6 Ways to Unclog Your Toilet Without a Plunger

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated August 4, 2022
A modern bathroom with a white toilet
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

No plunger, no problem—here are six DIY remedies for getting things moving

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Whether you just realized you don’t have a plunger in your guest bathroom or you’re reading this article in the bathroom at a friend's house, you may be wondering how to unclog a toilet without a plunger. Luckily, you can successfully use several strategies with items around the house. Here are six ways to unclog your toilet if you can’t find a plunger. 

Signs That Your Toilet Is Clogged

First, assess the severity of the clog. Depending on how old your toilet or plumbing system is, your toilet may give you several signs that it’s backed up.

Slowly draining, overflowing, or standing water are the main signs. Additionally, low water in the toilet bowl, odd noises or gurgling sounds coming from your toilet when you flush, and bad odors are signs of a clog in your toilet or plumbing. 

One plumbing emergency tip to keep in mind: Immediately take action if a pipe starts leaking or water is overflowing and not stopping. If it’s a small clog, proceed with the following steps. 

How to Unclog Your Toilet When There Is No Plunger 

Plungers are handy tools, but if find yourself without one and a toilet clog presents itself, not all hope is lost. Some of these strategies might even surprise you when you see how effective they are.

1. Use Dish Soap

Believe it or not, dish soap is a great tool for unclogging a toilet. Pour between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of dish soap into your toilet, followed by 4 cups of hot water. Wait 20 to 30 minutes, and then try flushing the toilet.

2. Add Hot Water

If you don't have dish soap handy, hot water alone can sometimes help work things down your plumbing. For serious clogs, boil a big pot of water and allow it to cool. Add 2 to 3 cups of hot water to the toilet bowl. Wait two minutes before flushing. You might have to repeat this process two or three times.

3. Try Baking Soda and Vinegar

Hand in glove pouring vinegar and baking soda in a toilet
Photo: Nick Alias / Adobe Stock

To unclog a toilet with baking soda and vinegar, stick to a one-to-one ratio of baking soda and vinegar to get a strong chemical reaction. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the toilet, then slowly pour 1 cup of vinegar in. 

Brace yourself—there will be a chemical reaction, but it'll mostly just be an intense fizz. Let the chemicals sit for 20 minutes, which should help loosen things up inside the bowl. Then try flushing.

4. Tackle Small Clogs With a Toilet Brush 

Toilet brushes can act as a makeshift plunger in a pinch. Push the brush into the toilet as far as it will go, then gently work it in and out. This option is best for smaller clogs, as the toilet brush might not be strong enough to make its way through a larger mass.

5. Create Pressure With a Plastic Bottle

Fill a water bottle—preferably one with thin plastic that you can squeeze—with warm water. Gently flip it upside down into the toilet, then squeeze the plastic to force the water down. This will hopefully push things along or break up any clogs further down the line.

This method is a great, budget-friendly way to unclog a toilet, but it's best for smaller clogs in the pipes instead of those on the surface of the toilet bowl.

6. Bend a Wire Hanger 

A wire coat hanger can work as a makeshift snake to unclog toilets. Keeping the hook section intact, bend the wire to make it as straight as possible. It might help to double-back the end you'll be holding onto. You can even wrap a towel or duct tape around it to give yourself a handle.

Push the extended wire hanger down the toilet's hole. Work your way in slowly, so it doesn't bend. Gently pull back and forth to break up any sections down the line. Be careful not to scratch or damage your toilet bowl during this process.

Ways to Prevent a Clogged Toilet Drain

Sometimes, a toilet won't stop clogging. This happens when a toilet or plumbing system is older, or you flush things that shouldn’t go down the toilet, like wipes that aren’t really flushable

Fortunately, you can take some proactive steps to prevent a clogged toilet. 

Start using less toilet paper to avoid it getting stuck when you flush. Prevent objects from accidentally falling in the toilet by keeping the lid closed when your toilet isn't in use. This is also a sanitary solution, as it prevents bacteria from making its way onto your bathroom's surfaces.

Avoid flushing napkins, paper towels, and other objects that could obstruct your toilet. Lastly, cleaning your toilet and flushing the tank about once a year will help keep your toilet in the best shape possible. 

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

An unclogged toilet with water getting flushed down
Photo: Supak / Adobe Stock

There's a pretty simple "test" you can run to determine if your toilet clog requires a pro: Ask yourself if it’s a job you feel comfortable tackling. If the answer is no, it's probably best to call a pro to handle it. 

Plumbing issues can become expensive very quickly. If you think there's even a slight chance you'll damage your pipes or cause more harm than good while trying to get your toilet unclogged, it's worth hiring a local plumber to fix the situation. If your toilet is beyond repair, installing a new toilet costs $370 on average.

Additional Questions

Will a toilet unclog itself naturally?

It's possible, especially if you try one of the plunger-less techniques like dish soap, hot water, or baking soda and vinegar. Most of the time, items that break down over time when sitting in water are the cause of a toilet clog. An unmovable mass in the morning—like a bunch of toilet paper—could soften up in just a couple of hours and make its way down. 

If your toilet is giving off horrible smells or it's been several days and it's still clogged, you should probably call a plumber to get it fixed. Don't bank on it unclogging over time, especially if it's been more than 36 hours.

Is it okay to leave a clogged toilet overnight?

In most cases, you can leave a clogged toilet overnight. However, calling an emergency plumber near you might be warranted if water starts leaking from the pipes. A simple clog likely won't cause this, but an inexperienced homeowner messing with the plumbing could. If water is running and or spilling on the floor, you should shut off the water and call someone immediately.

Will bleach unclog a toilet?

Bleach is a more powerful cleaner than dish soap or baking soda and vinegar, so it stands to reason that it could unclog a toilet. However, bleach alone probably won't be powerful enough to break up a serious toilet clog. You might need to use a coat hanger or toilet brush alongside it to get things moving.

When working with bleach, you always run the risk of breathing in the fumes or getting it on your clothes, too. For most situations, more mild cleaners like soap work just as well.

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