Will a Toilet Eventually Unclog Itself? What Happens if You Leave it Clogged?

Your toilet can clog for all types of reasons. Clogs are normal but the situation worsens when you cannot access the right tools to clear the clog. This is probably when you start pondering if your toilet can actually unclog itself

A clogged toilet will eventually unclog itself if left for some time. This is especially when the clog is minor and made of water-soluble and biodegradable materials such as human waste. The water breaks the waste making it easily flushable.

However, a toilet cannot unclog itself if the clog is composed of tough non-biodegradable materials such as metal or plastic. What will determine if it will unclog itself or not includes;

  • The type or cause the of clog
  • The size of the clog
  • The type of toilet you have
  • How much time has lapsed

The following is a detailed discussion

Type or Cause of the Clog

A clogged toilet will unclog itself after some time if and only if the waste is biodegradable. If the blockage is from anything else, then the waste will likely remain blocked for as long as you don’t unclog it.

Biodegradable waste means its water solvent. Hence, it will eventually unclog itself after the water has saturated the waste enough for it to break apart and unclog.

Water pressure in the pipe can also put pressure on the waste eventually clearing the pipe. Biodegradable waste includes tissue paper and human waste.

Non-biodegradable waste such as metal, plastic, feminine products such as pads, tampons, diapers, wet wipes, and other types of tissue such as paper towels.

These products do not break down easily as the bacteria works much slower to decompose. Metal and plastic may never break down.

This means such clogs will not unclog themselves no matter how long you wait it out.

It’s crucial to note that some flushable items such as tampons and probably diapers are biodegradable but they could last as long as six months in the drain so it’s better to be safe than sorry. The best thing is to find a way to retrieve them to dispose of them properly.

Tissue Clogged toilet
Clogged Toilet

Size of the Clog

The size and weight of what you have flushed down the toilet also matter since items such as small pellets of soap or those fabric conditioners may not clog the toilet, but a toothbrush, pegs, large chunks of soaps, and others might.

So it doesn’t matter if the item is small enough to go down the drain, it’s more about if the waste should be there in the first place. 

If you have a large-sized clog, you could use a plunger or a snake as it’s better than leaving it to clear itself. Smaller pieces of waste can however be left to unclog such as leftover soap, small pieces of plastic, and more.

The Type of Toilet

Different brands manufacturer their toilets differently. This is not about it looks but how the trap way is designed. Large trap way toilets such as the American Standard toilets have large trap ways which can most certainly guarantee no clogs in your drain.

But other toilets have smaller trap ways that even struggle to pass water after a flush. Such types of toilets will have a harder time unclogging waste by themselves. They need more assistance such as using a plunger or a snake, or more home remedies like chemical, Epsom salt, or a plastic wrap.

How Much Time Has Elapsed

The reason you’re probably reading this article is to know whether if you keep waiting it out the clog will eventually dissolve. Well, if you have waited over three to five hours, you’re looking at a clog that won’t break apart by itself.

Most clogs only last a few hours after which the waste gives in and the pipes are cleared with just a single flush. But the longer it lasts, the less likely it is to dissolve itself.

Will Toilet Paper Unclog Itself?

Yes! The toilet paper is created in a way that it will automatically dissolve and break in water. However, it is likely to remain firm and clumpy without enough liquid to dissolve it.

Do check the label to make sure it’s septic system friendly. If it is, that means it will dissolve easily in water.

Is it Bad to Leave a Clogged Toilet Overnight?

Yes, you could be accelerating the plumbing issue. The average time you can leave the clog unattended is about three to five hours, after that, the clog could mean it’s not a water-soluble biodegradable waste so it won’t be unclogging itself without assistance.

Leaving the toilet clogged overnight has no immediate side effects. That means you shouldn’t even have scents in the bathroom unless the clog happened with stool in it.

However, the toilet could begin to overflow with water or wastewater can start to back up in the toilet or other outlets. In this case, do not leave it overnight. Leaving the toilet overnight is a risk that could go both ways, but you’re most likely looking at worse case scenario than before.

What Happens if you Leave a Toilet Clogged for Days?

Overnight will be a stretch, days will be too much time and not worth it. As mentioned above, if the clog hasn’t resolved overnight or in a day, the waste probably isn’t biodegradable. That means you’re looking for foreign objects stuck in the pipe, that could easily affect other pipes in the house.

Unless you’re not at home those next few days to know if the toilet is still clogged. Don’t leave it unclogged that long, you could be causing harm rather than good.

Another thing is the fact that you could be staying in a rental apartment. That means several other people share the sewer line with you and could be affected if you leave the toilet unattended. Water won’t pass freely to the sewer and a blockage easily spreads to other outlets and houses in the apartment block.

What is Recommended?

You can leave the toilet to unclog itself. But after several hours, it’s recommended that you move to unclog the blockage with alternative methods such as;

  • Plunging
  • Use of a toilet auger or snake
  • Use of chemical or enzyme drain cleaners
  • Diy methods such as dish soap, shampoo, hot water, baking soda, vinegar, Coca-Cola, and plastic wrap/ cling film.

Any of the methods can help in removing the clog. If nothing works, call a professional plumber.

Further Reading on Unclogging Toilets

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