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How to stop overflowing toilet with plunger

How to Stop an Overflowing Toilet

Few things induce panic like an overflowing toilet. The sight of water cascading over the rim and onto the floor can send even the calmest individual into a frenzy. But before you resign yourself to a flooded bathroom and hefty plumbing bill, take a deep breath and remember: a quick and decisive response can often stop an overflowing toilet, averting disaster.

Immediate Actions to Prevent Overflow

As soon as you notice your toilet beginning to overflow, here’s what you should do:

  1. Stop the flow. The first and most crucial step is to stop the water flow into the toilet bowl. Locate the shut-off valve, typically a twist-knob located behind the toilet near the floor. Turn the valve clockwise until it stops to completely shut off the water supply.
  2. Turn off the water supply to the house (if necessary). If you cannot locate the toilet’s shut-off valve or it fails to work, turn off the main water supply to your house. This valve is usually found in the basement, crawl space, or near the water meter. Remember, this will cut off water to your entire house, so use it only as a last resort.
  3. Remove excess water. If the water level in the bowl is dangerously high, remove some of it manually. You can use a bucket, large cup, or any other container to scoop out the water and dispose of it in a sink or bathtub drain.
  4. Minimize water damage by soaking up any water on the floor using towels or rags. If possible, use rubber gloves to protect your hands from contamination.
How to stop an overflowing toilet in Lakeland

Identifying the Cause

Once you’ve contained the immediate overflow, it’s time to investigate the cause. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Clogged Drain

This is the most frequent cause of overflows. A clog can be caused by excessive toilet paper, foreign objects flushed down the toilet, or even a buildup of waste.

Faulty Fill Valve

The fill valve regulates the water entering the tank. The fill valve is a crucial component inside the toilet tank, essential for its proper functioning. Typically, it is a tall, cylindrical mechanism situated on the left side of the tank (when facing the toilet). The fill valve is connected to the water supply line and controls water flow into the tank after each flush. A malfunctioning valve can allow water to continuously flow into the tank and overflow into the bowl.

Stuck Float Ball

The float ball is responsible for stopping the water flow when the tank is full. The float ball is found at the top part of the fill valve. It looks like a floatation device (either a ball or a cup-shaped float) that rises and falls with the water level, signaling the valve to open or close. This mechanism ensures the tank fills with the correct amount of water and stops filling once it reaches the desired level. If it becomes stuck or dislodged, the tank will overfill and lead to an overflow.

Fixing the Problem

Once you’ve diagnosed the source of the issue, it’s time to get to work correcting it. The steps depend on the problem.

Clogged Drain

Male plumber working to fix problems at client's house, including a clogged drain.
  • Plunger – It’s useful for every homeowner to know how to stop an overflowing toilet with a plunger. Start by ensuring a tight seal around the drain hole, and then plunge vigorously but carefully. If the clog doesn’t clear after several attempts, try other methods.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: This classic combination can break down some clogs. Pour one cup of baking soda into the bowl, followed by two cups of vinegar. The mixture will fizz and bubble, potentially dislodging the clog. Wait 30 minutes, then flush the toilet.
  • Plumbing snake/auger: For stubborn clogs, a plumbing snake or auger might be necessary. These tools can reach deeper into the drain and remove the blockage.

Faulty Fill Valve or Stuck Float Ball

  • Inspect the fill valve: Check if the valve is damaged or malfunctioning. If it appears faulty, it’s best to replace it with a new one.
  • Adjust the float ball: If the float ball is stuck, gently adjust it to ensure it freely moves up and down with the water level.
  • Replace the float ball: If the float ball appears damaged or worn, replace it with a new one.

Additional Tips

  • Avoid flushing the toilet repeatedly while it’s overflowing. This will only worsen the situation by adding more water to the already overflowing bowl.
  • If possible, open windows and doors to ventilate the bathroom and prevent moisture buildup.
  • If you’re unable to identify or fix the problem yourself, don’t hesitate to call a professional plumbing company.

Preventing Future Overflows

While sometimes overflows are unavoidable, there are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the risk:

  • Be sure that everyone in the household knows to never flush anything other than toilet paper and human waste. This includes wipes, feminine hygiene products, diapers, and other materials that can clog the drain.
  • Plunge your toilet regularly, even when it’s not clogged, to prevent potential blockages.
  • Keep an eye on the water level in the tank and bowl. If you notice any irregularities, investigate the cause and address it promptly.
  • Regularly check your toilet for leaks, worn-out parts, and other potential problems. Addressing minor issues early can prevent major overflows in the future.

Knowing how to unclog an overflowing toilet can help avoid a plumbing nightmare. Remember, quick action and a calm approach are key to minimizing damage and restoring your bathroom to its functional state.

Your Lakeland Plumber

The Florida plumbing experts at Stronghold Plumbing & Septic offer a full range of plumbing services, from clearing clogged toilets to septic tank services and more. Contact us today and ask about our free plumbing estimates!

FAQ’s – How to Stop an Overflowing Toilet

What should I do if my toilet is overflowing but not clogged?

If  your toilet is overflowing but not clogged, there may be an issue with the fill valve or float ball. Check these components and adjust or replace them if necessary. If you’re unsure how to do this yourself, it’s best to call a professional plumber for assistance.

Why does my toilet keep overflowing?

There are several potential causes of an overflowing toilet, including a clogged drain, faulty fill valve, or stuck float ball. Regular maintenance and proper usage can help prevent overflows in the future.

Can I use chemical drain cleaners to fix an overflowing toilet?

It’s not recommended to use chemical drain cleaners for an overflowing toilet as they can be harmful to your plumbing system and the environment. It’s best to try other non-toxic methods or call a professional plumber for assistance.  So, it’s better to avoid them and use natural solutions like baking soda and vinegar instead. 

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