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Immediate Actions to Take for an Overflowing Toilet

Of all the things you never want to see happening with any toilet in your home, water overflowing over the top of the bowl and onto your floors is at or near the top of the list. Overflowing toilets can cause major flooding and water damage risks in a very short period of time, so if you see one, fast and immediate action is extremely important.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we're here to help with this and numerous other potential toilet or plumbing issues you may be dealing with. We've dealt with plenty of overflowing toilets in our time in the industry, and we know exactly how to get to the root of the problem and address it quickly and affordably. Because immediate action is so important here, though, it often falls to our clients to take a few basic DIY steps when their toilet is overflowing, often in the minutes while you wait for our plumbers to arrive -- here are a few of the simple methods you should consider taking to halt the flow of water and ensure the system is in good shape, both on your own or with the assistance of our plumbers when needed.

immediate actions overflowing toilet

Remove Lid

First and foremost, quickly but carefully remove the lid from the toilet tank and place it safely aside. Doing this will ensure that you don't accidentally drop the lid into the toilet bowl, which could eventually cause a clog or other damage later on.

Rubber Flapper Valve

Once the tank lid is properly removed and placed aside, reach inside the tank and locate the flapper valve -- or the rubber tube that runs from the bottom of the tank to the valve, which sits over the hole in the toilet bowl where water drains out. The flapper valve is held in place by a chain link attached to the handle on top of the tank.

Gently tug down on this chain to ensure that it is secure enough so as not to come off or get caught on anything. If it comes off or is loose, use the chain to secure it more tightly so that water will no longer be able to get past the valve without pushing down on the handle of the toilet.

Do not worry about sanitation here -- water in the toilet tank is completely clean, and will not cause any problems or spread any diseases.

Stopping Tank Filling

Next up, it's time to find the float that operates the tank fill valve, which you'll need to hold onto for at least the first minute or two after pressing down the flapper valve. In some cases, water levels will drop off back to normal -- if this is the case, you can let go of the tank fill valve and proceed with your day until our plumbers arrive.

If not, however, you may have to keep your hand on the float ball or handle for up to five minutes so that the tank won't refill, which will keep you from having to clean up overflowing water on your floors again the next time someone flushes. Don't forget, however, that even while your hand is on this float ball or valve handle, you must still press down the flapper valve manually every several seconds to ensure that water doesn't get past into the bowl again!

Toilet Shutoff

In the latter scenario we listed above where water levels do not quickly return to normal, it may also be necessary to shut off the water to the toilet entirely while holding the float valve. This can be done in one of two ways: Through the toilet's shutoff valve, or through the water main valve.

To find either one, look to your toilet -- if it is a two-piece model with a tank and bowl, you will see the shutoff valve on the side of the tank near where it meets up against the bowl. In this case, simply turn the knob to shut off the water completely, which should also stop the flow of water from the tank to the bowl.

If your toilet is a one-piece model, you will see a shutoff valve directly in line with the toilet's drain -- simply turn the knob in a clockwise direction to shut off all incoming water. And if there is no shutoff valve, or if it's simply more convenient, you can use your home's main water shutoff valve instead (though be aware that no water will be available anywhere in the home if you do this).

Additional Tips

Either after you've remedied the situation or while you wait for our plumbers to arrive for further assistance, here are some other tasks you can see to if you feel safe performing them:

  • Stop using all toilets, sinks and other water fixtures in the house. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of further water damage, and will also prevent contamination to all the clean, fresh water you've already mopped up or vacuumed out of your floors!
  • Use a plunger to see if you can remove any blockages from the drain that may have been causing the problem to begin with.
  • Place a heavy towel over any electrical outlets that have gotten wet -- again, this is to avoid triggering electrocution risks when you turn on the main power again.
  • Wipe up any water you can reach with a towel or rag, but be extremely careful about how much you are moving around -- rugs are especially vulnerable to slipping out of place when they're wet, which could cause additional injuries.

For more on how to manage an overflowing toilet, or to learn about any of our plumbers or plumbing solutions, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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