There are two main problems with toilet plumbing – either the toilet is blocked or it isn’t flushing when you pull or push the toilet handle.
If the toilet is blocked, first visually inspect the toilet to make sure there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be there (like a kids toy, or way too much toilet paper). If there is, the only choice is to break out a pair of big rubber gloves and try and remove the objects.
If there is nothing visible it’s time to use the plunger. Again we advise rubber gloves and perhaps even safety goggles because you will need to plunge aggressively and splashing is likely.
Some chemical drain cleaners can also be helpful, but these only tend to work for small pieces of organic waste like food or hair. They work much better for the smaller sink plug holes than the large bore toilet waste pipe.
If plunging doesn’t work, unfortunately it’s time to call in a professional.
Toilet not flushing
If the toilet is not flushing you may be able to fix this yourself.
The first thing to do is lift the lid of the toilet cistern and inspect what happens when you push (or pull) the toilet handle.
Is the cistern empty? Then the problem is with water coming in to the cistern. This could be because the cistern float (the ballcock) is stuck, or because the pipe supplying water to the cistern is blocked.
Sometimes both of these problems are due to bits of grit or debris getting stuck in the system and so you may be able to spot these and remove them.
If the cistern is full and nothing happens when you use the toilet handle the problem is with the handle mechanism itself. Again, a visual inspection may show some debris in the wrong place, or you may spot a broken part that needs replacing.
Most cistern parts are readily available from a DIY store, so if you are confident, there should be no problem in fitting these yourself.
If you can’t identify the problem or are not a confident DIYer you will probably need professional help. Use our site to help find a trusted Local Hero.