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How to Stop an Overflowing Toilet

If the toilets in your home are consistently backing up or overflowing, you’ll want to call a plumber in case there’s an issue with your sewer lines or septic system. However, toilets can occasionally overflow due to heavy use, or if the system can’t handle certain items that have been flushed (see preventative maintenance below for a list of these items).

You can stop an overflowing toilet by following these simple steps:

1. Stop the Water by Pushing Down the Flapper Valve

To prevent the wastewater from overflowing onto your floor, you’ll want respond as quickly as possible. Remove the lid from the tank and look for a rubber valve at the bottom of the tank, near the middle. This is the flapper valve, which controls the water going into the bowl. Reaching in and pushing it down will prevent the water from going into the bowl and overflowing onto the floor. The flapper valve is not the same as the flush valve, which is connected to the handle by a chain; the flapper valve is underneath the flush valve. The water in the toilet tank is clean, so don’t worry about sticking your hand in to push the flapper valve.

2. Lift the Float to Stop the Tank from Refilling

Next, you’ll want to cut off the water from the toilet supply line so that the tank doesn’t continue to fill with water and overflow. Hold up the tank float until the water level recedes. Once the water is at a normal level, let go of the float; the tank should not continue to fill at this point.

3. Shut off the Main Toilet Water Supply Valve

If the tank continues to fill, shut off the toilet supply valve, which is also called the stop valve and is usually located near the floor behind the toilet. Once you’ve turned off the water supply, the toilet should not overflow. If the stop valve is stuck, don’t force it because it can break easily.
If you can’t turn the water supply valve, or you can’t find it, the next alternative is to look for the refill tube, which is the flexible tube connecting the water supply line (connected to the stop valve behind the toiled) to the vertical overflow tube in the middle of the tank. Pull the refill tube off of the overflow tube and let the water pour into the tank instead of the overflow tube. This prevents more water from going into the bowl. Call a plumber if this doesn’t work, or if other toilets or sinks in the house are backing up.

Preventative Maintenance

To help prevent backups and overflowing toilets, here a few of the common items that should not be flushed down the toilet. In general, you should never flush anything that could cause a blockage in your sewer lines.

• Cat litter
• Cigarettes
• Diapers
• Feminine products
• Food
• Harsh chemicals (including cleaning agents that could corrode soft metal pipes)
• Paper towels

A little common sense can save you a lot of trouble and help you avoid major plumbing problems in the future.

Pat writes for plumbers all across the country and tries to provide the average person with home improvement and DIY tips to make their lives easier. Check out Orange County, CA plumber Saddleback Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning’s blog for more information about how to handle plumbing emergencies.

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