Travel Tips

How To Unblock a Toilet On Your Travels

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I’ve developed infamy amongst my close friends for my ability to block a toilet, anywhere, anytime, and while I can laugh about it after the fact, there’s nothing quite like the panic of seeing that rising water getting ever closer to drenching your dreams. My mum even gifted me a ‘How To Shit Around The World’ book when I first left for Mexico.

As you can probably gather, I’ve had to unblock (or not) many a foreign toilet, from Cuba to Mexico City, and we’ve actually just started turning the water off in our flat when the biweekly occurrence of rising toilet water begins. So, without wanting to seem like all I do is talk about toilets, this is your expertly, first-hand researched guide to how to unblock a toilet on your travels.


Flush again

It seems obvious but you should always go for the double flush when you’re in crisis point. While it is often ineffective, there are times where you’ll find it just needed that little extra nudge to get on its way and out of your life (and nightmares) forever.

Don’t try the double flush if the water is already dangerously close to over spilling the bowl though. But…we’ve all done it. Once.

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

The double flush should always be your first port of call | Pixabay

Grab a bucket

‘What about when the flush isn’t available?!’, I hear you crying. ‘That wasn’t a tip or a trick, that was common sense!’ I know, I sense you wondering why I’m not yet resolving your problem in a satisfactory manner. Well, and this is quite often the case in rural Mexico, the solution is simple; grab a bucket, fill it with water and slosh from a great height onto your demon from the depths of hell. Usually when there’s no flush available, there will be buckets kicking about the place and a giant vat of water to scoop from. However, in the case that this can’t happen (or isn’t an option)…

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

The general state of many Mexican toilets | Pixabay

The good old plunger

I have something to confess; I was never a plunger fan. I didn’t trust them and they didn’t trust me, plus they never seemed to work. Since moving into my shoddily toileted flat in Mexico City though, I’ve grown to love my trusty plunger companion, and he’s helped me out of many a pickle. I think it’s something to do with the shape of the standard Mexican toilet basin, but these things can really shift your shit. Just make sure you give them a good rinse afterwards.

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

What did you plunger do to deserve that? | © Terry Ross/Flickr

Try detergent & boiling water

Perhaps not the most practical tip, especially for those of you who don’t make it a habit to carry around a travel kettle and powder detergent at all times, but my god does it work and it’s great if you’re in a hostel, house or somewhere where you have these things to hand. How to unblock a toilet with detergent: Pour a generous sprinkling of the powder over the offending article, and then dowse in a generous amount of recently boiled (or very hot water). Close the toilet lid, guard the door and wait a while. Then give it another flush and it should be off down the pipes faster than Bruce Bogtrotter in a chocolate factory.

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

All this stuff and not a kettle to hand | Pixabay

Grab a coat hanger…or something sturdy and disposable

I’ve used all sorts of things from coat hangers to supermarket points cards to manually do away with a problematic poo, but really you can use anything you can get your hands on. This is a great one for when you’re really stuck in the cubicle and have limited resources to hand. I think you’ve probably already figured out what you have to do, but for those who are blissfully unaware…chop it up. Chop up your poo, flush and then bleach your hands.

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

You served me well, coat hanger | Pixabay

Do a runner

The last resort tactic of every desperate toilet blocker, and something that we’ve all done at least once. Leave the evidence and get away from the scene of the crime as fast as possible. This tactic should only be employed in cases of severe toilet blockage. We’ve all had that heart stopping moment when we’re in a fancy restaurant, marking our territory only to realise afterwards that the flush doesn’t work or there’s no water in the tank. Doing a runner is last resort city and so I’d like to take this moment to apologise to the poor toilet lady in Cuba, for reasons I won’t go in to right now.

how to unblock a toilet on travels while travelling

Those socks didn’t deserve it | Pixabay

There you have it – your insider’s practical guide to how to unblock a toilet and/ or conceal the evidence of your (probably) victimless crime. Next week, what to do when you’ve run out of toilet paper… (RIP socks).

1 comment

  1. The Wayfarer 2 April, 2017 at 12:17 Reply

    This is such a great thread of entries to read! I had such problems with my toilet in my flat in Kansas City, so I am so familiar with all these strategies. Apparently, it was because the pipes from my toilet and the one in the flat next to mine joined up right behind our wall so they got blocked more easily with both of our shit being flushed constantly? Whatever it was, it was super embarrassing have to call the super to help me unblock it every other week 🙁

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