The happy homeowner will someday likely be faced with a clogged toilet as an item of home maintenance. For a fraction of the cost of a plumber’s service call, you can use this ‘How to Plumbing Guide’, purchase a good quality closet auger and do it yourself. If used only once to unblock a toilet, it pays for itself and you’ll have it for the rest of your ‘Home and Garden‘ days. You can then pass it on to your heirs.
Of course, not everyone has the stomach for unclogging a toilet. You may be surprised at what you’ll do when the necessity arises. If budgets are stretched too thin, unblocking your own toilet can preserve your capital for something else. Protect your hands and eyes with the proper gear, take a shower afterward and you’ll be as good as new.
Just What is a Closet Auger, Anyway? How does it differ from a Plumbing Snake?
A closet auger (sometimes called a plumber’s auger) is a specialty tool that is designed to push a very flexible ‘snake’ about 3 feet through the ‘U’ trap of a toilet (closet). A plumbing snake is another form that is less flexible and best used to unclog the soil line. The closet auger has a telescopic feature that allows the user to push the snake down while rotating the crank handle. The end of the snake (or chain) is fitted with a hook device to grab a wad of paper (or other obstruction -I once pulled up a spoon). Once the obstruction is ‘hooked’ it can be extracted by pulling up on the telescoping body of the tool.
Item of note: If no obstruction is found, the blockage is probably in the soil line and and requires more invasive measures -(subject of a future post). The length of the closet auger snake is sufficient to reach any blockage in the toilet. (The soil line is the main lateral that carries waste out of the building).
Cautionary Note: There are some pinch points with this tool. Use a pair of gloves to protect your hands. The task is not sanitary -so protect your health and protect your hands from cuts by using proper PPE (personal protective equipment). A pair of safety glasses is in order to protect from unsanitary water splashing up into your eyes.
How do you unclog a toilet? Begin by pulling the crank handle and telescoping section all the way up. This will effectively double the length of the tool so be aware of your headroom. Place the bottom of the tool into the toilet. Notice it has a plastic coating to protect the porcelain from scratches. Apply downward pressure on the tool body with one hand while turning clockwise on the crank with the other. This forces the the cable through the ‘U’ trap and against the clog. The clockwise turning of the chain will hook onto the obstruction and ‘wrap’ or ‘twist’ it up around the chain.
Once you feel you have captured the blockage, hold the tool body firmly in the bottom of the toilet while pulling up on the slide.This will withdraw the cable / snake back through, bringing the blockage with it. If there was standing water in the bowl, you should see it drop once the clog is cleared.