How to Snake a Toilet to Unclog It

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

Plunger not doing the job? It might be time to try using a drain snake.

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Time

15-60 minutes

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Around $25

Introduction

You've tried flushing, you've tried draining, and of course you've tried plunging the toilet. Before you give up on a clog and call your plumber, there's still one method for unclogging a toilet to try: snake it. It is easy to learn (albeit a bit gross) and requires only one special tool: the drain snake (also known as a closet auger or snake).

It consists of a long wire coil with a corkscrew-like tip that you feed into your pipes until it encounters the obstruction. A drain auger is an excellent tool for unclogging clogged toilets since the protective sleeve ensures that your toilet bowl will not be scratched. There are a variety of drain augers available, but if the auger is not specifically designed for a toilet, do not use it. You'll likely scratch and mar the porcelain bowl.

The first time I needed to use one, I purchased a three-foot toilet auger from the local hardware store and was able to unclog the toilet within five minutes. Three feet may not seem like much, but it's actually plenty because most obstructions catch in the first couple of bends in the toilet. As a side note, if you ever encounter a clogged bathroom sink or bathtub drain in the future, a toilet snake can also be used to clear it.

When to call a plumber

Any beginner DIYer can tackle a clogged toilet without the assistance of a licensed plumber. Contact a plumber if:

  • You cannot unclog the toilet yourself;
  • The clog is caused by a foreign object that the auger cannot remove; 
  • You suspect a leak in the sewage system;
  • You have other toilet problems that you cannot resolve.

Tools Required

  • Drain Snake (Auger)
  • Large bucket
  • Rubber gloves

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Prep the space

Prepare the area around the toilet for any likely mess. Position a large bucket nearby and put on rubber gloves.

Prep The SpaceTMB Studio

Step 2

Extend the snake

Place the end of the auger into the toilet bowl so it points down the drain. Turn the handle clockwise to extend the auger cable down the drain toward your clog.

Extend The SnakeTMB Studio

Step 3

Locate clog

When you feel the cable meet some form of resistance, you’ve reached the clog and can stop cranking.

Locate ClogTMB Studio

Step 4

Clear toilet clog

Once you’ve made contact with the clog, push the auger back and forth slightly a few times, then begin to crank the cable back in. Your goal here isn’t to bring the entire clog back up the drain, but rather to break it down small enough so it will flush down the toilet.

Clear Toilet ClogTMB Studio

Step 5

Flush down the clog

When you’ve fully retracted the auger, dump any nasty clog debris into the bucket you set up earlier. Repeat this process until the clog seems to be broken up and your toilet can be flushed as normal.

Step 6

FAQs

Does a toilet snake work better than a plunger?

Toilet snakes are more successful with removing clogs. Using a plunger is usually a quicker, safer, and less forceful technique to unclog a toilet. Hence, it’s usually a good idea to start with this before using a toilet snake. If the plunger doesn’t work, try using a toilet snake to fix the clogged toilet.

Why is the toilet not flushing all the way?

This means there is a partial clog causing the flush water to partially fill the bowl without completely flushing. Typically, the water level remains higher than usual and slowly drains to normal height over time.

How to avoid clogging the toilet?

There are many ways to avoid clogging the toilet such as using less toilet paper, flushing multiple times while you’re using the toilet, keeping the toilet lid shut from foreign objects falling in and cleaning the toilet regularly.