When The Toilet Overflows: What Do You Do?

Unless you live an enchanted life, you will at some time experience the most dreaded of plumbing emergencies: the overflowing toilet. Although this is a relatively common problem, when you experience it, you may be tempted to panic. Nobody wants to deal with that mess on the floor or the damage that extended flooding period can cause. Although you may need to call a plumber to take care of the clog, you can stop the flooding by yourself and begin cleanup. 

Water Supply

You will have to get in close and turn off the water supply to the toilet. Make certain that you have on shoes of some sort, preferably old ones, because you want to limit your exposure to the waste matter on the floor. The lever to the water supply should be located directly on the water supply tube behind and underneath the toilet. If for some reason you cannot find the lever or it will not shut off, remove the top of the tank and lift up the ballcock until the water stops running. If that still doesn't work, you'll have to turn off the water to the house. Usually, the shut off valve is close to the water meter, but occasionally the turnoff is somewhere else. You need to locate it before an emergency strikes, or you may have a real flood on your hands. 


You should not leave the water on the floor for any length of time. Even a small flood can cause structural damage or stain your flooring. Go ahead and use old towels to sop up the water. Don rubber gloves to clean up any solid waste. You will need to disinfect the floor before you make contact with it again. Toilet water can contain E. coli, streptococcus, and the hepatitis A virus. Cleaning up before you attempt a repair is crucial to limiting your exposure.


You may try plunging to clear out the toilet clog, or, if there is an object lodged in the toilet, you can try to remove it as long as you are wearing rubber gloves. If these simple moves do not work, you should call a plumber. Sometimes working too hard to fix the clog on your own can lead to unnecessary damage to your plumbing system.

Overflowing toilets are common, but they are quite disturbing and frequently unpleasant. Your first job is to stop the water flow. Your second is to clean up the water on the floor to prevent damage. Thirdly, you should disinfect the floor because the overflow unleashed some nasty germs. Then, do not hesitate to call a plumber (such as South Side Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc.​) if necessary.