There’s an entire list of essential life skills that everyone should learn, and knowing how to stop an overflowing toilet is one of them. If you can keep a toilet from flooding your bathroom, you can prevent an unhygienic mess as well as costly water damage.
Here’s what to do if your toilet is overflowing and you don’t want your bathroom to flood.
What To Do When Your Toilet Overflows
First things first: do not attempt to flush your toilet again. This will only make the problem worse. If your toilet bowl is overflowing immediately after you’ve flushed, that means there’s a clog either in the toilet or drain. That clog is blocking the water and causing it to back up. By flushing again, you’ll release even more water with no place to go, so your toilet bowl will just fill up even more.
1. Close the Flapper Inside Your Toilet Tank.
This will stop additional water from entering the bowl. Open your toilet tank, and find the flapper. It should look like a circle made of rubber, and it will be attached to a chain or a metal lever. Push it down to close it so that it will seal against the bottom of the tank.
2. Shut Off the Water Supply.
Most toilets should have one, but if yours does not, skip to Step 4. If there is a valve, you should be able to find it on the water supply line that runs between your toilet and the wall. It often looks like a lever or a little round or football-shaped handle.
Now that you’ve found the shut-off valve, your need to turn it clockwise to stop water from flowing into the toilet.
If it’s a football-shaped handle, keep twisting it clockwise until it’s tight and can’t be turned anymore without excessive force.
If the handle looks more like a lever, turn it clockwise (about a ¼ turn) until it’s perpendicular to the pipe attached to it.
3. Rig the Float.
You want to keep the float in place so that no more water will enter into the overflowing toilet tank. Open up the tank and locate the float. It might look like a round or oblong rubber ball on a lever. If it’s a float cup, it will have more of a cup shape. Use strings, floss, or wires to keep it in place.
4. Clean Up the Bathroom.
Now that you’ve prevented the toilet from flooding (or stopped a flood in the works), it’s time to finish up. You may need to thoroughly clean and sanitize your bathroom if the toilet water managed to spread across the floor.
5. Plunge the Toilet.
Next, you’ll need to put on some gloves and remove the toilet clog with a flange plunger. Occasionally, the clog is too far down the drain for suction to remove it. When that happens, you’ll need to use a drain snake (plumber’s cable) to dislodge it. If you don’t have experience using a drain snake, it’s best to involve a plumber so that you don’t damage your pipes.
6. Test the Toilet.
After successfully clearing the blockage, test the toilet to ensure it's properly working again. Turn the water supply back on and rig the float back into the normal position. Then flush. If your toilet continues to overflow, repeat the steps again.
After 2 attempts at clearing the toilet, if it keeps overflowing it’s likely time to contact a professional for assistance. Overflowing toilets can be indicators there are more serious plumbing issues at play, so it’s always good to have the opinion of the expert.