4 Steps to Take if You Clog a Public Toilet


It’s a complete nightmare situation: You’re in a public bathroom (it could be at work, a restaurant, or the movie theater), you try to flush the toilet, and nothing happens. You try again: still nothing. You try a third time, and hold your breath and cross your fingers and start to pray while you watch and wait, but it just won't go down.

If you were at home, it would be NBD—you could just grab a plunger and get to unclogging, and wouldn’t have to worry about completely embarrassing yourself in front of coworkers or complete strangers. But if you’re out and about, and someone is knocking on the door behind you, things aren’t so easy. So what are you supposed to do if you clog a public toilet?

First of all: Don’t panic. The situation may seem hopeless, but you do have options … You just may need to get creative. Here’s exactly what you can do to unclog a toilet in an emergency, other than going back in time and choosing a different stall.


The only thing worse than a clogged toilet is a clogged, overflowing toilet (which may possibly be the worst thing in the world). To make sure that doesn’t happen, reach behind the toilet bowl and twist the silver metal knob to the “off” position, which will keep more water from flowing into the bowl.


Depending on where you are, there may be toilet bowl cleaner, or even a plunger, hidden in a cabinet or underneath the sink. If you can find drain cleaner, pour it in and let it sit for a few minutes to clear the clog (just check first that it is toilet-compatible, as not all drain cleaners are). If you can find a plunger, here are a few tips for using it like a pro:

- Make sure you can get good suction between the plunger and the toilet, which is what plumbers call a “good seal."

- Plunge up and down quickly, repetitively, and with strong force. Make sure you don’t pull too hard, otherwise you’ll break the connection between the plunger and the bowl, which will create even more of a disgusting mess.

- If you see the water start to move, it’s a good sign—it means the clog is moving and the bowl is draining. Turn the water back on, allow the tank to fill, and flush everything down. Give it a second flush just to make sure everything is clean and clear and under control.


For most scenarios, at this point it's best to just skip to the final step—but if you're committed to seeing this through or are truly terrified of alerting anyone else to the problem (maybe you're on a first date or a new job), you can try this life hack. Squeeze hand soap or dish detergent into the bowl. Then, pour as much hot water into the bowl as you can (you'll have to scout for a bucket, bowl, cup, or other receptacle to move the water from the sink to the toilet). The force from the water may be enough to get the clog down on its own; otherwise, let it sit for a few minutes. The soap will work to break up some of the fat in the clog, which will help things go down more easily.


We know—it’s awkward and embarrassing, but don’t be that guy who makes a run for it. When all else fails, find an employee and tell them what’s up. You can always pretend that you “found it that way.” And if you have a pen handy, leave a note on the stall or restroom door alerting the next customer to the situation until help is on the way.

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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.