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Question DetailsAsked on 7/10/2017

How do you clean a toilet that's been sitting dirty for years

Toilet ran over, won't flush and needs cleaning. I'm in an apt.

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2 Answers


IF it ran over and won't flush, the toilet or the pipe is clogged - two general solutions, though with that long a sit it is possible the base seal will leak because it dried out for a long time, so snaking it is safer because it does not leave it sitting full of liquid which could leak out if the clog is in the pipes rather than in the toilet gooseneck/syphon itself:

1a) snake it with a closet snake (no, not a snake-on-a-plane which came home with your baggage) - it is a sewer snake which has a protective rubber sleeve on the first part so the metal "snake" does not scratch and leave marks in the bottom of the toilet bowl. DIY if somewhat home handy and not afraid of a bit of dirty work, otherwise Drain Cleaning and Plumbing would be the normal Search the List category to find a vendor for this work.

1b) - as above, but if you are worried about the condition of the rest of the lines to the street or septic tank because it has been sitting for a long time, or you think (if a basement or bottom-floor toilet) that the backup may be indicative of a a sewer line blockage, then a Sewer Cleaning contractor, who can clear both a toilet clog AND rout or jet out your sewer line to the septic tank or street - and if you advise him in advance to bring it (many companies only have one shared aomong several trucks) can run a sewer camera to actually see the condition of the pipes too, and identify the source of any blockage he encounters when cleaning the pipes.

Of course, if this is a new move-in the apartment management (if rented rather than owned or all-in leased) should handle it in most cases. Also, if going to snake beyond your apartment then coordinate with the apartment management - commonly the responsibility of them or condo association or such if the blockage is in the common plumbing.

2) you can bail out most of the water in the bowl (down to about normal water line) and then put in a high-density drain cleaner like Liquid Plumber Gel per instructions to see if that will clear the blockage out. Generally will within about 15-20 minutes UNLESS the blockage is from some foreign object satuck in the toilet/pipes (toy, towel, pill bottle, etc), in which case the paper/waste stuck to it causing the full clog may flush away to provide partial flushing, but still back up because the foreign object is still in there.

3) IF the water level in the bowl slowly drops after filling (does not stay totally full) you can sometimes free it up, if a simple toilet blockage as opposed to broken pipe or root blockage or such, by putting a bit of liquid hand or dish soap into the bowl (just a small squirt) to lubricate things, then pouring in full hot water from a bucket - holding the water level bowl-full to about near the bottom of the toilet bowl rim by pouring more in as it drains, so it will drain away faster (more water pressure at the clog) - almost always two or three 2-1/2 to 3 gallon buckets of water will soften or erode it enough to cause it to flush away, though if it has been sitting blocked for years may take more soaking to soften it up.

4) Once it is flushing again, for cleaning the toilet itself, a standard porcelain and enamel-safe non-abrasive geaneral purpose bathroom cleaner will work for the outside and rim and general bowl cleaning - hard deposits or pesistent water-level rings will generally come away pretty easy with Scrubbing Bubbles or similar tub and bath cleaner for the rings or mold or such (with a toilet brush), or for hard whitish or rusty stains use Lime-Away or similar lime and iron stain remover labelled as safe for toilets. Baking soda and vinegar also work as a scrubbing agent, and for tough under-rim stains straight baking soda on a rag or stiff brush works well - with white vinegar if mineral stained too. (Lime Away also works there but watch getting it on hands or splashing in eyes). In very severe buildup cases (like where very hard ater has been trickling into toilet for years and building up a heavy lime or iron deposit), sometimes an acidic cleaner like pure vinegar or mild muriatic acid (pool acid) is needed.

You can also find a number of previous questions with answers on sewer cleaning issues and typical costs in the Home > Plumbing link under Browse Projects, at lower left.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


BTW - here are a couple of other links on cleaning a toilet which got droppedoff my initial response:

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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