If there is one thing you should be able to count on, it is that the toilet should flush properly when you need it to. But life is not fair, toilets clog, and to make matters worse, they can overflow. Preventing raw sewage from spilling over onto your bathroom floor can be failsafe, but only if you know what to do and have the proper tools at arm’s reach. If your toilet is prone to clogs, or if you just want to be prepared for the worst, this emergency protocol is critical.
Stop It at the Source
No matter the cause, if a toilet is overflowing, the most urgent action is to stop the flow of water into the bowl. In many bathrooms, the best place to do this is at the toilet’s main shutoff valve.
You can probably see a water line leading from your bathroom wall to the toilet, as well as a hand-crank valve somewhere along that line. If you don’t see this hardware, it’s possible that your toilet’s valve is hidden behind wall or floor tiles, in which case you should talk to a plumberabout modifications to provide this access. Short of shutting off the main valve to your home, the toilet valve is the only way to fully stop the flow of water!
Closing the valve when an overflow is imminent will stop the bowl from filling and grant all the time you need to clear the clog. But besides accessing it, actually turning the valve can be challenging when it matters most. Since this valve usually stays open, often for years, it can be sticky, and may even rust in an open position.
Be proactive and give your toilet valve a few turns back and forth today. If it’s stubborn, spray it with a little lubricant until it turns freely. Going forward, close and reopen the valve every time you clean your bathroom. It only takes a couple of seconds, and it will help make sure you can close the valve in an emergency.
Get Things Flowing
Once the overflow has been prevented, the final step is to clear the clog. If you have a toilet plunger, preferably one with a toilet flange, that should be your go-to tool. If you don’t have one, pick one up today, a clogged toilet is more a matter of “when” than “if”.
And for clogs that you just can’t clear, or for any other plumbing emergencies, the most failsafe option of all is to contact a licensed plumber.