When it comes to plumbing, the fear upon realizing your toilet just isn’t going to flush is second only to the fear of realizing that there’s no plunger in sight. Before you resort to a “Do Not Use” sign and an emergency trip to the hardware store, try one (or all) of these household life hacks for unclogging your toilet without a plunger, compiled by Reader’s Digest.
1. Dish Soap
Pour half a cup of dish soap into your toilet and let it sit in the bowl for a little while before trying to flush. Hopefully, it will sink down and coat the sides of the pipe enough to ease the passage of the clogged mass. If you’re down to your last drop of dish soap, you can cut a bar of soap into cubes and use those instead.
2. Hot Water
Pour a bucket of hot water into the toilet from waist-level (to prevent it from splashing the toilet bowl’s contents all over your bathroom and you), which could force the clogged mass through the pipe. You can combine this method with the soap method to maximize your chances of solving your problem; just make sure the water you use is not boiling, which could crack the porcelain.
3. A Wire Hanger
Grab a wire hanger from your closet and untwist it until you have one straight length of wire. Then, use it just like you would a drain snake: Stick it down into the pipe and poke the mass until it gets dislodged or broken up enough to continue through the pipe.
4. Baking Soda and Vinegar
Pour one cup of baking soda and two cups of vinegar into your toilet and let it sit for half an hour. It might unclog the pipe on its own, but feel free to pour in a bucket of hot water if it doesn’t.
5. A Plastic Bottle
If you felt like the wire hanger method was a little too hands-on for your comfort, you might not be keen on the plastic bottle trick—but it could be your ticket to a clog-free toilet. First, take as much water out of your toilet bowl as possible, and fill up a plastic bottle with warm water. After donning a pair of rubber gloves (or large plastic bags, in a pinch), plug the top of the bottle with your thumb, and place the bottle and your thumb at the mouth of the pipe. Then, remove your thumb and squeeze the bottle to propel the water, and hopefully the clogged mass, through the pipe.
A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2023.