How To Fix A Toilet Backing Up Into A Bath/Shower

How to fix a Toilet Backing up Into a BathShower

Anthony Barnes

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Have you ever flushed a toilet and found that it rises into your bathtub or shower instead of going down?

While waste coming up through your shower drain doesn’t happen often, it can be worrying to see it happen.

When toilet water backs up into your bath’s drains, it is usually down to a blockage in your sewer line.

Depending on the jam, you can try to see where it is and whether you unclog it. If you can’t, it’s essential to contact a plumber immediately. 

In this article, we’ll help you understand what causes the sewer lines to clog in this way. Sometimes the main drain pipe is clogged instead of the actual sewer line.

There are ways to attempt to fix this, but if it involves the inside of the pipes, you should call an expert.

You should never try to do any technical plumbing work without professional knowledge of the pipes in your house.

Below you’ll understand the causes of why your toilet is backing up into your bath or shower and how you can try to fix it yourself before contacting a plumber.

Causes 

There are various reasons your toilet may be backing up through your bathroom drains. Most of the time, this is due to the drainpipe becoming clogged, or it could be the actual sewer line.

The best way to fix your toilet backing up into your bath or shower is by figuring out what the cause of the problem is. Below are a few suggestions of what may be causing the problem.

Drainpipe Getting Clogged From the Toilet

Your drainpipe can get clogged up for any number of reasons. You could have flushed too much toilet paper, or you may have flushed an item that shouldn’t have been flushed.

This is also why feminine sanitary products shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet, nor should hand towels.

These items are not designed to disintegrate in water, and don’t break down in the drain pipe. Sometimes, if you have young children they may have flushed an item down the toilet as an experiment. 

Tree Roots in the Drainpipes

Not all situations are preventable by being careful of what goes down the drain.

When trees grow, their roots will extend in search of any water. If there’s any weakness in your drain, then there’s a chance that the tree roots can make their way into your drainpipe. 

Minerals in the Drainpipe

Sometimes it could even depend on the type of water used in your area. If you live in an area with hard water, the minerals that make up the hard water will accumulate over time, specifically, calcium.

These mineral deposits clog up your toilet bowl as well as your drains, and the toilet will flush more slowly. The slow flushing is a result of the mineral deposits in the rim holes.

There will also end up being pipe scale in your drainpipe, and because of that there will be more issues with the toilet backing up. 

Clogged From the Shower or the Kitchen

Sometimes it’s not a result of your toilet, but other drain sources in your house. When you take a shower, hair and soap scum merge with other things that go down the drain.

When hair and soap scum merge together, they could combine with liquids you pour down the kitchen sink, such as grease and other fats and oils.

It’s then recommended that you don’t pour any grease or other oils down the drain, and pour it into sealable bags when they’ve cooled down.

This way, you can save your drains from getting clogged by any grease that solidifies in the drainpipe.

In these last two cases, the two scenarios often combine. Hard water also has a tendency to worsen the combination of soap scum and hair, often bonding those two even tighter.

The grease will also combine with any calcium deposits in your pipe, which will mean that the grease forms a more solid blockage than it would in an area without hard water. 

There are many factors that can back up your toilet and your drainpipe, so when this happens, you can have some idea of what may cause this.

Sometimes, it might be a simple fix, but in other cases, you may have to call in an expert. 

How You Can Fix It

How to fix a Toilet Backing up Into a BathShower (1)

Before you get to work, there are a few important things you’ll need to get to make sure that you’re prepared to find what’s wrong.

Not everything here will be a one person job, so it’s also best you get someone to help you with some steps.

When you’re investigating, you should make sure that you have two plungers, one flat-cupped and the other bell-shaped. You may also need a toilet auger.

If you don’t have these items available, then you should be able to buy them at a hardware store.

Turning off the Water’s Shut off Valve

The first thing you should do is turn off the water in your house. The backed up water is contaminated with different types of germs, and so you should make sure that no more waste backs it up.

The last thing you want is for your family to become ill. Once your water is switched off no one will be able to use the shower, flush the toilet, or run the washing machine.

You should be able to find your water shut off valve in the basement. It should be close to the water heater. Once you find it, you should turn the wheel around clockwise.

But, if this is a ball valve instead, you should turn the handle so it’s perpendicular to the pipe. The shut off valve won’t be the same for every house, as some of them are located on the external wall.

The one aspect they all share in common is that they will all be on the side that faces the street. When you turn the shut off valve, you should also remember to shut off the hot water in the water heater as well. 

Try to Plunge Away the Blockage

Next, get two plungers. You should use a flat-cup to seal your bathtub or shower drain, and you should use the bell-shaped plunger to plunge the toilet, which is perfect to fit into the toilet bowl outlet.

You’ll need one more person to help you with this job. Send someone over to the bathtub or shower drain with the flat-cup plunger and have them press down firmly.

Then, you should flush the toilet and start plunging immediately. For best results, make sure that water in the toilet bowl can cover the cup of the plunger. Keep plunging and check to see if the situation is improving at all. 

When you plunge the toilet, you should do so whilst also flushing the lever. As you do this, it will create more pressure on the drain and should loosen any blockages inside the drainpipe.

You should also make sure that as you plunge, you do so aggressively, to make sure there’s enough force to unplug the drainpipe.

Snake Down the Drain with a Toilet Auger

If it’s not, you’ll need to get a toilet auger. A toilet auger is a flexible cable that’s around three to six feet long. They have a cranking handle that you can push through your toilet’s drain to help unclog it.

Along with a cranking handle, they have a spring-like head, and have a U-shaped guard that helps protect your toilet from scratches as you use it. 

Before you use it, you should make sure that you pull the cable all the way back until your auger’s head is touching the guard.

You should then insert it gently, making sure that you don’t touch the inside of the toilet bowl.

The guard should be at the bottom of the outlet, and facing upwards. In this position, you should feed the cable down the drain by cranking the handle in a clockwise direction.

Once you find resistance, crank the handle in the opposing direction and then crank it clockwise once more until you get past. 

Once the entire cable is fully used up, you should pull it out by cranking the handle in a counterclockwise direction.

Always be careful with the auger head, or it may damage your toilet bowl. If you feel no resistance when using the auger, then the drain is clogged deeper than the auger can reach. 

Removing your Toilet for the First Time

Some people find that when using an auger for the first time, it’s easier to remove the toilet before you use it.

This isn’t something that you have to do, but if you do, it’s a fairly simple task, and you don’t need any prior plumbing experience to do this.

Make sure that you’ve turned off your shut off valve and drained the tank and bowl. If you don’t know how to drain the tank, simply turn off the shut off valve on the wall behind the toilet.

Then flush the toilet and keep hold of the lever until the water’s flushed down. Then remove the tank lid and soak up any remaining water with a sponge.

You can soak up any water inside the bowl or you can force it down using a plunger. Get a wrench and loosen the mounting bolts with it. Then rock the toilet to break off the wax seal and lift it off. 

The toilet is fastened to the floor with one bolt on each side. Loosen these bolts with your wrench and lift the toilet. If there are plastic caps covering them, pry them away with a flathead screwdriver.

Depending on the type of toilet, you may be able to remove the tank and bowl in one go, but others may need to have the tank removed first before you can move the bowl.

You should make sure that you place an old towel or a rag down through the drainpipe so that the gases from the sewer won’t go through the house. 

When you put the toilet back in, just remember that you will need a brand new wax ring, as these are not made to be re-used. 

You don’t have to remove the toilet if you’re not comfortable doing so, but some people find it easier doing this to get better access to the clogged drainpipe.

Many find that they find it easier than risking damaging the toilet bowl with the toilet auger.

Contacting a Professional

If you’ve tried the steps above and found that you haven’t found the blockage, you should call in a professional.

While it’s a more expensive option, a plumber has better equipment and has more experience in handling these issues. Occasionally, they have had to place a camera down the drain to find the cause of any blockages. 

Sometimes, if the water is backed up from the bathtub, then a vertical part of the pipe is filled with raw sewage.

So anyone who attempts to open a sewer cleanout to clear the blockage will find that it flows out from the cleanout. While it is more expensive to call the plumber, this will be the easiest option if you realize that you can’t find the blockage yourself.

Final Thoughts

When your toilet backs up your bathroom drains, it is most often due to the sewer line getting clogged up, or the drainpipe itself.

Before you contact a plumber, you can try to fix the issues yourself if you want to save some money. Plumbers are expensive, and sometimes, all you need is a plunger and a toilet auger to unclog your drainpipe.

Many of these cases are due to items that shouldn’t have been flushed down the drain being flushed anyway. These items could range from sanitary objects to any small items a young child could find.

There are many cases where this can be avoided again by ensuring that you are watchful of what you pour down the drains in your house.

If you find that you can’t fix the issue yourself, you should contact a professional plumber.

They will have more experience and more equipment that will ensure that they can solve your problems without risking any damage to your home.

While it is unpleasant to find your toilet backed up into your bath or shower, it is a situation that can be fixed once you know what the cause is. 

Hopefully with the help of this article, you’ll be comfortable investigating the source of the blockages in your drainpipe or sewer lines. 

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age