The toilet becomes a fascinating device to toddlers, and movies like “Flushed Away” that tell a story of a pet rat flushed down the toilet do not help matters. When they witness toilet tissue disappearing by pressing the lever, they want to make it do that too. However, instead of trying to flush a little bit of tissue, they usually try to teleport a toy to that other place where the flush takes things. Here is what you can do when your inquisitive little one clogs the toilet with a toy.
Stop the Flush
Most residential toilets flush by raising a flapper valve to let water from the tank rush into the bowl to force contents already in the bowl down the drain. If you look at the side of your toilet, you are likely to see the shape of the drain route built into the toilet. It curves and rises up from the lowest spot in the bowl and then curves again down to where it connects to the drain pipe. That upward rise makes sure some water always separates the sewer line from the bowl to block sewer gas. It also may prevent a toy from traveling all the way through if you are quick. You can stop a flush in progress by taking off the tank lid and pushing the flapper valve back down to seal it against the bottom of the tank.
The Reach and Grab
Just remember that you can always wash your hands after attempting this. If you can see a portion of the toy, take the plunge and try to grab it. Resist the urge to use a plunger, as this may force it beyond the sewer gas seal and get it stuck in the drain. You will likely need to remove the toilet to power-snake the drain if it gets stuck beyond the toilet. If you can grab the toy with your fingers, work it loose slowly. A few extra seconds of your hands in toilet water are not going to make a difference. If the water level is low, then a pair of nitrile or latex gloves can keep your skin from coming in contact with the water.
Use a Toilet Auger
This tool is very helpful to break up toilet clogs caused by the normal solids that are supposed to be flushed as well as the occasional toy that finds its way on a journey to the local wastewater treatment facility. Professionals, like those at Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, know that if you have a toilet and a toddler, you should invest in a toilet auger. It is a drain snake designed specifically for clearing toilet clogs. Its curved end and long handle keep you well away from the bowl's contents when using it. In a pinch you can try a wire coat hanger. Be careful with either tool not to scratch the porcelain surface of the toilet.
The Drain Cleaner Dissolve
If it is a plush toy made of cotton blocking your drain, then Liquid Lightning buffered sulphuric acid drain cleaner may dissolve it enough to flush. Drain cleaners will not dissolve plastics including polyester filling (poly-fill), but the loose internal filling can more easily work its way down the drain after the outer covering is dissolved. Drain cleaners typically contain sodium hydroxide (lye) or sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Liquid lightning is acidic. Never mix different drain cleaners, read and follow the label instructions, and wear personal protective equipment including gloves and goggles when handling it. Plunging is not recommended after using a drain cleaner because of the risk of splashing chemicals.
To prevent it from happening again, install a toilet seat lid lock. This will prevent your toddler from opening the toilet lid but permits easy access to adults and older kids. The permanent loss or a favorite toy that is flushed may dissuade your toddler from attempting any more toilet-flushing adventures, but you should not hold your breath.
Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn't on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter @RachelleWilber