No Plunger? No Problem. You Can Fix a Clogged Toilet Without One

If you’re in a bathroom right now and you’re standing in front of a clogged toilet with no plunger nearby, you’re in a pickle. No panic. I’m going to give you some advice you’ll never forget – you don’t need that bacteria-infested flask. Instead, grab these things: dish soap, hot water, and a trusty bucket.

I didn’t invent this method of flushing a toilet without a plunger – you can find similar variations on plumbing and home improvement websites – but I can personally vouch for its effectiveness. You can even try it if you have a plunger to avoid the drips, splashes, and general unsanitary mess that comes with using brute force to clean a toilet.

This guide will be updated occasionally with new plumbing insights. Read on for the latest advice on unclogging your toilet without a plunger. You can find other extremely useful tips here cut a cake with only dental floss and how light a fire with Doritos.

Dish soap in toilet bowl

Most clogged toilets can be cleaned with soap, hot water, and time.

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Everything you need could be right in the bathroom

To perform this trick, you need three supplies that can be found in almost every bathroom: soap, hot water, and a vessel for pouring water into the toilet bowl. Dish soap, hot bath water, and a 5-gallon bucket work best, but if secrecy is paramount and getting out of the restroom would blow your cover, a few pumps from a hand soap dispenser and some hot soapy water in a small plastic waste container will do fine.

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First, run the water in the sink or tub as hot as it can get. Don’t beat yourself up – you don’t have to boil water. At these temperatures you could break the porcelain or injure yourself. Just let the tap water get as hot as it can and you’re within reach.

While waiting for hot water, clear everything off the floor – scales, bathmats… pets. You will of course be very careful not to spill, but better safe than sorry.

Let the chemistry work, but be careful

Your goal is to get the liquid in the toilet bowl as hot and soapy as possible as quickly as possible without it overflowing. This is the step that requires the most finesse.

If you’ve already tried flushing the clog a second time and the toilet bowl is full to the brim, pour the soap straight down the toilet, then pour in as much hot water as you can — if you can.

However, if you have enough space, mix soap and water first, then pour the soapy concoction into the bowl as soon as possible. In a perfect storm, heat and soap lubricate the clog while the force of water pushes it through. Hopefully your reflexes are quick, because you may have to stop watering abruptly if the clog doesn’t clear right away.

A note on the soap: you really can’t overdo it with the soap at this point. You won’t be stirring the solution too much, so the bowl probably won’t erupt in a foam volcano if you should fall overboard with it. I’m not saying you have to pour the whole soap bottle in, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t either. Catch my drift?

washing-up liquid and rubbish bins

Dish soap works best, but hand soap will do in a pinch. Then all you need is hot water and something to put in the toilet, like a small trash can.

Dale Smith/CNET

Never stir the toilet bowl, no matter what

Whatever you do, you don’t have to stir it up to mix the hot, soapy water with the cold, dirty water that came first. Science will do that for you via a process called osmosis. If the clog doesn’t budge after your soapy water tsunami, your next step is to just be patient.

Most toilet backups aren’t 100% blocked, so there’s a good chance yours will be slow to begin with. Keep an eye on the water level and add more and more hot water as it drops to keep it full. Unless the clog is too stubborn, the added pressure of a full toilet bowl plus the lubricating quality of the soap should help push the stuck-up matter through fairly quickly.

trash can with water

Many bathroom waste bins are small enough to fit under the sink, but if they don’t, you can use the tub or shower faucet.

Dale Smith/CNET

If all else fails, give it more time

The worst case scenario is that the clog is wedged in too tightly and the above steps don’t push it down immediately. In this case, you don’t have to call a plumber or go to the hardware store just yet.

Try to give it some time for the hot, soapy water to clear the clog. Walk away, close the bathroom door, and wait 30 to 60 minutes before checking again. If you do, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your problem has gone down the drain.

This can mean blowing your cover if you tried to flush the toilet incognito. In that case, the best you can hope for is not to become the target of future jokes.

Good luck with that too.

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