Why Do Toilets Clog?

Few things put such immediate dread as the toilet not flushing like it should. You wait for a moment, heart pounding, ‘Is this about to happen? Am I ready for it? Where’s the plunger.’ If you are lucky the flush picks up strength and you breathe a heavy sigh of relief. If you’re not you might end up with a wet floor at least. Why do toilets clog? They’re made out of non-abrasive porcelain so what’s happening to cause this jam? Read on! We’ll cover every clog causing conundrum!

Why Do Toilets Clog?

Toilets, like the sewer pipes they lead into, are made of non-abrasive materials that allow for waste water to move freely through. In a perfect world, there would never be any snags – unfortunately, the real world is far from perfect and a number of different circumstances can cause toilets to clog.

Irresponsible Flushing

We’ve talked about what not to pour down the drain before, but with all the worries about toilet paper right now (thanks COVID-19) it bears repeating: only flush toilet paper down your toilet!

These WILL CLOG Your Toilet

  • Tampons
  • Facial tissues
  • Cotton swabs
  • Condoms
  • Dental floss
  • Diapers


Any of those materials can get lodged in the pipes and create an environment for other things to get stuck on. A single cotton swab could get jammed right across the middle of the pipe and soon enough toilet paper is catching too. Even facial tissues can clog a toilet despite their seeming similarity to toilet paper, they aren’t made to break down in water in the same way. 

How to Fix:  Just don’t do it! Avoid the clog, avoid flushing anything other than toilet paper.

A Blocked Vent

It might surprise you to learn but a portion of your plumbing runs through the roof! That’s right, the plumbing vent, or vent stack, helps regulate air pressure in your plumbing system. The plumbing vent pipe removes gas and odors from the system, just like the drain pipes remove the waste water. It also allows for fresh air to get into the plumbing to help water flow more smoothly. When everything is working as it should, the vent keeps the proper pressure in the plumbing system. But what happens when it’s not working?

If the vent becomes blocked, the toilet will begin to flush slower, and that reduced speed will cause the flushes to not be drained completely. This can cause a clog to develop as not all of the waste is flushed each time.

How to Fix: Plumbing vents are located on the roof, so fixing any blockages here are best left to professionals!

Flapper Fluctuations

The flapper (find out more about toilet parts here) is the part of your toilet that releases water from the tank down the back of the bowl and creates the flush. If the flapper isn’t opening entirely, the amount of water that gets through and generates the flush may not be enough to create a strong flush. When the flush is weak, clogs are more likely to form.

How to Fix: Take a look in the toilet tank and adjust the chain connecting the flush handle to the flapper. With the chain tightened, the flapper should open up completely when the flush handle is operated.

Older Fixtures

If you have an older toilet, especially if its an old ‘low-flow’ model, the toilet may not be able to generate enough flushing power. When those low-flow models were first introduced the engineering wasn’t entirely developed leading to some lackluster performance. Now a days the designs have drastically improved allowing for a more powerful low-flow flush.

How to Fix: The only way to fix an old, poorly performing toilet is to replace it.

Sewer Struggles

It’s entirely possible that the clog isn’t in your toilet at all, but rather the sewer lines down stream. A clog later in the line or tree roots bursting through can create backup problems.

How to Fix: Hire a professional to clear out the lines. While they’re at it, get a Sewer-Oscopy!


If you are having any troubles with your plumbing at all, from a clogged toilet to a leaky water heater, Economy Plumbing Service is here to help! Give us a call and our guys will be out in no time to get your plumbing working right and give you the peace of mind.

Remember, if water flows to it or through it, we do it!

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