What Can You Put Down a Toilet to Clean the Pipes?

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Toilet pipes can be cleared through a variety of methods.
Toilet pipes can be cleared through a variety of methods. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Indoor, modern plumbing is something most people take for granted; however, most plumbing systems are actually rather complicated and require regular maintenance to keep them free of damage and obstructions. If your toilet appears to be clogged, there are a number of routes you can take to clean or clear the pipes.

Water Blast

Aside from using a simple plunger to break up a clog in your toilet, a water blast is the easiest, and generally the least expensive, method. Often referred to as a hydraulic ram or blow bag, a water blast uses the force of water itself to clear the pipes. A large rubber bag, or bladder, is attached to an ordinary garden hose and put down inside the toilet. The bag expands when you turn on the water. The pressure created by the water then forces the clog to pass through the pipes.

Chemicals

Commercially available drain cleaners come in many varieties; however, most of them use lye as a principal ingredient. Drain cleaners can be found in liquid or powder form. Lye-based drain cleaners often work to unclog a drain when used properly, but you must take precautions. Lye is a very caustic chemical and must be treated with care. Read all the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before using the product. Use gloves when pouring the contents down your drain, and do not inhale the vapors. Chemical drain cleaners typically require time to dissolve in the pipes before they begin to work. Enzyme-based products are also available to clean toilet pipes. Enzymes work by helping the natural breakdown of buildup in the pipes. While not as dangerous to work with, enzyme-based products generally are considered to be better at preventing clogs than at unclogging pipes.

Auger

An auger is what most people refer to as a "snake." A closet auger is specially designed to fit into a toilet. An auger is basically a wound-up piece of metal with a crank at one end. You put the auger into the toilet and crank. The corkscrew end then winds through the pipes, clearing any clogs on its way.

Considerations

Before you choose a method for cleaning your toilet pipes, make sure your problem is isolated to one toilet. All plumbing fixtures contain a trap that is intended to prevent sewer gas from backing up into your home or office. In the toilet, the U-shaped trap is built into the toilet and is where most clogs are found. If other fixtures -- toilets, sinks or bathtubs -- also appear to be draining slowly, then you could have a problem farther back in your system. Also, while using chemicals to prevent clogs sounds like a good idea, chemicals can actually damage pipes with extended use. If you are unable to clean or clear the pipes by using a water blast, chemicals or an auger, contact a plumbing professional.

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