Toilet Gurgling: Meaning, Causes & Quick Fixes

It is very disturbing when the toilet is gurgling, bubbling, and making other unpleasant sounds, right? In some cases, it’s no cause for alarm, however, in other cases, you may need to pay keen attention to the issue as it could be affecting not only you but your entire neighborhood.

Toilet gurgling is characterized by bubbling hollow sounds. In most cases, it means there’s a blockage somewhere. Probably, the drains are filled with negative pressure that is strained from flowing flawlessly from the toilet to the sewer line. It can be a result of clogged pipes, toilet calcification sediments stuck somewhere in the way, blocked vents, and even issues in the main sewer line.

If that describes what you have been experiencing, following are quick fixes plus ways you can prevent these sounds in the future.

What Does a Gurgling Toilet Mean?

A gurgling toilet indicates the presence of negative air pressure that has built up in the drains, pipes, or sewer line. That air pressure has formed air pockets that are refrained from exiting freely, therefore, causing the gurgling sounds.

The sounds could be heard as you’re using another water system like the bathroom, as you flush, or after you flush.

Once some air exits the drains, you will see bubbles appearing in the toilet.

A well functioning drain system with free-flowing air and waste will have no suction; air goes out with every flush, followed with the waste. The gurgling sounds you hear goes to show there is suction building up in the drains which needs to be released.

The best solution is to free the air by either pushing the air backward or pushing it further down the drainpipe. This depends on the location of the clog which can be in two areas;

  • Drain system – either close to the toilet or close to the sewer line.
  • Vent stack – where the air gets released from (usually connected through the roof).

Besides the common clog, there can be other causes of a gurgling toilet. Take a look at the reasons in the next section.

Causes & Fixes

For this segment, you will read about numerous causes of a gurgling toilet, however, they have been categorized into two. That is;

  • Gurgling when flushing
  • Gurgling after flushing

The two scenarios indicate different reasons for the gurgling and bubbling sounds.

Gurgling When Flushing

If you’re experiencing gurgling during flushing, it means right at that moment, the wastewater and gas are being restrained from exiting freely.

The negative air pressure is already built up meaning the blockage is eminent. In this scenario, you may even experience water backing up to the toilet sink as if it wants to overflow and spill.

This blockage could be because of any of these reasons.

A Blocked Toilet

If you use huge amounts of tissue paper, the weight becomes too much for it to comfortably pass through the pipes. This, therefore, leads to a blocked toilet, once you flush the loo, the water will actually start backing up and eventually flood in the toilet bowl.

The Toilet’s Drain

Alternatively, there could be something else already lodged in the toilet there before like a sanitary towel, one of your kid’s toys, or excessive waste. The drain is only thick enough to household waste.

Obviously, the dimensions wouldn’t be too large since they are hidden behind the wall, therefore the spacing isn’t big enough; leading to often clogging if you dispose of impassable items all the time.

The Main Sewer Drain

After checking your toilet drain you may notice the clog isn’t quite clearing and the gurgling isn’t ceasing.

main sewer
main sewer

More so, you could be hearing the gurgling sounds from almost all your drains such as the kitchen, laundry area, and bathroom. This means there could be a problem in your main sewer line.

The mainline runs from your home to the city sewer system meaning there’s a possibility that your neighbors too are affected. Hence, ask them if they’re experiencing the same predicament.

Such issues on the main sewer line are probably due to roots growing underground, years or cracks on the sewer pipes, or other pipe problems.

The Vent Stack

When the toilet is installed in your home, there are two pipes used, one that directs wastewater away from the house to the sewer line, and one that goes up, emitting the gases and air from the toilet. For your vent stack, check on your roof and inspect for any odors.

It’s essential that air passes out from the vent stack as that will mean it has released air from the other tube allowing water and waste to exit freely.

You can’t really test if the air is being emitted therefore, your next best thing is to check for any obstacles or items that could cause a blockage. These items can be;

  • Animals, mostly rodents – alive or deceased.
  • Leaves and sticks
  • Broken parts of the vent

All these items generate negative air pressure, therefore, causing bubbling and gurgling sounds in the toilet.

Gurgling After Flushing

Sometimes, the gurgling sounds come after the water has already been flushed. Like an after effect. This, therefore, means either of these problems is affecting your toilet.

Faulty Tank Equipment

Your toilet could be either a one-piece or two-piece, either way, there’s a tank above the toilet where the water fills up after every flush.

In that tank, there are some mechanisms or tools that allow for an effective flush. For example, without the stopper water can easily overflow from the tank while refilling.

Similarly, if there’s a fault in the stank system, you will hear bubbling and gurgling every so often, especially after you flush.

Checking there are any parts that need to be replaced, more importantly, the tubes that will direct water into and out of the tank. There is the main source of the sounds.

The Buildup of Sediments in the Tank

The tank as well as the toilet itself can have calcifying sediments that can cause gurgling and bubbling sounds in the toilet.

To check for these sediments, simply open up your tank system and check for any reddish-brown materials on the walls or bed of the tank.

These are the sediments from mineral deposits like iron, magnesium, calcium, and others. You can also see if there’s a most buildup that could clog the waterway that leads water into the toilet bowl.

The block will cause the full valve to sputter and gurgle while it’s refilling the tank.

Unreleased Air in the Piping System

As mentioned below, the air is a major reason for the bubbling and gurgling sounds in the toilet. So if there’s trapped air in the pipes, there will be a lot of noises emitting from there. The bubbles mean the air is trying to escape the drain but its restrained.

A major cause of this air getting into the pipes is probably cracks in the piping system so also check for that as you try to resolve the issue.

How to Fix Your Toilet from Gurgling

Now that we have established the cause of these sounds, let’s look at ways you can fix this problem. Here are four ways;

Plunge the Toilet

The number one solution for any toilet problem is to plunge. Use a toilet plunger to dislodge the clogs as fast as you can. If the blockage is small, then the water should begin flowing easily as soon as possible.

Unclogging toilet with plunger

Seal any other adjacent drains to avoid air from getting into the pipe, that will only encourage for gurgling.

Fit the plunger on the toilet bowl as begin exerting positive pressure in the drain. You should feel some resistance to menace there was a blockage in the first place. After a few strokes say ten. You will feel the toilet blockage dislodging.

Do note, if the problem is with the main sewer line, a plunger won’t do much work since the effects will be felt even by your neighbors. Therefore, calling a plumber is the best solution.

Use a Sewer Snake

Otherwise known as a toilet auger, is used to dislodge tough clogs by pushing the blockage further into the drain until it dislodges. It features a rubber hose and crank. Plus, you can either use the mechanical or manual toilet snake, depending on your needs.

Both augers work well although the electricity is more industrial than the household. Even so to dislodge the blockage with the auger, put the snake into the toilet bowl and crank it up inside the bowl as you push it further inside. Crank it slowly until you get to the back.

Using a clockwise rotation, steadily unwound the drain until you reach a point of resistance. That’s your area of blockage. Now crank the snake in an anti-clockwise direction to remove the cause of the clog.

The mechanized auger is no different. Start by connecting the snake to a power source and insert the head into the toilet drain to begin the process of unclogging. Make sure you insert the head into the drain until the elbow section is completely inside. Click the forward button to activate the snake to colt through the drain.

Once you feel some resistance, push the blockage further down the drain as a whole or disentangle it.

Check the Vent Pipe

If the air supposed to get emitted by the vent stack isn’t exiting properly, you ought to check your vent stack.

This is a very dangerous thing to do as it may require you to get up the roof, therefore you can seek help from someone else to avoid injuries or the work generally, in case you’re afraid of heights.

Check using torchlight and search for items that may be constricting your very stack such as leaves. Tie the flashlight to check even further down the pipe to see if the clog is further deep in the stack.

Carry along with you a wire or a brush to help you dislodge and remove any clogs from that pipe. Alternatively, you can wash down the stack to the waste goes straight to the sewer line.

Call the Plumber

After trying the three other options above, it is probably best to throw in the towel and seek professional help. Don’t attempt to do DIY by dislodging using chemicals as they can easily corrode the pipes causing more damage.

So if you’re not looking to add to your maintenance bill, just call in your plumber to come in for a quick fix.


Why is the Toilet Bubbling and It Won’t Flush?

That simply means there’s a blockage in the pipes or there’s a fault in the toilets tank system. For a toilet to flush, there has to be space and free flow of water and waste, as well as a piece of working tank equipment.

If the toilet doesn’t flush, then there is an immediate blockage in the pipes such as an accumulated waste in the tubing system, or sediments up in the tank equipment that prevents water from leaving the tank to exit to the toilet bowl, allowing it to flush.

To solve this, start by checking the tank system for any flaws. If there’s none, plunge the toilet to clear any clogs.

Why is the Toilet Gurgling and Water Backing Up?

Water backing up means there something clogging the water line straining the water from passing smoothly. If there’s a lodged clog in the pipes.

Then the water can’t pass and the moment you flush the toilet water will back up to an extent of overpouring the toilet bowl. The best solution is to plunge the toilet to dislodge any clogs.

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