Secret Plumber’s Trick to Unclog a Toilet!

OK…you don’t have to admit it…but I bet ALL of us have been in a “situation” before involving a clogged toilet that has been on the embarrassing side.  Especially when it’s somebody else’s toilet!  Yikes!

Well, I am here to give you at least a little peace of mind in this area. I’m going tell you the “secret” to getting yourself out of a “messy” situation when a plunger isn’t at hand and you’re in a crisis situation.

Now keep in mind…this isn’t SCIENCE…but based on the over 50 comments I read on an article posted at “The Art of Manliness”…it’s success rate is quite high.

Step One:

HELP!  Toilet is not flushing as it should! Water is rising! What do you do first?  Take the lid off the tank as quickly as possible and close the toilet flapper.

The toilet flapper allows water to flow from the toilet tank into the toilet bowl so if the toilet looks like it’s about to overflow and you want to avoid possible embarrassment then you should close the toilet flapper as quickly as possible to prevent any more water from getting into the toilet bowl. If you really want to be safe you’ll also want to shut off the water supply to the toilet so no more water can get into the toilet tank or toilet bowl.

Step Two:

OK…you’ve at least avoided an overflow of the most embarrassing kind. Now what? Here’s the “secret plumber trick” that plumber’s have been keeping from us for centuries! (I just made that up.) ADD HOT WATER!  Add a few cups of hot water to the toilet bowl before you attempt plunging, and you may not have to plunge at all.  After you pour the hot water in, let it sit for a few minutes. The heat melts the fats in the “clog” & makes it all more flushable. This could come in very handy if you happen to clog a toilet at a friends house and you don’t want to face the embarrassment of asking for a plunger.

If after surveying your surroundings you can’t find a bucket….look for a wastebasket. Empty out the wastebasket (people rarely keep a lot of garbage in their bathroom wastebasket) and fill it up with hot water from the sink. (Or you can fill up the basket from the shower head for quicker results.) Pour the hot water down the toilet carefully and the clog should be fixed in no time.

 Step Three (if necessary):

If Step Two doesn’t completely take care of the problem…another option is to add some dishwashing liquid. Just squirt two or three seconds worth down the toilet, wait a little while, then flush. (But be ready to grab the flapper in the event it was unsuccessful!) The soap helps “break up” the clog as well.

Of course if you happen to be in the above-mentioned scenario (in a house other than your own), asking the homeowner for a bottle of dishwashing liquid might be even more embarrassing (and suspicious) than asking for a plunger. lol.  So another commenter suggests grabbing a bottle of shampoo from the shower, squirting some in the toilet and letting it sit for as long as possible. It will often loosen and clear clogs all on it’s own. (And when you’re done, the bathrooom smells shampoo-fresh.)

Now you know “the secret” to dealing with a clogged toilet like a pro! Hopefully this valuable nugget of information will save us all from any future embarrassing “situations”. :-)


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  1. says

    O.K. Let me just say. IT WORKS!!! We very rarely get clogs. But hubby worked on one all day yesterday. I tried this “secret” this morning. Poured about 4 cups of hot water with Dawn squirted in. Went upstairs and finished reading my blogs. Came back down. Plunged twice and the clog was gone. Thank you so so much. Really love reading your blog.

  2. Nathalie says

    I’ve never tried this but I’m sure that it works…..and I know this because I work in public information for a water/sewer utility. Utilities and public works departments across the country have active FOG programs– it stands for Fats, Oils & Grease. Basically, these programs are outreach and education programs to about the danger of putting fats, oils and grease in your plumbing and ultimately, down the sewer system. This leads to sanitary sewer overflows and are a public health hazard.

    The best way to dispose of cooking greases is to see if your utility has a residential cooking grese recycling program (in ours we collect it and it is used to make biodeisel fuels). Barring that, collect it in a tin can in the freezer; when it is full, dispose of it in the trash.

    Love your blog Jillee, please keep it up!

  3. kim says

    Great tips! We rarely deal with a clog in the master bath, but in the bathroom shared by my 4 boys it’s a weekly occurrence it seems. I love the hot water and dish detergent idea. It makes so much sense. I wonder if baking soda and vinegar (my cure for all ills) would work. Nevermind… I guess we don’t need a toilet volcano.
    Anyhoo, I’m wondering about the ease and discreetness of having to remove the tank lid in somebody else’s house. Is it possible to remove those without the clang? And you’ve got the toilet seat up so where are you going to set the tank lid while you reach in to put the flap down? I can just see myself dropping it on my foot. And, don’t most people have things sitting on top of their tank? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just reach down and shut the water off?

  4. Lizzy says

    Great (and quick) ideas! Thanks for sharing and I hope I never need to try them somewhere other than my home. But at least I have the know how – thanks to You Jill!! We appreciate and use them often! Please keep your helpful ideas coming our way.

  5. Laurie says

    Who’da thought – hot water and/or Dawn??? I can’t even begin to express how horrible I am with handling a plunger! After reading this helpful tip, I don’t foresee anymore “oopsie poopsies” in the future!

  6. Sade says

    Hi Jill,
    It’s in the back of my mind now if needed in the future! Thanks for all the pearls of wisdom/helpful tips to help us along the journey of life……

    I am having trouble getting to see new posts when I go to your website. The only way I see the new day’s worth is by getting it via email; then putting a word (such as ‘toilet’, today) in the search box when I go to your site! When I went to your site today, I got the home made gatorade and had to do a search for the ‘toilet’!
    love your website and you!!

  7. Alex says

    Thank you Jillee! I am about to dash upstairs and give it a try – will let you know how it goes. Had already tried just hot water so will give hot water and dawn a go – may this be the fix I am desperately searching for (other than banning my teenage sons from my bathroom). Alex

  8. Catherine's not naturally crafty says

    So if the clog isn’t a fatty “solid” but an actual toy or other obstruction and it’s your own toilet, learning to remove and replace your toiled could very well save you multiple calls to the plumber. Yes it’s physically hard and heavy but, with you and another sturdy adult, you can remove the toilet, take to the yard and put a sprayer attachment on the hose and usually can flush the toy out of the u-bend. Hose off the entire toilet, clean it down good, then re-install with a new wax ring.

    We’ve done this twice and for the price of new wax rings, we saved the toilet and the matchbox car and the potty chair splash guard which had been stuffed down the big toilet. Plus no plumber calls. which would have been pricy if THEY have to remove the toilet and fish something out of it. And I was able to get the toilet really shiny as new clean. Replacing a toilet is definitely worth learning to do.

    • shalom says

      Not too long after I married the toilet stopped up. I don’t remember how he did it out, but DH figured out his seeing eye dog had dropped his ball down the toilet. Maybe the dog had recently been playing with it. I never liked the idea, but the dog was already trained to use the toilet as a water bowl. DH always left the seat up for that purpose. Anyway he took the toilet apart and sure enough the ball was the cause of the clog.

  9. says

    I can’t believe I have never heard of this one. I will have to try it the next time the toilet bowl gets clogged (which happens fairly often with one bathroom and a decent sized family). The last time we needed a plumber to get everything moving along again. This sounds too easy!

  10. says

    Hot water works for kitchen plugs, too. I had a plumber out for one, and while he was working, I asked how to prevent another build up (I already avoid putting grease down my drains). He told me hot water. Now, I pour boiling water down my kitchen drain almost daily, and so far I haven’t had to call the plumber again.

  11. Pat says

    I have used the dish soap method for years, and I’m telling you “it works “. A plummer told us about it while actually useing disb soap to unglog our toilet. He said the soap weights the water down and makes it go down the toilet!!

  12. Ang says

    So I just pinned this a couple days ago on pinterest… Then this morning the toilet clogs… Just moved… No plunger… What to do? … Oh ya go read that pin …Oh my gosh this is amazing… It really does work!!!! I used the shampoo instead of dish soap then poured hot water then I let it sit for 1-2 min and then flushed it… Thank you so much for this tip… I will never use the plunger again if I can avoid it.

  13. says

    It’s every man’s worst fear. You’re at someone’s house, you finish doing your business and flush the toilet, but instead of going down, the water comes up along with whatever you just deposited in the bowl. Would you be paralyzed with panic in that moment? Or do you know what to do?

  14. Crystal Cartwright says

    Hahaha…with my luck I would be at someone else’s house, would grab their shampoo and it wouldn’t work. Can you imagine the embarrassment of facing the homeowner with a toilet full of two kinds of poo? I can hear the laughter now as they tried to figure out what in the world I did…LOL

  15. Michelle says

    I can see this easily turning into a scene out of a horrible comedy. If this was not my home, I wouldn’t ruin their wastebasket (ours is made out of wood) or make a bubbly mess out of their (mine is somewhat expensive) shampoo. Reach down behind and below the toilet and turn off the water supply. Yes, it may be embarrassing, but there’s no way I’d do this stuff and risk making a bigger mess just to avoid having to ask for a plunger. We’re not 12 anymore. People understand that &$*# happens.

  16. C says

    Lol I think they’d be knocking before even completing step two. Also imagining horrific scene in comedy movie. Like I’d be knocking on door if all the sudden sounds coming like dumping trash… Um hello tampons or sanitary products or who knows what else could be there? Condoms also come to mind even though most still flush down toilet.

    I’d also be knocking why the water on for so long or hearing it come from shower head as sink to small/awkward. I’d be superbpissed if my expensive shampoo was used in some sort of random experiment. Agreed to just ask for plunger. Much more respectful and despite mild embarrassment, at least it’s not a clog n cover up so the next person actually is one who gets rising water of gross doom.

    Still liked tips though to use normally if plunger not handy though I’d never reach for air products. Who kiss if said product in there – then all if the sudden you’re filling toilet with unknown substance that’s not soap because like yourself, this person is a DIY and reuses bottles after carefully cleaning.

    I’m avoiding cleaning. It’s why there’s far too much thought into this. It gave me good laugh and ideas so thank you. I plan in trying sock whitening later as they never say white for longer than … Idk ten minutes in clean house even.

  17. kim says


  18. Jon says

    Wow. Try it if you don’t believe it. Just hot water and no plunging and clog is all gone. :) I was really skeptical and actually laughed pretty hard when it flushed after putting the water in. :)

  19. Tired and desperate says

    After pouring in the hot water, then do I flush? I tired hot water and plunging but nothing happened and I am too afraid to flush because the water is at the rim and I do not want a volcano. I have moved on to step two, this time mixed with more hot water. I have turned off the water valve as well. I plan to plunge in the next few minutes and will see what happens. Praying ….

  20. Tired and desperate says

    After pouring in the hot water, then do I flush? I tired hot water and plunging but nothing happened and I am too afraid to flush because the water is at the rim and I do not want a volcano. I have moved on to step two, this time mixed with more hot water. I have turned off the water valve as well. I plan to plunge in the next few minutes and will see what happens. Praying ….

    It worked!!!

  21. sonja says

    One day the toilet was working fine, then the water would
    Fill the tank so I replaced the flapper. Once I added the water
    And flushed the water stayed in the tank, but. It does not return
    What can it be.

  22. It works says

    My dad taught me this years ago before I was married with kids. With 4 kids in the house there is bound to be a plugged toilet, so the kids or adults can grab the wastebasket take out the garbage bag, put hot water in the toilet then flush. We have never had to use a plunger or soap after the hot water and flush. Everytime for 14 years it has been successful! Glad you shared this since it is such a great tip for anyone any age!!

  23. Lori says

    Wow. I was skeptical but I gave it a shot. I had tried and tried with the plunger. I added one wastebasket-full of hot water from the shower, and in the time it took to refill the wastebasket with water and pour it in, it was all clear! (FYI we suspect the culprit was a cardboard tampon applicator) No chemicals, no mess! Thanks so much!!!

  24. Katie says

    Thank you so much for posting about this! It works! I put a few squirts of Dawn and a kettle of hot water in the toilet bowl, watched the last half hour of Babe with my kids, and when I went back to flush, it worked! My toilet functions normally! My husband was glad too (I’ll bet you can guess who the culprit was), he didn’t want to have to call a plumber.

  25. Well this is awkward... says

    Will it still work If it is more toilet paper than anything? I have a 4 year old that gets into everything. Including toilet paper. PLEASE HELP!!!!!! It’s urgent.. The bowl fills up even more than the last time whenever I flush.

  26. Kelly says

    I really liked this post, made me laugh and its useful. My only question is wouldn’t your friends wonder what’s going on in the bathroom with the shower running and you sitting in there for so long giving the water and shampoo time to work?? ;)

  27. Plumbers Helper says

    I work in a building with many toilets. The majority of clogged toilets is caused by “water saver toilets”. It seems most people are always in a hurry so they hit the flush handle once and not enough water drops into the bowl from the tank to flush away the waste. The next person does the same and soon there is a clog. Its best to educate people to hold the handle down until the bowl is empty. A sign behind the toilet or by the tissue dispensor that reads, “hold the flush lever down until toilet bowl it empty” works very well. If you have to flush the toilet twice, no water is saved and if you have to add hot water and flush again and again, no water is saved.


  28. Sarah says

    WOW! I am super impressed! Id been working on a clog damn near all day until I read this tried it and it really worked! Hot water and dish soap… Who wouldve thought?! Thanks Alot!

  29. says

    After 48 hours of plunging and no movement from the clog before calling a plumber, I decided to check the internet and found this sight. Hot water and liquid dish washing soap? What could it hurt? So 1st I just used the hot tap water. There was leftover floor washing suds when I dumped it in. Plunged and left for a short time. When I came back the water was slightly lower. So I added liquid hand soap, more hot water and left for about a half hour – to my surprise the water was almost all gone. Flushed and what was left went down but the water was higher than normal, so I got another half pail of hot water and dumped it in fast and it flushed and the water line was normal. Been working great ever since. Thank you very much.

    • Donna says

      Kitty litter is not an item that should ever be flushed down a toilet or plumbing fixture of any kind. Most are some form of clay which, when mixed with water, becomes a solid.Also do not flush tampons, their wraps or applicators (even if they are supposed to be biodegradable in water) – plumbers call them white mice as they make lots of money for them when they have to remove them from your plumbing .Talk about embarrassing! Other no-no’s are any feminine hygiene items, baby wipes or diapers, tucks ads, etc. If it isn’t toilet paper, pee, poo, or other form of human waste (vomit, blood) don’t dispose of in a toilet! Kitty litter gets put in plastic bags and thrown in outside trash after tying up well or using a litter genie.

      Best wishes for your new kitty!

      Also my Dad told me he did this last night. It’s funny he has never mentioned it beforeand I read it today. He doesn’t get online either?

  30. Debbie McClelland says

    Doesn’t seem to be working for us. Plumber was in on Christmas Eve, yes Christmas Eve, and took the toilet off. Found that waste gets stuck in the trapper. And it seems to have happened again. The main reason is that hard waste won’t go down properly. Only real solution it would seem to me is to break up the waste before it goes down. A yukky job I would think!

  31. lana says

    Omg… It actually works!! Im at my boyfriends house alone(thank God, I don’t want to explain a clogged toilet to him) and I had been plunging the toilet for the last 40 minutes.thankfully I found this article! I filled the toilet with hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then I started plunging and it was fixed!


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