Emergency phone calls about an overflowing toilet is a daily occurrence at Coast to Coast Plumbing in Los Angeles.
Our operators are trained how to calm down panicky callers by reassuring them help is on the way to clear the drain clog.
But what steps do they tell callers to take to stop their overflowing toilet before one of our plumbers arrives?
What can you expect to hear if you call us with an overflowing toilet?
Turn off the water to the toilet
Our operators handle an overflowing toilet plumbing emergency by immediately asking, “Is your toilet bowl still overflowing?” If the caller says YES, then the first thing she’ll instruct them to do is turn off the water to the toilet.
Sounds simple enough, right? However a majority of homeowners have no idea how to do this. In a panic mode without thinking clearly, many will simply close the toilet lid or try flushing thus exacerbating the problem further!
To turn off the water to a toilet requires you know where to locate and operate the toilet shutoff valve.
In the illustration above, you’ll see it’s a small knob located behind the base of the toilet on the left. It should be visible, but in some homes we’ve seen the toilet shutoff valve and water supply line hidden behind a custom panel along the floorboard.
Locate toilet shutoff valve & turn clockwise
Our operator will guide the caller to locate the toilet shutoff valve. Once they do, she’ll instruct them to gently turn the toilet shutoff valve clockwise.
A common knee jerk reaction from a panicky customer witnessing their toilet spilling everywhere is to pull and twist the shutoff valve fast and hard. Don’t do this. It may result in snapping it off thus causing more damage and new problems. While not common, our plumbers have seen it happen.
By gently turning the valve clockwise all the way no more water will flow from the pipe to the toilet bowl.
Clean up & wait for our plumber to arrive
Once the shutoff valve is fully closed, our operator will tell the caller to mop up any water or sewage that may have spilled on the bathroom floor. It’s important this be done quickly to prevent any water damage to your floors or valuables.
Of course any clean up that involves human waste should be done using sanitary gloves, masks, and a bucket. Once the cleanup is over, our operator will remind the caller to not pour the waste and debris back in the toilet and try flushing. We know it’s hard to imagine somebody would be so stupid to do that but you’d be surprised how often it really does happen! Instead, cover and isolate the bucket by placing it temporarily in the shower until our plumbers arrive, fix the problem, and provide further instructions.
Turn off master water shutoff valve (optional)
As an extra precaution, our operators might tell the caller to turn off the master water shutoff valve or main shutoff. Usually this is not necessary if the problem is limited to a standard toilet drain clog.
But if the caller says water is overflowing from multiple toilets, sinks, and tubs at the same time our operators will recommend they locate and turn off the master shutoff valve.
The master shutoff valve is usually next to the water meter located outside the home, condo, or apartment building. If you don’t know where it’s located, we recommend you and all family members learn its location in case of a major plumbing emergency like a water pipe burst.
If you live in an apartment or condo, you’ll want to ask your landlord or condo board what their protocols are in case of an emergency that requires immediate water main shutoff to your unit. You don’t want to get in trouble if you attempt to turn the water off to your unit and accidentally shut off the water to all your neighbors!
Remember that no matter how fast our plumbers will arrive, you need to take action while you wait. Seconds can make all the difference.