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Don’t Panic: What to Do if Your Toilet is Overflowing

A pyramid of toilet paper

So it only happens every 1 in 1,000 times (and hopefully less!). But still, we all remember the dread and panic we feel watching the water in the toilet bowl slowly rise…and then overflow.

Today, we’re giving you a step-by-step guide so you aren’t helpless next time. Without further ado, here’s what to do if your toilet is overflowing:

First, you need to prevent more water from flowing into the toilet. The way to do this is actually easy, but in order to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, it helps to know how exactly a toilet works. If you take the tank lid off and look in the tank, you’ll see a float ball, or maybe you’ll see a similar floating plastic piece above the water, with a little valve sticking out of it.

Either way, the purpose of this floating piece is to close the valve that lets water in, if the tank is full.

The little ball rises as your toilet tank fills with water. As the ball rises, a rod, which you’ll see is attached to the ball, presses up against a valve. When the tank is full, the ball is high enough to CLOSE the valve and shut off the tank water.

Basically, the floating piece is what keeps the toilet from overflowing.

So then, you may be wondering, what exactly happens when you flush the toilet / turn the handle? Well, a piston at the bottom of your toilet tank is lifted, which forces tank water through siphon tubes. Now, there is suction in the tube, causing the tank to empty. At this point, the floating ball is at the bottom of the tank, which opens the valve mentioned above. Then, water fills the tank up again.

Now that you know everything there is to know about the ins and outs, ups and downs of your toilet’s mechanisms, you know exactly what to do if your toilet is overflowing!

Okay, maybe not exactly. But what you need to do is prevent water from moving from the tank into the bowl. You do this by lifting up on the valve on the floating piece, or if you have the float ball and the rod, then lift up on that. As you now know, this stops water from running into the tank.

But what you really want to do now is prevent the water that’s currently in your tank from running into the toilet bowl. You do that by shutting off the water supply. Almost all toilets will have a supply line next to them. Look under the bowl’s bottom side on the wall, and if you see a valve, turn it counterclockwise to turn off the water supply.

Now, he was officially learned what to do if your toilet is overflowing, but how do you make it go back to normal. You should be able to plunge away whatever blockage is clogging the toilet and preventing it from flushing properly.

 In fact, we have a very recent blog on just that topic! Read Oh No! My Baby Flushed a Toy Down the Toilet to learn the basics of how to unclog your toilet, if simply plunging it doesn’t work.

Is the toilet STILL clogged after all of your toil? Well, you can at least be glad you had the know-how to prevent the mess of an overflow! We at Michael’s Plumbing will be happy about that, too, as we come over to fix your problem for good.

If you need help with a clogged / overflowing toilet, or any other plumbing issues,  schedule an appointment or give us a call at (407) 219-9772

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