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How My 90-Year-Old Mother Fixed theToilet, or, What to Do When Your Toilet Stops Up

Updated on October 23, 2011

It was Thanksgiving weekend, and my elderly mom, who lives in her own apartment in the same apartment building with me, had a DISASTER on her hands! She had guests from out of town, and the TOILET stopped up! Water (disgustingly DIRTY water) was pouring out on the bathroom floor from the flooded toilet. "What to do? What to do?" she cried. We all hate it when the toilet plugs up.

We all tried to fix the plugged-up toilet. My brothers and I all had a go at attempted to plunge the toilet with a plunger. No go, no good. I got on the phone, attempting to raise a plumber. No dice. I must have left twenty or twenty-five messages; no live person answered my calls for help. It looked like we were on our own!

Meanwhile, back at the camp, my mother, my aunt, and myself , all helped to clean up the nasty mess on the bathroom floor. We couldn't leave like that. We warned everyone approaching not to use the toilet, and sent everyone who needed the facilities upstairs to my apartment, to use my toilet, instead. What a pesky crisis, when the place was full of guests!

We ignored the stopped-up toilet the best we could. We continued on, attempting to enjoy our festivities and family games. In the middle of one of our favorite games, Trivial Pursuit, my mother all the sudden sat up in her easy chair and said, "I know!" We all looked at her a little funny--it wasn't her turn to answer the question...

She darted into the kitchen, grabbed the bottle of bleach from under the sink, and poured a cup of bleach into the toilet. Voila! We couldn't believe it--about a couple of minutes went by, and Mom had a fully functioning toilet once again. The water that had filled the toilet to the brim and over went down. The toilet filled once again to a normal level.

I will ever remember holding my breath as we flushed, just to see what would happen. The water went down with a swirl; the tank filled once again, and there we had--a clean, fully usable toilet, once again. The polugged-up toilet was FIXED! Just like that. Awesome.

I've used that trick for a stopped up toilet more than once since then. A cup of bleach is so much less expensive and quicker than a plumber!

That's one thing I heartily admire about my mother's generation. These women know how to make do with whatever is available. I learn something new about that, quite frequently, from my mom. I don't mind passing along these tips to you, in hopes they may help you in your "hour of need"! A plugged-up toilet is no joke for anyone.

I found out later that the reason a toilet stops up to begin with is toilet paper. Everything else goes through the pipes, no problem, but toilet paper leads to a clogged pipe, quite frequently. The bleach actually dissolves the toilet paper enough to let it pass through the pipes. The reason to use one cup of bleach, only, is that bleach can be harmful to the pipes; it can corrode them, depending on what kind of pipes you have. So it is wise to use this method of clearing a stopped-up toilet judiciously. It is also wise NEVER to flush sanitary napkins or tampons down the toilet after use. This will also lead to a stopped-up toilet, and the bleach may not be powerful enough to fix it.

The "bleach trick" my mother taught me works on toilets, only. That's because it works to dissolve paper. With slow-draining or stopped-up sinks or tubs, the problem is usually HAIR!

What works the best for that is DRANO. I'm not just saying that because DRANO is sponsoring a contest or something. It's really true. I've tried them all--Drano, Liquid Plumber, the Walmart store brand...Drano has worked the best for me.

If you use one kind of drain cleaner, stick with it. Don't chop and change. The different kinds of over-the-counter drain cleaners have different active elements that WORK AGAINST EACH OTHER! Don't try one brand, and, if that doesn't work, try a different brand. Or, don't try a home remedy, and if that doesn't work, try a commercial product. Stick with whatever you started with and try it again.

What I've done, if Drano doesn't work the first time, I try it again, using a bit more of the product than the directions tell me to. That usually works. If not, once again...a third treatment will either remove the problem or it's time to give in and call the plumber!



I know, duh, you don't need me to tell you that. I had to say it, are very adept at reaching into places you thought were out of reach. I once found two-year old twins I was babysitting standing ON TOP of the washing machine, pulling everything out of the cupboard above the washing machine and dumping it on the floor! How'd they do that? By dragging over a Hot Wheels, standing on top of the Hot Wheels to use it for a ladder to get on top of the washing machine! Kids!

Keep bleach handy, just in case your toilet stops up. It works!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

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      I found your post/article very interesting and very relevant from

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    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      It actually worked. Could have knocked me over with a feather.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting idea and works well too, well thought of by a ninety year olde that just goes to show experience counts. Good one!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I've plunged away at stopped up toilets for many hours, never knowing until now that a cup of bleach would've saved all that "exercise". Another example that Old Timers know what works best. Thanks!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub that was both entertaining and very useful. Never heard about the bleach trick before, and it's good that you clarified exactly how and when to use it! Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Sweetie Pie. Others have mention a combo of baking soda and vinegar to unclog a sink. If it works like Mom's bleach, that's great...I think I'll stick with Drano. I just don't think baking soda and/or vinegar dissolves hair, which is usually the prob. It could be great on grease, though.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      What a good idea to use bleach for the clogged toilet paper. I thought about writing a hub about how I used baking soda to unclog my sink, but I really could not write five hundred words about that. I will leave this topic for the true home repair experts like you.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, skye2day, for the absolutely lovely comment. Was yours the featured hub? I'll check it out. Thank you.

    • skye2day profile image


      9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      fun hub of love. 90 years old? Wow that is fantastic and beautiful. Bleach? I know it cleans but to stop the overflow. Well God Blessed you all and it was a Blessing you did not get hold of the plumber dude. You were spared a large bill. God is so good. I wrote a hub on how my daughter and I fixed kitchen sink. Check it out when you can. Hugs galore. Nice to meet you.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      I will def. hug Mom, both for you and for me, Hyphenbird! Thanks for the comment.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      9 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I love your mom! As an environmentalist I avoid most all chemicals. However I am a bleach holdout. I LOVE my bleach. Who knew it had so many uses? You mom. Hug her for me. Great Hub by the way.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Nell. You knew about the bleach trick, too!! I'm really impressed. Yeah, Mom is good. She's quite a trooper, and I'm proud of her for that. Though her vision and overall health isn't perfect, and you know she has problems with her feet, I never hear her complain about it. She's really terrific, for 90 years of age.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, same thing happened to me a while back! I did put the bleach in but it didn't work, so I went out and got a really strong bleach! lol and that worked, cleaned the toiled at the same time! great idea, and your mom at ninety sounds really fit and healthy! running around like that! lol cheers nell

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, vocalcoach.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      A great story and a great tip! Mom's know everything :)

      Rated up and a great big thank you!

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Kitty. I had no idea either, until my Mom told me!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      9 years ago from Summerland

      Had no idea that a simple cup of bleach would do the trick. Very useful. Thanks, Paradise7.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you all for the comments. Jen--it takes a little while to work. Maybe ten minutes. After that, try more bleach. Agrdraw--it's an older building with older plumbing. I think that's why we have some troubles from time to time with the drains.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      9 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Thanks for the tips!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      So that's what bleach is for! Who knew?

    • profile image


      9 years ago from London

      Good tips paradise, however I find it a little worrying you have to seemingly use so many chemicals so often to unblock your plumbing, maybe some household education on what goes down the drains is in order.

    • Green Lotus profile image


      9 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Newer thought to try bleach. Thanks!

    • Robwrite profile image


      9 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Yah mom! That generation was a resourceful lot. Most people today would probably start googling "clogged toilet".


    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Thank your mom for me, okay? What a great tip! How long does it take the bleach to do its thing? Does it immediately work or should you wait 30 minutes or so?

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Your mother's generation are problem solvers! We rely on store bought solutions that probably weren't available 100 years ago and many times the homemade solutions are better! Although, I do have to say, Drano did work wonders when we used it in our How To Video for the contest. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • tlpoague profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      This is a trick I will most definitely use and pass on to my siblings. The children always seem to be using far more toilet paper than necessary and plugging the toilets. Great hub! Loved the story!

    • Cogerson profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      Kudos to your mom....thanks for sharing this great story.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hey, the great thing about it is, it worked!! We can all thank my mom!

      The funny part really was the way we looked at Mom when it wasn't her turn, we're all thinking, well, she's 90...getting on..and she came up with the solution to the plumber problem! Go, Mommy!

    • Ash Hicks profile image

      Ash Hicks 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      This is a great tip! Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the tip -- now I can fix my own clogged pipes!! (kids....they love unrolling the toilet paper and shoving as much down that tiny pipe..... or maybe they think it's funny that I screw up my nose as I clean up the mess....) :D

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      9 years ago

      Great Story and while it probibly wasn't funny at the time..there was just a tad humor in it.Right?:).You are right our parents knew the value of a dollar for sure and we waste so much on the smansey (not a word) fancey stuff..Thank you for a great tip..I will remember this one..


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks bunches for letting us know this trick because I had no idea.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      9 years ago from Shelton

      very good very good...


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