This Is What to Do When Your Toilet Overflows

There are few things worse than the sinking feeling you get when you flush your toilet and watch the water level slowly keep rising until it finally flows over the rim. From something as simple as using too much toilet paper to a problem with your main sewer line, there are many different things that can cause your toilet to clog and overflow.

In fact, if you live in a home with a toilet, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with toilet overflows at some point in your lifetime. But, never fear!


The following tips will ensure that you know what to do when your toilet overflows. Read on and you’ll be able to keep your cool next time it happens to you.

1. Stay Calm

While this may seem like a silly piece of advice, it’s actually one of the most important things you can do. If you completely panic or run from the room screaming, the problem isn’t going to get any better.

An overflowing toilet can lead to many problems, including expensive toilet overflow water damage. Keeping your head straight and taking smart steps to fix the problem will help minimize the negative effects.

2. Stop It at the Source

After you take a deep breath and assess the situation, the next thing to do is stop the flow of water into the toilet bowl. If you don’t already know where the main shutoff valve for your toilet is, find out today. This will prevent you from having to search for it at a time when every second counts.

It’s also a great idea to turn the valve back and forth once a month or so. This will help keep it moving freely so you don’t discover that it’s stuck when it matters most. If you try to turn it and you can’t, spray it with a bit of lubricant and then keep turning it on and off each time you go to the bathroom for a week or so, until it starts to turn smoothly.

This proactive action only takes a couple of seconds and can make a major difference when you’re in the middle of a plumbing emergency.

If you can’t find the valve or you can’t get it to shut off, you’ll need a backup plan. Start by pulling the top off the tank and checking the hinged rubber disc that covers the hole in the bottom of your tank (called a flapper).

If it’s not covering the hole, reach in and push it down. This should stop the water from continuing to flow into the bowl (and out onto your floor).

If the flapper won’t stay down or it was already down, then you’ll want to look to the float ball. Manually lifting it to the top of the tank should make the water stop running. You might need to have someone come in and hold it up for you or prop it up with something so the water doesn’t start flowing again.

3. Grab the Plunger

Once you’ve averted the disaster of water flowing all over your bathroom, you’ll want to grab the plunger. If something too large was flushed down the toilet, it may be stuck in the pipes somewhere between the toilet and the sewer system.

The plunger works by forcing pressure and water through the pipes. Sometimes, this will help to dislodge the offending object and get your toilet working properly.

It’s easy to use a plunger, just hold the handle and place the rubber part over the drain hole in your toilet bowl. You’ll want to make sure that the hole is completely covered so that it creates a seal. Press down with the handle a few times, then check to see if the water goes down the drain.

4. Clear the Clog

If the plunger didn’t solve your problem, then things can start to get a bit tricky. At this point, you’ll need to use a snake or chemical drain cleaners.

You can get a snake at your local hardware store. This tool looks like a long spear. Follow the instructions on the package or watch a quick YouTube video so you’re fully prepared.

The basic concept is simple, though. Just place the end in the toilet drain and turn the handle clockwise, then turn it counterclockwise to (hopefully!) pull whatever is clogging the pipe back out.

As a last resort, you can also try a chemical drain cleaner. However, you’ll want to approach this with caution. If you add chemicals in the wrong amounts, you could permanently damage your toilet and you run the risk of a serious injury.

Always follow the package directions carefully. Don’t add more than one chemical at the same time – or even on the same day. You may feel desperate to fix your toilet problem, but believe us when we say this can definitely do more harm than good.

What to Do When Your Toilet Overflows and You Can’t Fix It

If you’ve tried all the steps above and you’re still not having luck, unfortunately, you’re at the end of your rope. One of the most important steps in learning what to do when your toilet overflows is knowing when to admit defeat.

At this point, it’s likely that you’ll do more harm than good, so it’s time to call in an experienced plumber. This is also a good option if your toilet keeps overflowing, as this is an indicator that you have a more serious problem.

Taking care of things around your home isn’t always easy, but it’s much less stressful when you have great resources to help you out. Scroll through a few more of our blog posts where you’ll find tons of helpful tips for home maintenance and more!

Khuwalid Khalid
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