It truly is the stuff of nightmares: faced with an away-toilet situation in someone else’s home, you do your business, flush... and nothing happens. Or worse, you flush and the toilet water (and its contents) slowly starts rising like super-gross flood waters. That alone is anxiety-inducing—but then you do a quick scan of the bathroom and realize that there is not a plunger in sight. Don’t panic or jump out a window. Try these tactics instead.
Run the hot water in the sink
This trick can work for a clogged toilet at someone else’s place or your own, but it’s definitely the most useful for those of us who embarrass easily when we’re away from the homestead. To get things moving again, YouTuber Aaron Bjorn says that you’re going to need some hot water to pour into the toilet bowl. The sink will probably need to heat up a while to give you water that’s hot enough to be useful. So get it running at maximum heat.
Reach for the liquid hand soap or shampoo
While the water is heating up, look around for some liquid soap. Dish soap is ideal, but you’re stuck in the bathroom, so you might not be able to find any of that under the sink. Fortunately, liquid hand soap will suffice. Even shampoo can work in a pinch. When you find some, pour a lot of it into the toilet bowl. It will act as a lubricant and hopefully help dislodge whatever is causing the clog.
If the host is the type of person who only has independently made oatmeal bar soaps or something, Tess Wilson at Apartment Therapy suggests you look for epsom salts, or even a bath bomb. Are they the type that keeps cleaning products under the sink or in a bathroom closet? Try and find some bleach and powdered dish detergent. Wilson says to use a couple cups of bleach and one cup of powdered detergent. Really, anything that can lubricate or effervesce should do.
Dump hot water into the toilet and wait
Now that you have your lubricant in place, find a cup or container—use their toothbrush holder if you have to—and start pouring hot water from the sink into the toilet bowl. Again, the hotter the better here. But don’t flush yet!
Once you’ve added a gallon or so (or as much as you can without risking overflowing), YouTube channel Clean My Space says it’s time to play the waiting game. Hang tight and let the soap and hot water work its magic.
Do it all again, then flush
After a few minutes, the soap should work its way down into the clog and you should see the toilet bowl water level start to go down. Add some more liquid soap and hot water, then give it another couple minutes. Now you can make a judgement call and decide when it’s time to flush. Hopefully, everything goes down smoothly when you do.
Last resort: force it all down
If you tried the soap with hot water trick and the toilet is still stopped up, you might have to deal with the clog physically. Reach for the toilet brush or find a wire hanger you can uncoil—you can even stick your hand in a garbage bag if you’re truly desperate—and start poking down into the drain hole. It will be gross, yes, but you can always clean things up after the clog is gone.
That said, if you’ve gotten to the point where a few flushes of hot water and liquid soap won’t do the trick, just bite the bullet and go quietly ask your host for a plunger. It will be a little embarrassing, but both of you will probably be better off in the end. Nothing ruins a party quite like an overflowing toilet.