Toilets are one of the most used plumbing appliances in a home. Over time, they become susceptible to build-up and clogs, and almost all of us will have to deal with a clogged toilet at some point. Thankfully, most minor clogs are fixable with just a simple plunger. 

Determining what causes a clogged toilet is often as simple as looking into your toilet bowl to see if there’s a blockage.

Common causes of toilet blockages include:

  • Paper towels
  • Toys
  • Food waste
  • Face wipes
  • Cotton swabs
  • Latex products
  • Feminine hygiene products

Read on for more information on what causes a toilet to get clogged, as well as how to stop clogs from recurring. 

If a simple plunge doesn’t fix the problem, consider contacting our plumbers at J. Blanton.

Causes of a clogged toilet and how to fix them

Here are some common causes of clogged toilets, as well as how to prevent or resolve each issue.

Excess toilet paper

Using too much toilet paper is the most common reason for clogs. A vast majority of the time, a plunger is all that’s needed to fix this issue.

Here are a few solutions to this problem:

  • Double flush to avoid flushing too much paper at once
  • Fold your toilet paper instead of crunching it to avoid clogging the drain
  • Use thicker toilet paper so you use less per wipe
  • Invest in a bidet to avoid toilet paper use completely

Low-flow toilets

Some older low-flow toilets don’t have a strong enough flush to get all the contents down at once, very easily causing clogs. The best way to fix this problem is to upgrade your toilet to a more modern model.

Faulty flapper

Another source of what causes a clogged toilet is your toilet flapper breaking, which leads to weak flushes that cause frequent clogs. A simple fix is getting the flapper replaced.

Foreign objects

Flushing anything other than toilet paper is a surefire way to cause a clog.

Flushing things like paper towels, face wipes (that definitely aren’t flushable, even if the packaging says otherwise), and cotton swabs might not seem harmful at first, especially if they go down, but over time, they can build up in your plumbing system and lead to major clogs.

Here’s a list of items you should never flush:

  • Feminine products
  • Dental floss
  • Hair 
  • Food
  • Paper towels
  • Face wipes 
  • Diapers

Sometimes, what causes a clogged toilet can be when you accidentally drop an object into the toilet by mistake, whether that’s your phone, toothbrush, air freshener, or hair comb. If this happens, avoid flushing at all costs, as this will only make the clog worse and could cause flooding.

Wearing rubber gloves, try to take out the object using tongs or by hand. If you can’t retrieve the item on your own, call a plumber right away.

One way to avoid flushing foreign objects down your toilet is not using certain items (such as your cell phone) too close to the toilet and having a trash can nearby. This eliminates the likelihood of dropping anything and curbs any temptation to throw non-flushable objects in the toilet.

Hard water

Having a high mineral content (such as sulfur or iron) in your water can lead to recurring clogs. Over time, these minerals can build up in your plumbing, creating blockages that are difficult to clear out.

Know when to call a plumber

Most of the time, no matter what causes a clogged toilet, there’s an easy fix. However, a clogged toilet can quickly turn into a very complicated problem when not properly resolved, which is why it’s important to know when to call for help.

Here are some instances when a plumber should be called.

When plunging only partially helps

If you’ve exhausted yourself plunging your toilet and it does flush, but slowly and improperly, it’s likely that there’s still a partial clog.

Plunging the toilet likely moved the clog just enough to allow a small amount of water through. At this point, a plumber’s snake or professional help is probably needed.

When there’s a foul smell

Regardless of what causes a clogged toilet, if there’s an odor stemming from your toilet, this could mean a leak, possibly due to a clogged line. It may be difficult to locate the blockage, so you should have a plumber assess the situation before serious damage occurs.

In the case of recurring clogs

If you’re dealing with a toilet that clogs frequently, it’s a good idea to contact a professional. They can help diagnose the issue and give you steps on how to proceed, whether that means upgrading your toilet or clearing a clogged pipe.

If the septic tank is full

For homeowners in rural areas, a full septic tank can cause waste to backflow into the plumbing of your house and cause a severe clog. This type of issue will certainly require professional help from a plumber and a septic tank servicer.

If a foreign object was flushed

If you’re positive a foreign object was flushed or dropped down your toilet and you cannot retrieve it, you’re going to want to call for help.

Retrieving solid items like cell phones and jewelry can be a delicate and complicated task, and you could end up causing more harm than good if you aren’t careful.

Get in touch with J. Blanton Plumbing

If you live in the Chicagoland area and have any questions about what causes a clogged toilet or need help, contact J. Blanton Plumbing today!