How to Cleanup an Overflowing Toilet

How to Cleanup an Overflowing Toilet

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.

Water damage after an overflowing toilet? Call 1-888-992-8371 now for a free estimate from a restoration specialist near you.

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

Supplies Needed

Tools Need

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.

Turn off the water valve
Use a Toilet Auger or Drain Snake

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.

Remove Standing Water and Waste
Dry Out Damaged Walls and Cabinets

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.

Clean and Disinfect Your Bathroom

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.

Clogged Toilet Bowl

A clogged toilet bowl is the most common cause of a toilet overflow. Using too much toilet paper can clog your toilet bowl. Thankfully, it’s very easy to fix. Just plunge the toilet to unclog the bowl and stop the overflow.

Clogged Toilet Trap

Most toilets have an s-shaped trap that prevents sewer gases from coming up the drain into your bathroom and causing terrible smells. Due to these bends, you can clog the trap if you use too much toilet paper. Again, you can use your plunger to clear the clog.

Clogged Drain Pipes

Once the water leaves your toilet, it flows through drain pipes in your home towards the sewers. These drain pipes often have at least one, if not several bends. As a result, waste and other items can get stuck in these bends. Clogged drain pipes can cause your toilet to flush slowly or even lead to an overflow.

Clogged Sewer Line

A clog in your sewer line can also cause a toilet overflow. This is the main pipe that connects your house to the city sewers. Many non-flushable items, like sanitary products and so-called flushable wipes, often build up in this pipe. If this is the issue, you will typically have other drainage issues like a gurgling drain, a backed-up sink, or even an overflowing washing machine.

Improperly Working Septic System

If you have a septic system, your toilet overflowing could be a sign of a full tank or another problem. You should inspect your septic system to make sure it is working properly.

Low-Flush Toilets

Many newer homes have low-flush toilets designed to conserve water. Since they use less water, they sometimes have a hard time flushing everything down the drain. Also called low-flow or high-efficiency toilets, models produced before 1997 are especially prone to toilet overflows.

Toilet Problems

A stuck handle or a broken tank float can keep water running and cause an overflow. If your toilet is overflowing with clean water, look inside the tank for problems. Use the water shutoff valve to stop the water while you make repairs.

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.

Get Immediate Water Cleanup

Standing water or sewage after a toilet overflow? Call 1-888-992-8371 now for a free quote on water damage restoration services.

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