Overflowing toilets are caused by a blockage somewhere in your drain. Instead of flushing smoothly down the toilet drain, water, waste and even sewage will overflow your toilet. If not cleaned up quickly, it can damage your bathroom floor or even leak through the ceiling below. Regardless of what caused it, we explain how to clean up an overflowing toilet.
What to Do When a Toilet Overflows?
If your toilet overflows, you need to clean it up right away to limit the damage. You should also avoid using your plumbing until you figure out what caused the overflow.
If you didn’t see the toilet overflow, it’s possible that wastewater has soaked into flooring, baseboards, walls, or vanity. In this case, you should call a water cleanup company. They will check your home for damage and restore your bathroom to its original condition.
Approximate Time: 2 days
Estimated Cost: $ 300
Steps to Clean up an Overflowing Toilet
1. Turn off the Water
The first thing to do is turn off the water valve, even if the toilet overflow isn’t related to your supply line. Most toilets have a shut-off valve below the toilet tank near the floor.
If there isn’t a shut-off valve on the supply line, remove the toilet tank lid and pull the float up to stop the flow of water. Assuming this stops the overflowing, allow the toilet bowl to drain completely before releasing the float.
If the water starts running when run once you release the float, you will need to turn off the main water supply line. If your toilet continues to overflow even with the water off, the problem could be in either a drain pipe or the main sewer line.
2. Use a Toilet Auger or Drain Snake
While you may think a plunger will help, it usually only makes a bigger miss if your toilet is already overflowing. Instead, you should use a toilet auger.
Toilet augers are very similar to drain snakes, however, they are designed for your toilet’s s-shaped trap. As you crank the toilet auger, a coil snakes through your drain pipes. This snags the clog so you can pull it out.
In some cases, the auger will even break up the clog so it will flow away from the toilet into the sewers.
3. Remove Standing Water and Waste
The longer water and waste sit on your bathroom floor, the greater the potential for damage. Water will soak into walls and cabinets quickly and waste will spread bacteria or cause mold.
Use a wet-dry vacuum to suck up as much standing water and waste as possible. Then use towels or blankets to remove any remaining water. Just make sure you wash them thoroughly afterward.
4. Dry Out Damaged Walls and Cabinets
After getting rid of the water, use high-volume fans to dry your bathroom quickly. While you can use regular house fans, they work slowly and there is a greater chance of mold and bacteria.
You can get high-volume fans from your local equipment rental company. In most cases, you’ll only need one fan to dry your bathroom. However, you may need two or three if the overflowing toilet damaged other rooms.
5. Clean and Disinfect Your Bathroom
Finally, you need to clean and disinfect your bathroom. Start by washing everything with soap and warm water, even if it didn’t get wet in the toilet overflow.
Then mix together one cup of bleach and a gallon of water and wipe everything down to disinfect it. This will not only kill mold and bacteria, but it will help remove odors as well.
How Do I Unclog a Toilet?
If you need to unclog a toilet that has not overflowed, the most effective tool is a plunger. Since most toilet clogs form in the bowl or the trap, the plunger can actually force it down the drain. If the toilet is close to overflowing, use a bucket to remove some water before plunging or you’ll just make a mess.
It’s the up and down motion of the plunger that actually clears the clog. The upward movement creates suction that helps loosen the clog and the downward pressure helps flush it away.
Some people think you need to plunge like crazy to clear a toilet clog. However, the real secret to unclogging your toilet is creating a good seal between the plunger and toilet bowl. Otherwise, it won’t create enough suction or pressure to remove the clog.
Since the seal is important, you should use a bell plunger that gets into the toilet trap. This will help clear the clog faster and will less effort. You can also put some petroleum jelly on the plunger to make a better seal as well.
What Causes a Toilet Overflow?
Although there are many reasons your toilet will overflow, clogs are the biggest problem. Clogs are usually caused by flushing the wrong thing down the toilet.
While your toilet is designed to flush toilet paper and waste, other things can clog the drain. You should never flush diapers, sanitary products, paper towels, or any solid items. While so-call flushable wipes imply they are safe to flush down the toilet, they are actually one of the biggest causes of clogs.
Aside from clogs, other causes of an overflowing toilet include plumbing problems, sewer line issues, and issues with your septic system.
Frequently Asked Questions About Overflowing Toilets
You should always assume that water from a toilet overflow is contaminated. Whether it contains sewage or just waste, a toilet overflowing in your bathroom can spread bacteria and disease. To keep yourself safe, wear long rubber gloves, tall boots, pants, long sleeves, a ventilator, and safety glasses when cleaning up sewage.
Although unlikely, your toilet can overflow even if you didn’t flush it. Normally, this will happen if there is a clog in your main sewer line. If this is the cause, you’ll usually have problems with all of your drains. Eventually, the clog will cause your bathtub, sink, or toilet to overflow.
While you may think your toilet is overflowing for no reason, there is definitely a problem. If clean water is coming out of the toilet, it’s usually a problem with either the tank float or the handle. However, if waste or sewage is overflowing the toilet, the cause is usually a clog further down the drain or even in the sewers.
You can drain a toilet using a cup or a bowl to scoop out the water. Pour the water into a bucket and either flush it down the toilet once it’s fixed or dump it outside. This method works for either a clogged toilet bowl or to empty the toilet tank so you can make repairs.