How to Stop & Fix an Overflowing Toilet

An overflowing toilet is one of the worst things you want to experience in your home or other place you visit. If you’re lucky, you’ll only have water on the floor of the bathroom and nothing much. On the other hand, you might have to deal with waste on the floor which isn’t pleasant at all.

Your toilet overflows and floods because of many different reasons including clogged pipes, full septic tank or faulty septic system, malfunctioning toilet tank components such as the valve,  flapper or float ball. To fix the overflowing toilet first top the water from overflowing then move on to solving the specific cause.

Below are the details on causes and fixes. Most of the solutions can be carried out without having to invite a plumber. However, some fixes are more complex and might require the input of a qualified plumber. Keep in mind that the problem might not just be around the toilet bowl but within the plumbing system as well.

What makes a Toilet Overflow when Flushed?

Some of the reasons behind your overflowing toilet include the following:

A clog in the Toilet or Sewerage System

A clog in the toilet is the primary reason why the toilet will overflow. When you flush the toilet, the expectation is that it’ll wash away all the waste leaving the toilet bowl looking all clean and ready for the next use.

However, you might be surprised when you flush the toilet and the water doesn’t go away. Instead, it’ll overflow to the surface making a mess of your bathroom.

A clog in the toilet bowl or in the sewerage system can lead to this. Some of the items that can clog up the toilet include toilet paper and toys put into the toilet by the kids. Even then, any solid items will almost always tend to clog up the toilet.

The sewerage system also composed of the pipes that run from your home to the main sewer line. These can become blocked by roots from the trees in your yard.

Another section of your plumbing system that is likely to block is the plumping vent, sometimes referred to as the vent sack.

Plumbing Vents
Sack Vents

These pipes, in most cases, have an outlet on your roof that helps to regulate the air pressure in your plumbing system. A blockage in these pipes will result in slow drainage that will eventually lead to overflowing

Faulty Toilet Tank Components

An issue with some of the toilet tank components that are linked flushing can also lead to flooding. Here are details on these components.

Toilet tank inside componets
Tank components

A stuck toilet valve

Toilet valves work by opening and closing to allow water into the toilet bowl and vice versa. Chances are high that since your toilet was installed, it has never had its valve changed or fixed in any way. With time, the toilet valve can become sticky and won’t move when you flush the toilet.

In most cases, the valve gets stuck immediately after you flush the toilet. If it doesn’t go back to the original position, water from the tank will keep flowing into the bowl making it hard to stop the overflowing.

It’s made worse when the toilet bowl is clogged meaning that the excess water flowing from the tank won’t flow down the drain.

Malfunctioning toilet tank flapper

The toilet flapper opens and closes to let water into the toilet bowl. When you flush the toilet, the flapper opens up to let water into the toilet bowl. If it gets stuck in the open position, any water entering the water tank will simply flow to the toilet bowl. If there is a clog, it’ll overflow and mess up your bathroom.

Faulty toilet ball

The purpose of the toilet ball is to regulate the amount of water that flows into the toilet tank. When the toilet is flushed, the flapper releases the water into the bowl.

In this case, the float ball will drop in level to allow in water from the mains. As the level of water rises, the float ball keeps rising and closing the inlet into the tank until it completely shuts out the water.

If the float ball is punctured or faulty in any other way, it’ll remain depressed and allow water to keep flowing into the tank. If the flapper is open, the water will keep flowing to the bowl making it easy for the toilet to overflow.

A Full Septic Tank or Malfunctioning Septic System

If there is an issue with your septic system, untreated sewage can be released and transported to where it shouldn’t be. This may result in waste and water to back up in pipes in the house leading to flooding.

Septic tank and System Diagram
Septic System Illustration

At the same time, if the septic tank is full, the contents of your flush won’t find space to escape resulting in a backflow that creates an overflow.

In addition to flooding, the following are more signs you have a full septic tank or failed septic system

  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system.
  • Bad odors around the septic tank.
  • Bathtubs, showers, and sinks drain very slowly.
  • Standing water or damp spots near the septic tank

Any of these issues can lead to an overflowing toilet. You’d be lucky to get just one problem since their combination would make for a very unpleasant experience.

Steps to Fix and Stop an Overflowing Toilet

When your toilet starts overflowing after you flush it, do the following:

1. Stop the inflow of water

First, you have to stop the water from flowing into the tank from the mains. There is a tap-like valve behind the toilet on the wall where water flows from the mains to the toilet tank. You should turn this one off by twisting it clockwise until it’s tight enough and no water is flowing into the tank.

If the inlet is broken and doesn’t shut off, you have to shut off the inlet into the whole bathroom or even the mains to stop water from coming in.

2. Get Rid of Clogs in the Toilet and Sewerage System

If it’s clogging within the bowl of the toilet, you should be able to unclog it with a plunger. To do this, you simply push the rubber end of the plunger into the bottom of the toilet bowl then pull it out with a slight jacking motion.

You may have to do it several times to unclog it.  Make sure your motions are gentle to avoid spilling more of the waste and water onto the floor of the bathroom.

If your toilet is overflowing plunger not working, it means that either the clog is severe and hard or it is far deep in the drainage pipes. In this case, a toilet auger, snake or clothe hanger can help you clear the clog.

If the clog isn’t in the toilet but in the sewage system, you’ll need a plumber or a more sophisticated method to clear it out.

3. Fix the toilet valve

Next up, check the toilet valve to establish whether it’s faulty or not. To access the valve, you have to remove the lid on the toilet tank. You can easily see if it’s stuck or can move when you try to flush the toilet.

If it seems stuck, give it a push to loosen it up. You can even add some lubricant to it to loosen it up and allow easy motions.

At times, the valve would be out of order requiring a new one. If this is the case, you might need to find a plumber to do it for you.

4. Fix the toilet flapper

If the toilet flapper is stuck, you need to release it to allow for the normal mechanisms of the toilet to work. If the flapper is open when it should be closed, close it with your finger then observe if it stays that way or not.

If it stays that way, it was simply stuck and there’s nothing wrong with it. If it doesn’t, it means it’s faulty and needs to be replaced. This is work that needs to be done by a plumber as it’s a bit complex.

5. Fix the toilet float ball

If the toilet float ball doesn’t control the level of water in the toilet tank properly, you’ll need to fix it. If it’s just an issue of positioning, you can position it correctly by bending the stem holding it in place either upwards or downwards. If that’s not the issue and the ball is damaged, you’ll need another one as you can fix it if it’s damaged.

6. Septic System Maintenance

Do schedule regular maintenance for your septic system to ensure that tank emptied in time. Ensure all necessary repairs are made as soon as you identify them.

7. Call for a plumber

If you can’t take care of any of these issues, you can always call for a qualified plumber to take care of it for you. While you can perform the routine checks on your toilet and other parts of the plumbing system, replacing parts and other issues often require an expert to do.

Toilet Overflowing with Poop and Water

If you’re unlucky, the overflow may consist of not only water but also waste. It is definitely not an experience that will ever bring a smile to your face but at least it is a task you can handle on your own. All you need is a wet-dry vacuum or a mod and squeegee and disinfectant.

Following are steps and ideas to deal with a toilet that is overflowing with poop.

  1. Get protective gear to cover your hands, face and feet.
  2. Open windows or run a fan to circulate air.
  3. The easiest and most convenient way is to use a wet dry vacuum to clean up all the liquid and solids.
  4. Instead of a wet dry vacuum you can use a mop and squeegee to clear the mess. Separate solid waste into a dustpan and discard it rightfully.
  5. Disinfect your floor with a solution of bleach and water. Mix the bleach and water ratio of 1 to 5 respectively and mop the entire floor that was exposed. Dump the mop water and mop again with fresh water.
  6. You can also use an air freshener to freshen up the smell of the affected rooms.

Alternatively, you can call a qualified plumber or flood damage contractor to handle the issue, especially if nothing works or you’re not willing to carry out the process on your own.

Suggested Reading: How to Unclog Toilet full of Poop

Why is my Toilet Overflowing without being Flushed?

If your toilet overflows even without flushing, it is an indication it is clogged somewhere else in the drainage system, most likely your main drain or sewer line.

The clog in the drain prevents waste from being washed away and any water that is flushed will flow back worsening the flooding.

Why is my Toilet Overflowing for no Reason?

It almost impossible that a toilet will overflow for no reason. The main reasons that will cause overflowing include clogs, blockages, faulty tank components and a failed septic system.  Overflowing without a reason is quite rare.

Toilet Overflowing but not Clogged

If your toilet is overflowing but with there no signs of clogging then it simply indicates that your septic tank is full or faulty, your vent sack is blocked or your tank components may be faulty.

Why does my Toilet keep Overflowing?

Your toilet may keep overflowing because of a clog in the pipes that won’t let the water clear from the bowl. It may also flood due to a faulty flushing mechanism or a failed septic system.

What to do when there is no Flooding but Toilet almost Overflowing?

You should close the water inlet and avoid flushing the toilet some more then use a plunger to unclog the toilet.

Tips to Prevent Toilet Flooding

To prevent your toilet from getting clogged up and overflowing, keep the following in mind:

  • Always know where the taps and valves are located in your bathroom. This helps a lot even when in quickly shutting off the inlet to the toilet and when other issues arise in the house as well.
  • Don’t put solid objects into the toilet. This includes toys, tools and large amount of toilet paper. They will clog up the toilet.
  • Don’t flush any corrosive or radioactive chemicals down the drain as they’ll damage it.
  • Occasionally check the integrity of the parts of the toilet to prevent clogs and other issues.
  • Avoid flushing items that are greasy or with any oils in them. These tend to stick to the sides of the toilet and trap dirt which builds up into clogs. Even when the oils are hot when being poured into the toilet, they’ll cool down as they go down the cold drain and clog it up.
  • Diapers, tampons and sanitary towels and others shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet as they’ll end up clogging it and causing an overflow of the toilet.
  • Always clean the toilet as many times as possible to get rid of any sediments that might be forming inside the toilet.

If your toilet is old and based on outdated designs, get a new one that is better designed to prevent clogs.

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