Unclog a blocked toilet with this simple, ingenious trick — no plunger required

You can only clean most clogged toilets with soap, hot water, and a little time.

Dale Smith / CNET

While I may not have invented this method of plunging a toilet without a plunger – you can find variations galore on DIY and plumbing blogs – I can testify that it works. I’ve honed and practiced this ancient art of Washroom wizardry over the course of many years not just because I wanted to, but because somehow I had to. This technique works especially when you don’t have the usual tools (like a plunger) and secrecy is key.

Say you are at a friend’s house and you have a little squirrel with the TP. Can you stop the dresser without disclosing the nature of your business? Or maybe you’re home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and one of your broods wakes up a little with the bath towel – and the store doesn’t reopen until the next day.

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Even if you keep a reliable plunger in the bathroom, try this trick first the next time your toilet is clogged and you can potentially avoid the drips, splashes, and general unsanitary mess that can come with using a plunger. This manual is updated with new data from time to time.


Dish soap works best, but soap will do just fine in a pinch. Then all you need is hot water and something to put it in the toilet, like a small litter bin.

Dale Smith / CNET

Most of the bathrooms have everything you need

To perform this trick, you will need three consumables that can be found in almost every bathroom: soap, hot water, and a vessel for transferring water to the toilet bowl. Dish soap and a 5 gallon bucket work best, but if secrecy is paramount and leaving the toilet would blow your cover, a small plastic bin and a couple of pumps from a hand soap dispenser will do.

To prepare, you should get the hot water running in the sink or tub and give it enough time to reach its maximum temperature. You don’t want (or need to) use boiling water, which could damage the toilet’s china or injure you. Let the faucet get as hot as possible – it will be hot enough.

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While waiting for hot water, clear everything off the floor, like sheds and bath mats. You will, of course, be very careful to avoid any spillage, but it is better to play it safe than get drenched.

Mix the potion

The goal is to make the liquid in the toilet bowl as hot and soapy as possible without it overflowing. You can either pour (or pump) soap directly into the bowl and then add hot water, or you can mix the soap with the hot water before adding it to the bowl.


Many bathroom trash cans are small enough to fit under the sink. If it doesn’t, you can use the bathtub or shower tap.

Dale Smith / CNET

I prefer to put soap straight into the toilet bowl when the clog hasn’t left a lot of space (e.g. less than an inch). This ensures a high soap-water ratio. However, if there is enough space above the waterline (an inch or more), pre-mixing will make for a more even distribution of soap.

You really can’t overdo the soap at this point. You won’t move the solution so the bowl doesn’t erupt like a foam volcano if you go overboard. I’m not saying you have to pour the whole bottle in, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t either. Anything from a tablespoon to half a cup should work.

Carefully and carefully add the hot water

Mixing everything in the toilet bowl is the step that requires the most finesse. You want to raise the average water temperature and get the soap in every crevice, but you don’t necessarily want to make a slurry with what is already there. You really, really don’t.


Add 10 to 100 dashes of hand soap to your solution – you really can’t overdo it.

Dale Smith / CNET

So don’t use anything to stir it up. Instead, don’t be afraid to pour your hot water – throw it in there. Just be careful not to overcrowd.

Most toilet backups aren’t 100% blocked, so there’s a good chance yours will be slow at first. Keep an eye on the water level and keep adding more hot water as it drops to keep it full. Unless the blockage is too persistent, the extra pressure from a full toilet bowl should help get the secured matter moving through fairly quickly.

When all else fails, time is on your side

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

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 might be pleasantly surprised that your problem is gone down the drain.

Your toilet isn’t the only household plumbing that can clog, but luckily, there are also quick, clean, and efficient ways to solve other simple household plumbing problems. If you are concerned about the drain in your kitchen, take a look at this Three techniques for clogging your kitchen sink. If your shower head is no longer exerting the pressure it used to have, do the following Break up mineral build-up in your shower head. When you have clarified this disposal, you should use it sensibly and Wash your fridge with this easy-to-follow guide.

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