Why is My Toilet Gurgling?

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated July 22, 2021
Toilet in modern bathroom
New Africa - stock.adobe.com

A gurgling toilet is caused by a blockage in your pipes, vent stack, or in the water main itself

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It's almost time for dinner, and you hear a gurgling noise. But you suddenly realize that sound isn't coming from your stomach—it's coming from the toilet.

Gurgling or bubbling coming from your toilet is alarming, and for a good reason. It's a sign of potentially serious problems, and you should take steps right away to figure out what's causing the issue so it doesn’t get worse.

What Toilet Gurgling Means

If your toilet is making a weird gurgling sound, the culprit most likely is your pipes. The main question is whether it's a minor fix or a sign of a major problem.

Gurgling is a sign that something is blocking up your pipes and disrupting the flow of air. This negative air pressure means the air can’t flow correctly, and it backs up in your pipes, which is the source of the sound.

How to Fix a Gurgling Toilet

Hopefully, this is a simple blockage and it will just take a good plunging to unclog your toilet. Put some water in the toilet if the water level is low, and use a regular household plunger on the toilet a dozen times or so to see if you can get the blockage out. If whatever was blocking the pipes rises into the toilet, congratulations, you may have fixed the issue.

If not, you may need a toilet auger or snake. Commercial-grade augers may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but you can buy a hand-cranked version for just $15 at a retailer. An auger will get deeper into your plumbing system so you can break up the toilet clog.

If that doesn't work, it may be time to get a local plumber on the phone.

The Clog Could Be in Your Home's Vent Stack

The drain-waste-vent system in your home may include a vent stack, which is a pipe that leads to the main roof vent to allow gases to escape. If you cannot clear the blockage with plungers or augers, you may have a blockage in the vent stack, meaning you'll need a professional to deal with the issue.

Plumber using a plunger to fix toilet
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Toilet Gurgling Could Be Due to a Water Main Issue

Sometimes, toilet gurgling indicates that something is wrong with the water main, meaning that it's something your city will have to fix.

In this case, you will see other drains in your house start to gurgle or water flushed from the toilet bubbling up in the bathtub. If that is happening, the problem is out of your hands, and you should contact the city.

How to Avoid Toilet Gurgling in the Future

Once you do get the toilet fixed, take this experience to heart and be proactive about avoiding clogs in the future. Don't flush anything that isn't designed to go down the toilet. Generally, toilet paper is the only safe bet—even "flushable wipes" aren't really flushable and can lead to clogs.

Even if you aren't annoyed by the gurgling or bubbling, this is not a problem to ignore. A blockage in the system will worsen over time and could lead to severe damage to your system that will result in high toilet repair costs.

Contact a plumber to inspect your pipes if you aren't able to clear the blockage yourself. They can tell you where the problem is and what it will take to fix it, giving you peace of mind.

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