Thought Tuesday

Adulting 101 – Cleaning up the Crap


The peaceful evening was broken with a panicked, “Mom. Mom. Mom! The toilet is overflowing.”

Okay.  Deal with it.

Dude!  There is going to be a day when you and your parents don’t live in the same household.  There will be a moment when you finish doing your business and flush your toilet, and the “business” rises to the top instead of swirling down.

You can laugh all you want, but the swirling truth is that many teens and young adults will stand over an overflowing toilet screaming.  If we’re lucky, they may be frantically grabbing towels as the water continues to flow over the top of the bowl.

Begin simply.  Squat down and turn off the water.  That’s right.  Turn the value that lives behind the toilet to the right and save the day (remember… righty, tighty… lefty, loosey).  You could also take the lid off the toilet and close the toilet flapper.  (Sometime a toilet will overflow because the flapper is having issues and may need to be replaced).

Once the initial flow of water has been arrested, it is time to assess the problem.  It is fairly simple.  Most likely the problem is one of 2 things… a blockage or an error in the tank float mechanism that regulates water flow.  You may need to reset the float mechanism so that it sits lower in the tank to prevent the tank portion of the toilet from overflowing.  Make sure the chain attached to the float is not kinked or tangled.

If the problem is a water flow problem you will find that the water continues to flow when you lift the float cup or float ball.  You may need to turn off the water to the house, if the water valve behind the toilet doesn’t change the water flow.

Get out the plunger.  Now, you don’t use a plunger to stir the bowl.  It’s not like stirring cake batter.  You need a good seal between the plunger and the toilet bowl.  The best plungers are funnel-cup plungers.  Funnel-cup plungers are the ones with a flange, or added piece, extended off the bottom of the rubber cup.   Hopefully you have invested in this kind of plunger.

Here is a little tip that most people don’t think of… it it’s cold the plunger will be stiff and you will have a hard time creating a good seal.  Run the plunger under hot water.   It will help the plunger be soft and you will be more successful at creating the seal with the toilet bowel.

The idea is to stick the plunger in the toilet and form a seal over the exit hole.  You will be tempted to focus on the downward push.  It’s the pull back that is important.  Give a few good up and down movements with the plunger and you should see the toilet drain.  If it doesn’t drain, keep trying.

If the clog is especially stubborn, try adding a few cups of hot water.  The heat often helps to break up the problem.

A clogged toilet is something you can handle.  However, if you see water backing into the sink or the shower, it is time to call Mr. Plumber. Crappy water in odd locations is a sure sign that you have an issue with the main line.

Now that the toilet is no longer overflowing, you will may notice the mess on the floor. Clean it up immediately!  Use towels to clean up.  Use a shop vac to get the water out of carpet.  Use disinfectant everywhere the water touched.  Then, throw all of the towels in the washer and wash them in the hottest water you can.

You can do this!  This is what adulting is all about… taking care of the crap life dishes out!


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