Thanks to Kris for this great inquiry on toilet backflow:
Is there anything one can do to limit the possibility of a toilet backup after one has already occurred?
One of my bathrooms has back flowed so I barely use it but I have guests in from out of town Tues to Thur next week and I am worried about them using it. When it back-flowed, I was able to stop it by turning off the water and plunging it.
Finally, when I turned the water back on, I didn’t turn it up all the way – should I have?
Thanks so much! You are all the best!
Here is our response:
Thanks for your great question! I bet many people have the same question as you so if you don’t mind; we’d like to post this to our blog.
Toilet backup is a common occurrence in homes, especially homes that are not new and especially vintage homes. Toilet backup will occur when there is a clog in the sewer drain pipe. As the toilet is used, toilet tissue and waste matter may collect somewhere along the sewer drain pipe. Over time, this blockage, coupled with grease, hair and other debris, may cause a slow drain that prevents the proper air flow through the line. When the plumbing line is unable to pull air from the outside, so that the water flows through the lines, the gurgling sound will occur. If the sewer line feeds into a septic tank, then gurgle and back up may indicate that a complete clog or overflow is about to occur. As the septic tank fills up, there is less room for air in the tank.
Kris, from your letter, may I assume you are on city sewer? Do you live in a single family home or apartment?
What you are describing sounds like a blockage to your main sewer line from that one toilet. The reasons can vary depending on your living quarters and include the reasons listed above. Another reason clogs occur in sewer lines is due to tree root intrusion.
In sum, there is nothing you can really do to prevent the toilet from backing up at home by yourself. Prevention comes in the form of calling a plumber or restoration company for an inspection. The sewage repair inspector can now put a camera and look down your pipes to see what the problem is. Just always be careful to work with a reputable company.
In the meantime, if you had a clog that you successfully dealt with and haven’t had a problem since, you should be okay to have your guests use the toilet without problem. Regarding the water, yes, turn the water back on all the way to maximum. That has nothing to do with the clog issue. Also, whenever using a plunger, make sure your plunger is flanged (see here for example)
Finally, I would recommend calling someone to come and inspect the sewer pipe for further toilet clog prevention, peace of mind and because we don’t want you to have water damage!
Hope that helps!
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