit latrine as a backup option, when our modern toilets refuse to work, things can get ugly pretty fast.
With the growing focus on water conservation, more communities now require toilets that use less water per flush. In spite of the best efforts of the toilet manufacturers to increase performance, this is likely to continue to make our most common plumbing problem a plugged toilet.
The good news is that unclogging a clogged toilet is something that anyone can do.
Toilets come in different shapes and styles, but with a few exceptions, they all work the same. Water is released from the tank into the bowl to flush the waste into the drainage system. It is that simple.
There are two common problems that happen with flash toilets; the water not shutting off after flushing, (otherwise called a ‘running toilet’), and the toilet bowl getting plugged (not draining). While a running toilet wastes a lot of water, the problem of a plugged toilet is more urgent.
According to Eugene Kamasa, a freelance plumber, a plugged toilet is the most common problem that afflicts owners of flush toilets. He is quick to add that anyone can learn to unclog a toilet.
“It just takes a little patience and the right tools. The first thing you need to fix a plugged toilet is a toilet plunger,” he says. A toilet plunger is a device consisting of a rubber suction cup attached to the end of a stick, used to unclog drains and pipes. It is designed specifically to direct the force into the waste outlet of the plugged toilet bowl. It works by filling up with water and then pushing that water through the blockage, dislodging it in the process.
A toilet plunger may fail to do the work depending on the severity of the blockage and the plumbing system, says Kamasa. He recommends another tool – the closet auger. It is a long, thin and flexible tube that looks like a snake, used to unblock toilets.
It has a short drain cable, or snake, inside a metal tube that is bent on the end to aim the cable into the waste outlet of a toilet bowl. The cable is just long enough to get through the toilet and is connected to a handle the same length.
“The way to use a closet auger is to pull the handle out, insert its scrubbing end into the toilet bowl and push it down into the bowl. You must make sure the cable goes down into the drain water. When the bowl drains, flush the toilet while pulling the cable back to help clean the cable,” Kamasa explains.
Kamasa recommends a third option should the closet auger and toilet plunger fail to unclog your toilet: liquid soap. “If there is a lot of water in the bowl and it is almost overflowing, scoop some of it out using a bucket. Then pour a little liquid soap in the bowl and leave it to settle for about five minutes, and flush.”