What to Do When a Toilet Overflows

One of the many things about adulthood that you never learn in school is what to do when a toilet overflows. While you might think you’ve got the answer, it’s actually more complex than just “grab a plunger”, and getting it right can mean a lot less hassle and mess in your bathroom.

We’re going to go over what to do when a toilet overflows, as well as why it’s important to follow these steps. In the end, we’ll point you toward a local expert that can help out when plunging just isn’t enough, or when clogs and overflows become too common or frequent.

My Toilet Overflowed What Do I Do?

For someone in the bathroom, there are a few things that will send your heart rate spiking like flushing the toilet and seeing things slow to a crawl while the water levels rise uncontrollably. It’s a scenario that has happened to everyone at one point or another, but many of those people don’t know what to do when it starts. Here’s what you need to do.

Stop Flushing

First of all, flushing is how you got into this situation, so stop flushing and allow more water into the tank and bowl. When the toilet starts to overflow, there is a clog that is preventing the water from draining out of the bowl, and that flushing is just going to build up more water above the clog.

Close The Flapper

Next, we want to make sure there is no more water entering the bowl. Remove the tank lid, and locate the flapper at the bottom of the tank. It looks like what it sounds like and is a rubber piece that “flaps” over a large hole, and will be directly attached to the handle with a chain or bar. Make sure the flapper is sealed over the hole it’s attached to.

Turn Off The Water

Now, before doing any work on the toilet, we need to make sure it’s not connected to a running water supply. To do this, simply locate the shutoff valve behind the toilet and turn it off for now. 

Stop The Float

Even though we’ve turned off the water, we want to make sure that no more water comes into the tank, so you’re going to close the float valve. Inside the tank, you’ll see a float, either attached to a float arm or one that slides up and down on a cylinder. Either stop it, tie it up, or somehow block it from dropping and opening the fill valve.

Plunge The Problem

Now the last step, which too many people do first, is to plunge into the toilet. You’re working with blackwater, so be sure you have gloves and eye protection in case of splashing. Use a plunger to dislodge the clog by creating a seal in the bottom of the bowl and plunging up and down for 10-20 seconds each round. Sometimes it may also be necessary to bail some of the water out and into a bucket, to make room for plunging. 

If Overflows Keep Happening Professional Help May Be Needed

Knowing what to do when a toilet overflows doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able or willing to do it, and sometimes, getting clogged or one overflow after another can be a sign that you need to have a professional take a look at your pipes. If your toilets are easy to clog and overflow, calling a professional can reveal other issues that need to be addressed before the toilet will flow easily. If you need a trusted, local plumber, reach out today and we’ll go over your needs with you and tell you how we can help.