If you have recently started noticing that your toilet is making a gurgling sound, followed by a type of bubbling after-effect when you flush, you are not alone. This gurgling and bubbling scenario has happened to many a toilet at some time during its life, and there are ways to prevent the problem from escalating, restoring it to its former flushing glory.
Your toilet will start gurgling or bubbling when there is some blockage in your toilet’s drainage system, causing negative air pressure or suction in the plumbing pipes. Escaping air could back up your toilet with waste, ultimately forcing you to address the problem and find the blockage.
Your first reaction to a gurgling and bubbling toilet might be to phone your local plumber immediately to come over and have a look. A plumber will cost you money, money that you could have saved by following some easy-to-follow DIY methods to restoring your toilet’s flushing system. When none of the methods work, then, by all means, get a plumber to assist.
Why Is My Toilet Gurgling Or Bubbling?
The most common cause of a toilet making funny noises of a gurgling kind or when you spot bubbles in your toilet’s water bowl is simply due to blockages in the toilet’s drainage system. When your toilet is functioning properly and disposes of waste through the medium of water- your toilet’s drainage system’s air pressure is just right.
When a blockage occurs, it means something has clogged the plumbing system and often results in causing negative air pressure (suction) in the system. The air will “escape” back into your toilet as the last exit point, making a gurgling noise and causing the water to bubble, possibly pushing back waste as well.
Common Problems that Can Cause Your Toilet to Gurgle or Bubble
Okay, we know now that a gurgling or bubbling toilet is probably due to a blockage somewhere. Let us examine the areas of your toilet’s system that a blockage may impact:
Improper Toilet Installation or Malfunction
Your throne will easily indicate if it is clogged or suffering from a blockage. Generally, you will be able to spot torn toilet paper and other objects of the darker color variety floating in the toilet bowl’s water. After flushing your toilet, the water may rise instead of falling, and this could be due to the following reasons:
- Flushing down the wrong items, for example, paper towels and other hygienic products.
- Low flushing toilets use less water than regular toilets and may struggle to clear large amounts of waste.
- Inadequate water supply due to a problem with the water supply line can hinder your toilet’s ability to flush properly.
- Broken/damaged pipes in the drainage and water line can prevent proper flushing and back it up.
- A clogged toilet vent may not draw up enough air to help move water through the system.
Flushing Certain Items Down the Toilet
Your toilet’s drain will typically get clogged/blocked when things are flushed down it that you should’ve thrown in the garbage bin. It is best not to flush the following objects down a toilet drain:
- Paper Towels & “Flushable” Wipes: These specific paper products are designed to absorb water essentially, do not dissolve in water like toilet paper and are very likely to cause blockages in your draining pipes.
- Hygiene Products: Feminine hygiene products, that includes tampons and sanitary pads, are designed to absorb and usually expand several sizes when engulfed with water and will eventually cause a blockage of pipes that lead to the sewer system.
- Hair: Flushing hair down the toilet may seem like the easiest way to dispose of it; however, hair tends to stick to the insides of pipes and, over time, will cause clogging.
- Skin Bandages: Another no-no for items that should not be flushed down a toilet, bandages are typically made out of non-degradable plastic, and the sticky side can also adhere to other objects making clogging easier.
- Oils, Fats, Or Grease: Due to it being “easier” to dispose of, some of us flush food down our toilets-fats, used oils, and grease falls under food- but it can be very problematic for our drainage systems. These ingredients may start in a liquid form. They can solidify and attach to the interior lining of the drainage pipes-blocking water from passing and causing blockages.
- Kitty Litter: Not only can kitty litter introduce harmful parasites into your water supply, but the litter will also absorb the water and can potentially block pipes.
The Main Sewer Drain
All roads lead to Rome, while all drains need to lead to the main sewer drain. These include drains from your bathroom, laundry room, kitchen. The main sewer drain carries all waste and water away from your property to your city’s sewer system.
A blockage in this part of your plumbing system could typically impact your whole plumbing system and are normally caused by events out of your control:
- Roots that have grown through underground pipes.
- A “belly” pipe developing due to shifting ground.
- Pipe segments separating from each other.
Any of the happenings mentioned above can lead to your toilet gurgling and bubbling.
The Toilet Tank
Your toilet tank should be the same color as it is on the outside. People tend to find this part of the toilet a bit scary, as if it’s the coffin of unspeakable horrors, but you don’t have to fear unless you have sediment on the increase (tank is any other color than the original look).
If the color is red, you know for a fact that your tank needs cleaning. This sediment growth can eventually:
- Block water from entering the tank.
- Cause the fill valve to sputter.
The above scenario can lead to a gargling sound as the fill valve struggles to refill the tank.
The Toilet’s Tank Flapper
Not only can sediment buildup cause a gurgling sound, but also one of two basic implements found inside your toilet’s tank:
- Water Pipe
The flapper is charged with releasing the water inside the tank into the toilet’s bowl. After doing that, it lifts as to allow the water pipe mounted into the wall to fill the tank up again. Impairment in any of these two mechanisms could potentially cause a gurgling noise, for example, the flapper letting air into the tank.
How to Stop Your Toilet from Gurgling or Bubbling
The following are tried and tested DIY methods on how to unblock or unclog whatever is stuck in your toilet’s drainage system, and in the process, rid your toilet from gurgling and bubbling. After trying these helpful methods, and nothing has changed, it is best to call a plumber to assess your toilet’s situation.
1. Plunge Your Toilet
Arm yourself with a plunger and make your way to the toilet. Before you start plunging away, make sure to cover all drain areas-kitchen sinks, tubs, shower drains- with duct tape. Sealing all the drains will keep the air from escaping, as the idea here is to force the air in the pipes through your toilet.
- Place the plunger over the hole at the bottom of the toilet, push it down, and then pull it up.
- The suction that you are creating with the plunger should draw any small to moderate clog out of the u-bend.
- Repeat this motion until the clog is brought up to the toilet bowl’s surface.
Plungers are very good at dislodging light to moderate clogs, giving your toilet the chance to clear properly.
2. Auger Your Toilet
Arm yourself with an auger (drain snake) and proceed to drop the plunger (which did not do the job), and make your way to the toilet. An auger is a heavy-duty steel spring that you insert into your toilet bowl.
Most augers are generally fitted with the following:
- ABS drum casing with a handle to extend and retract the spring into the toilet.
- A stop screw to control the spring when it reaches the blockage allows you to wiggle the spring from side to side, in and out and hopefully removing the clog.
- A drill adaptor allows you to insert your drill, making the extending and retracting process easier and supplying more power to the spring when the clog is located.
Drain snakes typically range from 3-25 feet. However, you can rent a drain snake (40$-50$ per day from any home improvement store) of 100 feet or more. Remember that you would have to remove your toilet from its base to use this motorized version.
If you don’t have a drain snake, try using a metal hanger that you can unbend into a long piece of wire.
3. Auger the Drain Pipe from the Sewer Cleanout
Right, by this stage, you have plunged your toilet, tried the drain snake, but the gurgling and bubbling remain. It may well be that the blockage is located further down the drainpipe that flows out to the sewer cleanout (located directly over the sewer pipe).
Locating The Sewer Cleanout
- Enter your basement/crawl space and see where the main sewer line exits your home.
- Look for a large PVC cap, remove it with an adjustable wrench, and auger the sewer line from there (this is done when your cleanout pipes are situated above the ground).
- Start digging for cleanout pipes that terminate below ground level; it may be covered by a maintenance hole, and auger the sewer line from there.
Should the gurgling toilet stop now, then you know that you have successfully removed the sewer clog. If not, then we head on to the next tip.
4. Inspect and Clear the Vent Stack
Every home has a fairly complex drainpipe system that requires the correct air pressure and flows to function properly and prevent air locks inside these pipes. If there is a blockage in the vent stack of your pipe system, it can restrict the airflow and cause a gurgling sound.
Getting to the vent stack requires you to get on the roof. Be honest with yourself. If you are scared and uncomfortable about climbing a ladder and maneuvering on the roof, rather get a professional to help.
If you are a regular Spiderman, and climbing is second nature to you, then proceed to make your way to the vent stack (a pipe that runs inside the walls exiting through the roof of your house).
- Make sure to use protective gloves-might be a dead animal blocking the pipe- as you might need to clean debris if it is reachable by hand or a stretched-out wire hanger.
- When nothing is blocking the vent pipe at the top, you will have to inspect it a little further down the pipe.
- Duct tape a strong flashlight to a piece of rope, lower it down the pipe, and you should be able to see if a clog is within 7-10-feet from the top of the pipe.
- Deeper blockages can be removed by lowering your hosepipe down the pipe, opening it to full blast, hopefully loosening the blockage so that it can move down to the sewer.
5. Chat with Your Neighbors
The chances are that you are not the only resident suffering from a gurgling, bubbling, and self-flushing toilet. Confirm with your neighbors if they are experiencing the same toilet issues.
Should you find that it is a commonly shared problem, then the problem could likely be the sewer main, and that is where the responsibility gets shifted to the city sewer authority!
Ring them up, and they should schedule an inspection. Any problems that they find with their city-owned pipes need to be fixed by them.
6. Call a Plumber
When you find that the gurgling and bubbling situation has not changed for the better after all your best efforts, it may be that the blockage is too big for you to clear, or it may be located too far inside your plumbing. It may be time to hand the project over to a professional plumber.
No shame in this. You have tried, but the clog got the better of you. It’s happened to us all. Besides, a plumber is an expert in cleaning drains with:
- Specialized Tools (Cameras)
- Powerful Augers
Plumbers take care of sewer line repairs, and if need be, line replacements. The downside to hiring a plumber is that it can take some time to get one over to your house and explain your issue, not to mention that it can be quite expensive.
Even though a gurgling and bubbling toilet may sound like something out of a horror movie, we now know that it’s just your toilet’s way of screaming for help. Making it your mission to heal your toilet by removing any clogs/blockages so that the air pressure returns to normal is the best way to deal with the issue.
In many instances, it could be out of your control, like a faulty sewer main, and then it’s up to the authorities to fix it. However, applying some of the helpful hints listed above could get your toilet up and flushing again when the problem is in your pipes.
Remember, even though a plumber will cost you money, he will present the best chance of properly sorting out your system, should the gurgling and bubbling decide to persist.