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The gurgle

It seems at my place that once or twice a year, the back toilet will become a temporarily slightly clogged. The flush fills up the bowl with a suspicious amount of water, and empties more slowly than usual. And it becomes a battle of wits: should I call in the plumber (with his special machine) again or hope the problem goes away before anything overflows?

My natural procrastinating stance usually results in the latter. And it does go away by itself. The tree-roots or whatever is down there will clear, and it’s back to normal. When I asked the plumber about it, he basically said there’s no easy permanent fix to this — only a complicated/expensive fix.

One day earlier this year it spontaneously cleared itself like this while I was sitting on the can. It did so with quite a loud gurgling blurping noise which for a split second left me most alarmed as to the state of my bowels.

But no, all was well, and the toilet once more was flushing with the best of them.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “The gurgle”

Hilarious! I’m the same, do I face financial ruin by calling in the plumber or the possible ruin of my house being overrun by sewerage?

Every other week throw some bi carb soda and white vinegar down there – will help clear any blockages caused by paper trapped in tree roots, etc.
Tree roots will cost a packet at any time, don’t go looking for the cost before you have to!

Are you sure there aren’t dangerous, venomous Aussie fauna living down there in the sewer system?

As Jayne said and make sure nothing goes into the bowl that isn’t supposed to. I used one the other day and when I flushed, water bubbled up into the hand basin. Bit reluctant to wash my hands after that.

There is probbly something in the drainpipe that allows water to pass by but will accumulate paper until the pipe becomes blocked. When the paper is pushed past this object the water will rush out but the obstruction remains to cause trouble again sometime.

I had a co worker and friend in the US whose toilet did a similiar thing. I plunged it and it would flush water normally but it had trouble with paper. I removed the toilet from the floor and turned it over to look into the outlet in the base of the toilet. Sure enough there was a pencil stuck in the toilet’s trap (U bend) which was catching the paper but letting flushes with just water pass by. She said she wondered what her 3 year old niece did with her pencil the week before. I removed the pencil and the toilet was back to normal. You could try to remove the toilet yourself to see if something is stuck inside or have a plumber send his camera down into the drain to see if there is a more serious problem such as tree roots. There is a powder available (copper sulfate?) which you can flush to kill the roots without hurting the tree if this is the case. If you have a cracked or collapsed sewer pipe it will eventually have to be dug up and replaced.

Is this drain original from when your house was built or is a newer addition?
Old clay pipes are sometimes cracked and filled with tree roots.
Just be glad only 1 drain is affected and not the main drain for the entire house!

Jane: Ah, bicarb… is there nothing it can’t do?

Jed: I suspect it’s the original drain from the 30s. During one occurrence, it did start to affect the second toilet (closer to the front of the house).

Yes, I was thinking “too much information”, too!

Be grateful you don’t live in Greece where the – ahem – basic nature of plumbing means that you’re not allowed to discard toilet paper down the toilet. Occasionally, visitors forget with often unfortunate results which blockages occur…….

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