Nothing can ruin your day like a blocked toilet, but the really annoying part comes because you’re never quite sure when it will happen. The issue is made worse because you’re not only contending with the inconvenience of the blockage, but you’re also having to deal with the contents, and that can make even the best day go downhill. Aside from the inconvenience, though, many homeowners don’t completely understand the havoc that a clog in a toilet can cause, and, as such, most homeowners tend to be rather reactive instead of proactive.

At the very least, even if you can’t fully avoid the blockage, it is important to at least have a plunger on hand and know how to use it. It is a simple tool that if used correctly can take care of a high percentage of toilet clog issues. A plunger uses a vacuum seal to set to work against the block, and as the vacuum is released, a high amount of energy goes to work on what may be in the way. It is a rudimentary approach to tackling a toilet blockage yourself, and in most cases it’ll do the job.

You certainly want to avoid chemical clog assistance. This can be tricky because we tend to have a society that’s established the idea that anything that is easiest is best, and the allure of simply pouring your toilet blockage away with no work at all is very strong. However, while these cleaners note that they are safe to use, they can sometimes be damage to pipes. Because all we see is the porcelain bowl, you won’t be able to tell whether any damage occurs down the line, and if in fact there is damage, said damage can lead to catastrophic problems later that no solution in a bottle can fix.

It really should be the first step in this process, but it is important that you shut off the water to your toilet. It may be a bit of an overkill for some, but unless you also want to deal with water damage, it may be a good safe step to take.

As a general point, it is important to check on the basic function of your toilet. A cursory check of all things working well will help you notice when something is ‘off’ much sooner. Also, toilet paper manufacturers are doing more to make sure their products are safe for all plumbing, so be sure to find out what brands best accomplish this by checking online reviews. And of course – don’t flush anything other than waste & toilet paper.

If this doesn’t work, though, it may be the right time to get a professional plumber in the mix. They’ll not only have the know-how, but they’ll be able to assess the health of your sewer system as a whole so as to either avoid a blocked toilet in the future or alert you to major issues. Their help is invaluable.