How to Tell if a Toilet is Clogged: 5 Signs

Written by

Paulk Webb


Freddie J. Hagopian

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how to tell if a toilet is clogged

Your toilet is a place of relief, so a clogged one will be a nightmare, considering how it prevents you from flushing properly. To prevent future problems, you should know how to tell if a toilet is clogged.

The early signs of clog include a slow flush, lingering foul odor, and gurgling sounds. The clog has certainly been aggravated when the water level noticeably increases in your bowl or your gully trap overflows.

Let us elaborate on each sign of clog below.


Signs of a Clogged Toilet

A blocked toilet is possible, especially if you have toddlers who like to throw their toys in the bowl or someone who throws toilet paper down the hole.

Fortunately, your commode will show signs when it’s congested. Here are some clogged toilet signs that you should be wary of.

1. Water drains slowly


You shouldn’t ignore it when the water drains slowly after flushing. This means you have a partially clogged toilet. When left unsolved, this can result in a more serious problem.

First, you need to verify whether your toilet is truly clogged. Quickly dump a bucket of water into the bowl.

  1. If the water drains fast, you have a lazy toilet with clogged ports needing cleaning. These buildups are not from items thrown into the commode but rather from mineral deposits.
  2. If the water overpours, then the pipes are clogged.
    Luckily, it’s easy to solve this issue with a flange plunger. Simply fit the plunger into the hole, then slowly push it down and draw it back. A clogged toilet with poop will surely clear out in a few tries. 

2. Funny sounds


Another early sign of a toilet clogged in pipe is when you hear a babbling or gurgling sound from other bathroom fixtures, such as the sink and shower, each time you flush. This unusual noise is caused by the change in the liquid-to-air ratio in your commode, which makes air escape through the vents and seals.

Again, you can solve this premature sign of clogged drains with a flange plunger or an auger. Before you push the plunger down, cover all your bathroom drainage outlets, like the sink.

3. Lingering foul odor


You can also tell your toilet is clogged when it emits a foul odor, even when you flush.

The waste and toilet paper should go down the drain, so when they get stuck somewhere in the sewer, they produce a foul gas out to the vents. Sometimes, the foul odor can escape through your sinks and other fixtures.

No amount of air freshener can remove the smell of hot garbage in your bathroom. You should remove or dissolve the sewer buildup in your pipes with a plunger or any liquid plumbing solution. Otherwise, call a plumber to clean and repair your pipes.

4. Water fills the bowl or overflows


You have a bad toilet when the water level in the bowl is higher and doesn’t drain at all. There must be something stuck in the toilet pipe, preventing the water from passing through.

When this happens, resist the urge to flush again, or you’ll cause the dirty water to overflow into your bathroom floor. You can wait for the water to dissipate.

However, if the water level remains high after many hours, call the plumber to help remove the obstruction.

5. Gully trap overflows


Notice that drainage pipe extension with grates outside of your home? You call that the gully trap, which carries the wastewater to an external manhole outside. When you find some water or toilet paper around it, your toilet is surely clogged.

To make the sewer discharge smooth, remove any obstructions on the grates. If your toilet is still not working, call a plumber immediately.

Can a Clogged Toilet Clear Itself?


It depends on what caused the blockage. Blocked toilets can clear themselves if the items that block them are water-soluble. These items include pee, poop, and tissue paper. 

The toilet paper should start to break down in three hours. Wait one whole day before flushing the toilet. Your toilet should flush properly within this time frame.

Check the water level in your toilet bowl to determine whether it’s unclogged without flushing. If the water has gone down to its normal level, the blockage has probably disappeared. If not, you need the intervention of a plunger or a plumber.


At this point, you already know how to tell if a toilet is clogged. Ensure you’re aware of the early signs of obstruction to avoid the worst-case scenario. When no amount of plunging can do, you need to shell out more cash for repairs.

Call a professional plumber to spot the exact problem and apply the right solution.

Let us know your experiences with clogged toilets and how you fix them in the comment section below. To inform more people, please share the article.

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