How to unclog a toilet without a plunger

Find out how to unclog a toilet when there’s not a plunger around in our expert guide

Toilet with lid and seat up being flushed
(Image credit: B&Q)

Need to know how to unclog a toilet without a plunger? A situation like this is one you’re likely to want to sort out straightaway but if you don’t have a plunger available, it might seem like there aren’t any quick solutions.

Be reassured, though. Even without a plunger, it is an issue you can tackle yourself (even though this isn’t the most pleasant of household tasks), if you don’t want to wait around for a pro to come to the rescue.

Here, we’ve put together the remedies the experts who most regularly dispense cleaning tips recommend to unclog a toilet without a plunger, while if your problem is a little different, you can head over to our guide on fixing a running toilet instead.

How to unclog a toilet without a plunger

A clog is one of the top reasons why your toilet won’t flush. It is better to own a plunger for just this problem, but when there isn’t one – just as when you’re unclogging a sink – all is not lost. There are a range of solutions you can try that use products and items you are likely to have in your home, and this is how to unclog a toilet without a plunger. 

How to unclog a toilet with hot water

It could take only the use of hot water to unclog a toilet, so it’s well worth trying this easy method first. 

Heat water up in a kettle, but switch it off before it boils because boiling water could crack the toilet bowl, making the problem a whole lot worse. Alternatively, heat the water in a pan on a stove – again turning off the heat before it boils.

Pour the water into the toilet bowl and leave for a few minutes. Heat plus the additional water can solve the problem of a blockage if it wasn’t a bad one and the water will start to drain. When you see that happen, you can flush.

Alternatively, grab a bucket. ‘As the owner of a Victorian home with a slightly aged plumbing system, I can attest that pouring a bucketful of warm water from a height into the toilet bowl can clean a minor blockage,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens.

How to unclog a toilet with dish soap

When hot water on its own doesn’t solve the problem, combining it with dish soap might.

Squeeze around a quarter of a cup of dish soap into the toilet bowl, and leave for a few minutes. Then add hot water and leave for around half an hour. The combination should soften the clog so you can flush and clear the matter in the bowl.

How to unclog a toilet with baking soda and vinegar

Cleaning with baking soda and vinegar are go-to standbys for all sorts of household tasks, so you may not be surprised to hear that they can come to the rescue when you need to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

Add a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl first; spread it around the surface rather than just pouring into the middle. Then slowly pour around two cups of white vinegar on to the baking soda, again spreading it around. 

The combination will fizz and, hopefully, get to work on breaking up the clog. Leave for a few minutes, then flush. ‘Bear in mind that you might need to repeat the process to get the result you require,’ says Lucy Searle.

How to unclog a toilet with a drain snake

If adding hot water, dish soap and so on to the toilet bowl isn’t clearing the clog, then a tool is needed – a plumber’s snake. While you might not have one to hand now, and need to use the above methods instead, it’s definitely worth knowing how to use a drain snake and investing in one for easier toilet unclogging in future. We like the Ridgid model K-3 toilet auger from Amazon because it has a vinyl guard to protect the porcelain at the throat of the bowl. If the clog is deep, a toilet snake is a great solution.

‘If you’re tempted to unwind a metal hanger and use it in the same way, my advice is don’t because this could scratch the porcelain,’ says Lucy Searle.

How to unclog a toilet with a toilet brush

Using a toilet snake gives you a little distance from the clog, but in an emergency if you don’t have one of these and you’re also without a plunger, getting up close and personal with the clog by using the toilet brush could be the answer.

Put on some cleaning gloves plus eye protection if you have it and push the toilet brush into the drain and move it up and down. Do be a little cautious as you don’t want to cause damage to the toilet. This could be sufficient to loosen the clog so you can flush once more.

Will a toilet eventually unclog?

A toilet may eventually unclog on its own, but this process can take time, so it’s probably only worth trialling this when there’s another bathroom in the house. 

Bear in mind, too, that this approach is better if the toilet is only somewhat clogged and water is still draining, though slowly. If the toilet isn’t draining at all, it’s likely better to take action sooner rather than later.

Note also that the best course depends on the cause of a blockage. Toilet paper could disintegrate over time, for example. However, if something that shouldn’t have been flushed went into the bowl – say wipes, diapers, or women’s hygiene products – then these aren’t going anywhere fast and another solution is needed.

Can hot water destroy a toilet?

Hot water won’t destroy a toilet, but what you do want to avoid is using boiling water. It could crack the toilet bowl, leaving you to replace this, which will be costly and disruptive. 

‘It is worth investing in and knowing how to use a plunger to clear blockages in the toilet,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. It won’t cost you a lot, and is easy to use. However, if you haven’t bought yourself one of these yet, hot water can help clear blockages. But boiling water? Don’t do it.’ 

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.