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The 10 Items Guaranteed To Clog A Toilet

Aug 21, 2014 | Plumbing Advice

Those of us who toil here at O’Grady Plumbing are proud to label ourselves as toiletologists. When it comes to the family bathroom throne, we have a propensity to professionally and profusely pontificate on anything related to the potty.

Not at great length, mind you. We’d rather fix the problem than chat about it.

With apologies to late-night talk host David Letterman, we’d like to offer up our own Top 10 List of items that should never be ingested by a toilet. These include:

  1. Dental floss
  2. Cotton tips
  3. Baby wipes
  4. Diapers
  5. Paper towels
  6. Toy cars
  7. Nose tissue
  8. Tampons
  9. Lawn clippings
  10. Candy wrappers (Why are you eating candy in the bathroom?)

Truth be told, nothing should be put in the toilet other than those items for which it was designed. And we’re much to delicate here at O’Grady to go into much more detail than that.

Having said that, we do have a simple philosophy when it comes to what “exactly” is OK to go down the drain and it goes like this: If it did not go into your mouth or come off of a toilet paper roll, it doesn’t belong in the toilet.

But be comforted in the knowledge that no matter what you — or your offspring — introduce into the family throne that results in a clog, we can remove that item and get your life back in order.

Last year, our leader here at O’Grady participated in a blurb for Maxim magazine called “Weapon of Maxim Destruction: Unblock Your Toilet,” wherein this question was posed:

What if the toilet begins to back up and overflow and all you have is a copy of Maxim magazine to assist in the clearing of said toilet?

(Maxim Magazine advice featuring tips from O’Grady Plumbing - PDF) Yeah, it was one of those kind of articles.

But here’s the deal. If your toilet is backing up and about to overflow right before your eyes, it’s critical you remove the tank lid and then push the flapper down while picking up the float as quickly as possible. That way, you keep the water from spilling over the rim of the toilet and all over the floor.

With today’s low flow toilets, this scenario occurs less frequently, but there is always the perfect storm. For instance, if the toilet fill valve were broken, you’d need to hold the float and possibly clear the toilet with a magazine — as we suggested in Maxim — in order to get the toilet flushing again. That’s bogus, of course, but we had to stick with the magazine’s theme.

When selecting a new toilet, keep in mind there are some low-flow toilets that use less than a gallon per flush (dual flush) and actually flush better than the older style water hogs. How is that possible? Simple! The outlet is much larger and the flapper is larger as well.

Instead of a long flush, the water gets dropped all at once, pushing obstructions through with ease. Caroma and Toto are a couple of brands that seem to perform very well. Recently we installed three of these dual-flush toilets in a downtown San Francisco building to replace the five-gallon per flush models for a bathroom shared by a number of salon-type employees and their clients. Bad decision on our part.

We failed to realize that high-end clients chose to ignore posted signs asking them to be respectful of the old drainpipes.

The new toilets were treated like garbage cans, and while the toilets themselves didn’t clog, as had been the case before, now the main line became clogged and we had to remove the toilets and run a main line cable to clear the otherwise avoidable blockage.

After several free visits to this building we made the decision to never install a newer dual flush with a large outlet in a common bath shared by many. We removed those toilets and installed power flush Sloan pressure-assist toilets on our own dime. The pressure-assist toilets are loud and have a big “oomph” in their flush due to the air-assisted flush from the specialized Sloan tanks within. The volatile flush gives the solids a good wallop and the smaller throat doesn’t allow for anything large to make it through.

This has reduced the clogs at the downtown location to what they were before the upgrade and the average flush now is 1.1 gallons.

(Note: We do not recommend installing a power flush in your home because they are loud and will wake up the entire household when flushed late at night. It’s always best to find the quietest toilet with a high-performance rating to be installed in baths near the bedrooms. Your family will thank you.)

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