clogged toilet

What to Do If Your Roommate Clogged the Toilet

clogged toilet

What’s more frustrating than a clogged toilet?

Here are researched and tested ways for you and your roommate to keep your toilet unclogged:

  1. Try a faster-dissolving toilet paper.
  2. Use a plunger, an auger, a toilet snake or chemicals to unclog the john.
  3. Look at the flapper inside the toilet.
  4. See if it is a ‘low flush’ toilet.
  5. Keep toilet paper to a minimum and never flush ‘unflushables’.

Finding out that your roommate has clogged the toilet is frustrating in so many ways.

Not only could it be stinky and unhygienic, an overflow could potentially damage your home.

1. You may be tempted to get revenge or ‘punish’ your roommate for clogging up the toilet.

Don’t bother—use constructive ways to sort it out.


For example, I read about a roommate who clogged the toilet by using paper napkins from the college dining hall. People suggested to his angry roommate that he put chilli pepper on the napkins as payback.

Another person wanted to steal their roommate’s laundry detergent in revenge for clogging up the toilet.

Then there was the example of someone who was talking trash online about his roommate’s girlfriend because she clogged up the toilet.

This list goes on.

When I think about it, a clogged toilet (especially when it is the fault of someone else) is one of the most angering situations ever.

And if they just leave it, don’t attempt to fix it, I am right there with you in wanting to do something equally horrible back at them.


Getting revenge or punishing your roommate for clogging up the john is only going to make things worse.

If you do that, your roommate is likely going to want to get back at you for getting back at them.

And, of course, you will be obligated to do something about that.

I strongly suggest that you take no action out of anger. 

Your best bet is to fix the clog, and then work with your roommate to reduce the chances of more clogs in the future.

As I write this, I must tell you that about ½ hour ago, my husband and I cleaned out the bathroom plumbing with a pipe snake because the water has not been draining well from the bathtub.

Both of us are good ‘roommates’ and are very careful about keeping the drains clean.

However, over time, the natural buildup of hair and soap means that we end up cleaning the pipes about every 18-24 months.

No one is at fault; it’s just the way it is.

So, time to explore the whys and what-to-dos in this situation.

2. The first thing to do is to unblock the toilet.

Too much toilet paper, coarse paper napkins instead of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and other feminine hygiene products, even pooping on top of poop because the toilet was clogged…

These are some of the ‘believe it or not’ reasons that roommates clog toilets.

So now, the toilet is likely stopped up due to toilet trap issues.

The toilet trap

toilet trap

The green shaded area is the toilet trap.

As you can see, it is a bit snaky. These curves make it easier for roommates to clog up the toilet.

What to do

Step 1: Use a plunger


I. Get a toilet or flange plunger

You want the one on the left (image on the left-hand side).

A sink or cup plunger is not going to be as effective (image on the right-hand side).

Make sure that the flange (the part that sticks out at the bottom) is fully pulled out.

II. Fill the toilet bowl with water so that the head of the plunger is covered when it is inside the water.

Don’t worry about any ‘stuff’ floating in the water.

III. Lower the plunger into the bowl water at an angle. This is to get as much water into the flange and cup as possible.

Fit the plunger over the toilet drain hole. The flange should be inside the hole. The cup seals the hole all around.

IV. Get a firm grip on the plunger handle. Push the plunger down forcefully. Pull it back up WITHOUT breaking the seal around the toilet drain. Repeat 5-6 times. Remove the plunger.

Flush the toilet.

Get more details about this process here.


If so, congratulations! Flush the toilet twice more, and you are done.

If not, I’ve got more ideas for you to try.

Step 2: Use an auger

toilet auger

I. The man is holding a toilet auger. [Evidently, his roommate clogged up the toilet.  🙂 ]

II. Feed the auger cable into the toilet hole.

The red/orange auger housing should be seen but not the cable which is sticking out at the end.

III. The auger has a handle. Once the auger is in place, crank the handle so that the cable moves into the toilet trap in a rotating motion.

This ‘snaking’ action will clear the ‘snaky’ piping. (Couldn’t resist, sorry!)

Crank slowly, gently, and with patience to cause minimal damage to the pipes.

You may need to reverse direction several times to get the auger cable completely into the toilet trap.

IV. Resistance to your cranking often means that the clog has been reached.

Force the cable through the clog.

V. Crank backwards to remove the auger.

Flush the toilet.

Find further information about this process here.

Did you succeed?

If so, well done! Flush the toilet twice more, and you are done.

If not, you’ve got one stubborn clog, but never mind. I’ve researched a lot of other things you can do.

Step 3: More advanced methods

Toilet snakes and chemicals can help.

Toilet snakes are basically longer versions of the toilet auger.

There are many drain opening chemicals on the market. The only thing is, if your choice does not work, you now have a toilet bowl full of dangerous chemicals.

Read more about both options here.

3. Your roommate clogged the toilet…but it wasn’t exactly their fault. Here are ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

To save water and help the environment, modern toilets are ‘low flush’—the minimum amount of water needed.

The first models of these toilets sometimes don’t have enough pressure to clear everything and drain well. This can lead to clogs.

Check out the date

At the back of the toilet should be a stamped date. Is it in the mid-1990s?

If so, you most likely have a first-generation low-flow toilet.

What to do

First of course, unclog the toilet. See #1 above for methods to try.

In the future…

Step 1: Less toilet paper

Keep toilet paper use to a minimum.

Step 2: Flush or throw

In some countries I have lived in and traveled to, old toilets and plumbing can cause a never-ending series of clogs.

So, there is a small garbage can (preferably with a lid) next to the toilet.

Toilet paper is meant to be thrown into this garbage can, not flushed down the john.

Common sense tells us that if you have a bowel movement (do Number 2), you should probably flush the toilet paper.

Otherwise, the garbage could get quite smelly.

However, in these countries, ALL the toilet paper is placed in the can, and the can is just emptied more frequently.

Between the lid and the frequency of emptying, there is usually no stinky smell at all.

Step 3: Non-flushables

Whether or not you do Step 2 above, you will need a small, garbage can with a lid anyway.

This is for the items which should NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES be flushed down the toilet.

These include feminine hygiene products, wet wipes, cotton balls and swabs (Q-tips), dental floss, tissues (Kleenex), and condoms (for ecological reasons).

Top Roommate Expert Tip

You may want to make a laminated poster of these items using icons or other graphics, and hang it on the inside of the bathroom door to remind toilet users of the rules.

4. The toilet is clogged, and it is time for the pros.

Sometimes, you cannot do it yourself.

Whether or not your roommate clogged the toilet or someone else did, it is a job for the experts.

Issues with toilet vents and main sewer issues require professional handling.

What to do

If you are renting, contact your landlord.

Your landlord is the first address. He or she will tell you what to do next.

Many landlords have plumbers that they work with and will want you to contact them.

In this case, they will have set up a payment system so that their tenants are not involved.

Other landlords will ask you to contact a plumber and deduct the cost from your next rental payment.

Make sure you get a receipt in this case.

If you are not renting, contact the plumber of your choice.

Since there isn’t any landlord, it is up to you to handle things.

You will need to get in touch with a plumber, have them do the work, get a receipt, and split the cost with that roommate who clogged up the drain.

Top Roommate Expert Tip

You may say, “But it was my roommate who clogged up the toilet! Why should I pay anything?”

Here’s why:

If plungers, augers, toilet snakes, and chemicals did not solve the problem, chances are it was not really due to your roommate.

At some point, the system was going to get clogged.

It could just as well have been you.

5. The toilet got stopped up due to the toilet paper itself.

Research shows that all toilet papers are not created equally pipe-friendly.

Your toilet paper might be a potential pipe-clogger for anyone…not just your roommate.

What to do

Check out your toilet paper options.

Some toilet papers are made to dissolve more quickly. This means they don’t hang around in clumps, waiting to clog your toilet.

Scott makes such an option, as does Cottonelle.

6. It was the toilet flapper (not your roommate) that really clogged up the toilet.

flushing mechanism

The toilet flapper lifts to let water out of the toilet tank and into the bowl.

The flapper should lift as much as possible, letting the maximum amount of water into the bowl.

If there is not enough water in the toilet bowl, the flush will not be maximally effective.

This can eventually cause clogs.

What to do

Adjust the flapper.

There is a chain which attaches the flapper to the flush handle.

Adjust it so that the flapper opens completely on each flush.

7. Double flush

Being delicate about it, your diet can affect your bowel movements.

With some diets, it is normal to poop several times a day AND have more poop each time.

I personally found this to be true when I moved to a vegan diet several years ago.

What to do

The fact is that one flush can only do so much. So, flush twice.

This will help make sure that everything gets out of the toilet pipes and well into the sewer system.

It will also keep things fresher and more hygienic in the bathroom.

This is the method I use to keep my housemates happy and my toilet clog-free.

Writer: Lisa Aharon

lisa ahron writer