How to fix an overflowing toilet (Do THIS Now!)

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because your toilet is overflowing. And if this is the first time you’ve ever witnessed such an event, there’s a chance that you have no idea how to fix this. After all, toilets are supposed to fill up with water and then go back down again when we press the lever again. It’s supposed to go down… not up! 

So if your toilet is overflowing, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it. Here are some quick ideas on how to fix an overflowing toilet. All of these tips should help get things back in order quickly so you can get back to your day without worrying about your toilet overflowing again.

The first step that we can take is checking if the water is clean or dirty.


If the water is clear, we can check inside the toilet tank.

We can start out by cutting the water supply to the toilet. There is often a knob next to the toilet that you can turn counterclockwise to do this (angular valve). If you don’t have this, you can close the main water valve (make sure that no one is showering and that your washing machine and dishwasher are turned off) or a nearby valve. This should stop the water from flowing and make it easier to work. 

For a standing toilet, we can often lift up the lid to open up the tank. For a hanging toilet, we often have to slide the cover off by sliding it upwards.

Check the Float and flapper

The first thing you need to check is the float. The float is the device inside the toilet tank. When the toilet tank fills up, the water level rises and pushes against the float, which causes the flapper to close and refill the tank again. If the float is stuck (either by rust or mineral deposits), it can’t rise up to close the flapper and refill the tank. 

So the toilet keeps filling up the toilet bowl until it overflows. To check the float, look inside the tank and see if the float is stuck in the down position. If that’s the case, you can usually lift it out with a pair of pliers and clean it off with some mineral spirits or a little vinegar to break down any mineral deposits. After cleaning it, put it back in the tank and see if it stays up.  While you are at it, check if the flapper is still closing. It is quite easy to replace this part. 

Check the toilet handle

If the float is working properly and the toilet is still overflowing, you may need to check the flush handle. The handle can get stuck and this keeps releasing water into your toilet bowl. If you give it a nudge, it can become unstuck.

 The handle is connected to the flapper. The flapper (a rubber plug that sits on top of the toilet bowl) is supposed to drop down at the same time to seal the toilet off from the rest of the plumbing system.  

After you have done this, you can check the toilet tank as well. It is possible that there is a small crack in the tank that leaks water out of it into the toilet bowl. 

The overflowing water is dirty

If the overflowing water is dirty, we will have to check the drains to see if there is an issue there.

A small object or clog can block the drain. 

Check the Toilet Bowl and drain

If everything here checks out, you might need to check the toilet bowl. You might have a clog in the toilet bowl and need to unclog it. This is the most common cause of an overflowing toilet. The cause can be anything from flushing food to wet wipes. There are a few different ways you can unclog a toilet. 

If there is a lot of toilet paper, you can scoop it out of the toilet bowl and in a bucket. You can try removing the clog yourself with a plunger or auger. If this doesn’t work, you can call a plumber to come and take care of the problem for you.  

It is also possible that the connection between the floor and the toilet has broken (the toilet flange) and the waste can’t flow in the drain anymore. Check around the toilet to make sure that there are no wet spots nearby. If you notice a wet spot, you will have to call a plumber as this has to be fixed as soon as possible. Installing a toilet flange is not that easy and needs to happen correctly. 

Check the drains in your house

It is possible that the problem is not situated near the toilet but further down your plumbing system. If you have problems with other toilets or sinks, it can indicate that the main sewer drain is clogged. We have discussed how to fix this here but most people should just call a plumber as this is a complex (and potentially dirty) job.

Tree roots often grow inside of the main sewer line and this can cause a lot of problems such as overflowing problems. Your plumber can use water pressure to remove these roots. This will open up your drains and make sure that the toilet won’t overflow anymore. In some instances, they will have to dig up the drains and replace them. This is an expensive repair though as it is a lot of work. 

Check your septic tank or city sewer

If you live in a rural area, it is possible that your septic tank is full and needs to be pumped. You will have to call a specialized company to do this for you. If you live in a city, you probably don’t have a septic tank. There might be a problem with the city sewer though. You can contact your city to see if they can fix this for you. You have to be sure that the problem is not in your house though.  A plumber can use a camera to inspect your drains.

 To conclude, we can state that fixing an overflowing toilet is often quite easy. In most instances, there is a clog in the drain that needs to be removed. It is also possible that there is a problem inside the toilet tank and that you have to replace some parts. This is often quite easy to do as you can find replacement parts in most hardware stores or online. 

It is a problem that needs to be fixed though as you can get water damage in your house if the toilet keeps overflowing.