Toilet bubbles could mean clog in sewer line

The Associated Press
Friday June 01, 2001

Q: I have a plumbing problem wherein the toilet appears to bubble up water and the bowl completely fills with water upon flushing. It requires about 30 minutes for the water to drain out. When it does, it almost completely drains out. I have tried using a plunger, but to no avail.  

A. It sounds like you have a clog somewhere in your sewer line.  

To clear a clog, get a mirror and use it to look deep into your toilet’s drain. If you see nothing, remove the toilet and see if anything is stuck in the lower portion of its drain.  

If the toilet is A-OK, the next step is to use a closet auger (a short flexible coil-spring cable that is used to dislodge debris in a sewer line). It’s usually safe to attempt to dislodge debris with a closet auger. A closet auger is made for short cleaning runs and doesn’t have the potential to damage a sewer line like its full-size big brother. The sales clerk at the hardware store can explain how to use the smaller device. 

Once the sewer line has been cleaned, the toilet will have to be reinstalled. Don’t forget to use a new wax ring to create a watertight seal between the toilet and the sewer line.  

This is one place you definitely don’t want a leak. The old wax ring will almost certainly leak. A closet auger often solves the problem and eliminates a call to a plumber. 


Q: We have a small sink in our family room. The faucet ran hot and cold water slow, but it came out. Then one day it just stopped, no water at all, why? 

A. This is a common problem that can be fixed in one of three ways: by cleaning the aerator at the tip of the faucet spout, by checking or changing the faucet valve gasket(s) or by replacing the nipples (short pipes) that protrude through the wall beneath the sink. 

The first thing you should check is the faucet spout. Unscrew the aerator tip to remove it and turn on the water.  

If water comes out, it means your culprit is a clogged aerator. Clean it with vinegar and a toothbrush. If the aerator isn’t the problem, remove the valve stems to see if the gaskets inside are preventing the free flow of water. 

(For detailed instructions and a picture go to www.onthehouse.com, and type “faucet repair” into the search engine.) 

If your investigation of the faucet proves fruitless, and nothing looks clogged, it’s time to scrutinize the nipples that come out of the wall.  

The nipples are connected to angle stops (shut-off valves) that are below the sink and against the wall. The nipples and the shut-off valves are usually made of different materials.  

Electrolysis occurs when dissimilar metals are in contact. The resultant corrosion can completely clog the inside of a nipple.  

We have no idea why the valve always seems to skate through unscathed. Shut off the main water valve, remove the shut-off valves, remove and replace the nipples with modern Teflon-coated nipples (they won’t corrode because they prevent electrolysis from occurring) and put everything back the way you found it. 

WARNING: The fittings and pipes in the wall could possibly be corroded, as well. This means that the project could turn out to be a big job. Be prepared for this possibility.