What to Do About a Clogged Toilet, Sink & Other Common Plumbing Issues

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Is there anything worse than a clogged toilet? First, there’s the sheer panic as you pray it doesn’t spill over onto your floor. Then, there’s the frustration of attempting to successfully plunge it. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the potential for embarrassment. Fortunately, if you’re dealing with this situation, we’ve got two pieces of good news. First, you’re not alone. Second, we’ve got tips and tricks to help you out.

Protect your sparkling bathroom by neatly handling your plumbing issues with this guide. Image: Astronaut Images/Getty Images

Fast stats on common plumbing issues

Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, recently commissioned a study about this exact situation — and all the other plumbing challenges homeowners and renters face. Here are some quick facts and figures the study uncovered:

Nearly one in five homeowners deals with a clogged toilet on a regular basis
15 percent of homeowners have recently spent time fixing a backed up drain
Almost one in ten regularly deals with a clogged sink
6 percent have low water pressure
4 percent have garbage disposal troubles

Sound familiar? Whatever plumbing issue is plaguing you, you want to get it dealt with as quickly as possible. And fear not! If you’re one of the 46 percent of people who’ve turned to the internet for support, we’re here to help. We talked with Mr. Rooter Plumbing to get some expert guidance for you.

How to fix a clogged toilet

First things first, step away from the handle! Continuing to try to flush your toilet when it’s clogged will just leave you with a mess all over your bathroom floor.

Instead, grab your trusty plunger. Oh, wait, not that one. James Doyle, President of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, gave us a crash course in plungers. And taught us that not all are created equal. The most common plunger type is a sink plunger, which is a simple flat rubber cup attached to a handle. Your toilet needs something extra.

Toilet plungers have a soft rubber flange running along the inside of the plunger cup, which makes them much more effective at plunging your toilet. “With the flange plunger’s universal design, it can also be used on sink and toilet clogs,” Doyle points out. “But don’t use the same plunger on both surfaces! Keep one plunger strictly for the toilet and another one for flat surfaces.”

You need a plunger designed to fit well inside your toilet bowl. Image: bymuratdeniz/Getty Images

How to properly plunge, as explained by a pro

Ready to get plunging? Once you’re armed with your flanged plunger, Doyle offers step-by-step guidance for optimal results:

“Take your plunger (make sure you have a good connection with the plunger and the toilet) and begin the plunging motion with a good amount of force behind it. The goal is to push the blockage through.
“Be quick and repetitive with the plunging motion and keep your eye out for movement in the toilet, which means the blockage is being pushed through.
“Make sure the water is draining before you try to flush the toilet. Never pour a chemical drain cleaner down your toilet; harsh chemicals can irritate your skin and eyes or cause damage to your plumbing pipes.
“If you can’t repair a clogged toilet on your own, contact a professional plumber for assistance.”

With the right tool and the right action, you’ll have that toilet cleared in no time at all.

Plumbing issues can arise pretty much anywhere in your bathroom. Image: dit26978/Getty Images

Fixing other common household plumbing issues

Unfortunately, Mr. Rooter Plumbing’s survey revealed that a clogged toilet is far from the only plumbing issue you could face. Fortunately, they offer other tips and tricks you can use.

Clearing a backed up drain or clogged pipe

Whether you’ve got a drain that’s moving slowly or it’s completely clogged, a simple household item could be the solution. Mr. Rooter Plumbing recommends taking a wire coat hanger and straightening it, then creating a small hook with one end. Use that hook to fish down into your drain and pull up any hair or other buildup, clearing your pipes.

If your fishing expedition doesn’t yield results, Mr. Rooter Plumbing recommends a natural but effective way to reach further into your pipes. Mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of vinegar and pour it down your drain (be prepared to move quickly, because this mixture will foam — and fast). Let it sit as long as you can. An hour works, but overnight is best. The fizzing action will help break up any gunk in your pipes, allowing water to run freely through them.

Still stumped? Keep reading for more guidance on clearing your drains.

Your sink’s aerator can be screwed off to making it easy to clean. Image: PAVEL IARUNICHEV/Getty Images

Restoring water pressure to a sink

Fix your sink’s low water pressure in minutes. Simply screw off the aerator, the little cap at the end of the nozzle that prevents your sink from splashing. Clean it out, screw it back on and voilà! You should have improved water pressure.

Fixing a clogged garbage disposal

It’s tempting to run a chemical pipe cleaner through your garbage disposal, but it will likely be ineffective and can hurt the disposal itself. Instead, take the garbage disposal off and visually inspect it. You can do this by simply unscrewing it from the base of your sink. Don’t forget to disconnect it from power when you do to keep your hands safe!

Once you’ve located your issue, safely remove it, reattach the garbage disposal and test it to confirm you’ve found — and resolved — the issue.

See, being your own plumber doesn’t have to be a huge headache or mess. That said, don’t be afraid to call in the pros for support. If the above tips don’t do the trick, getting a hand from a professional can save you a lot of hassle.

Learn how to make an improvised camping lantern in this straightforward guide, so you don't get caught in the wild without a light!

RELATED: Streamlight Nano Light Review | Where Compact And Useful Meet

DIY Camping Lantern You Can Make in a Jiffy
What You'll Need to Make the Best Kerosene Lantern

Kerosene fuel
Small glass bottle (syrup or soy sauce)
Small cup or container (to pour fuel from)
A small funnel
Aluminum can
Cotton t-shirt

Instructions to Make Vintage Kerosene Lanterns DIY
 Step 1: Prepare the Container

To make these old kerosene lanterns, we begin by pouring approximately 5 oz. (depending on the size of the bottle you are using) of kerosene fuel into a smaller container. This will make pouring into the funnel much easier and more manageable.

Now, using the cup and funnel, fill your bottle about 3/4's full. Then, replace the lid and set aside for later.

Step 2: Make the Camping Lantern Wick

Next, take an aluminum soda can and using your scissors, remove the top and bottom portions. You can cut using the part where the flat area meets the tapered portion as a guide.

Then, take the remaining piece and cut it in half as shown in the picture. Take caution though, as the edges may be jagged and sharp.

Trim the ends by cutting off only enough to remove any jagged edges. This is what you should have left.

Step 3: Prepare Parts of the Wick

Now, cut the rectangular piece in half since you will only need one piece for the syrup-sized lantern. This will give you an extra piece to make two.

But, depending on the size of the bottle on hand, you may have to use the entire piece of aluminum. This is the approximate size for the syrup-sized lantern, 2.75″ X 2.75″.

Once you've completed this, set it aside for just a moment.

Step 4: Preparing Fabric for the Wick

Next, we cut a section of cotton t-shirt out, approximately 5.5″ X 6″. Now, take your section of the t-shirt and roll it up tightly.

This will act as the lantern's wick then. First, place the rolled-up section of t-shirt and place it on the piece of aluminum at one end.

The t-shirt should stick out a quarter inch-sized on one end. You'll need to roll it as tightly as possible though.

When finished, it should look like this. Don't let go as it will unravel. Now grab the bottle you previously set aside and remove the lid.

RELATED: An Emergency Candle That Noah Would Be Proud Of

Step 5: Insert Your DIY Wick in the Bottle

Insert the t-shirt “tail” into the bottle and continue to thread it in. Once you get to the aluminum portion, you may have to slightly crimp the ends in order for it to go into the bottle.

In some instances, the piece of aluminum may be too thick and you may have to trim some off for it to fit in the bottle. While inserting the t-shirt fabric and piece of aluminum, sometimes, a twisting motion aids in getting it to go into the bottle.

You want the aluminum to fit snugly in the bottle opening while still being able to move up and down.

Step 6: Make Sure Wick Fits Snugly In

This is what the completed lantern should look like. When you place the cap back on, simply push the aluminum “wick” down, flush with the bottle opening, and twist the lid on as usual.

Make sure you check the bottle for any leakage. Out of the six syrup bottle lanterns I have made, none have leaked.

The soy sauce bottle lantern tends to leak slightly. I remedied this by cutting a small piece of cork or rubber and placing on the lid to act as a washer; this seemed to do the trick.

When you are ready to use it, remove the lid and using your multi-tool pliers, grab the aluminum wick and pull it out about ½”. You will need to pull more t-shirt material up through the aluminum as it burns down.

Whenever the t-shirt material no longer reaches the kerosene, just pull the wick out and replace it.

Step 7: Light Up Your Improvised Camping Lanterns

There you have it, improvised kerosene camping lanterns from sauces or syrup bottles. This handy little lantern will be a useful addition to your EDC gear or camping equipment for sure!

What is EDC? EDC is short for Everyday Carry. It is an assortment of tools and gear that will help a person thrive in any everyday situation.

Remember to exercise caution while working with the cut aluminum, kerosene, and fire!


This video from Survival Life shows another great idea for camping lamps DIY using olive oil and a mason jar:

No matter what your level of survival expertise is, from newly converted enthusiast to seasoned veteran, improvisation is a must-have skill. However, the ability to take what's available and create something practical and useful is quickly becoming a lost art.

With this simple guide, you only need fuel, and you can always go on a dumpster dive for the rest of the materials to make one of these improvised camping lights!

How did your own camping lantern improvisation work out? Let us know in the comments section below!

Up Next: 

How to Make a Tuna Oil Lamp
DIY Survival Candles: The Butter Candle
How Camping in the Rain Can Prepare You for a Disaster

For more awesome SHTF survival items, you can’t make at home, check out the Survival Life Store!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 19, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.