How To Clean Up Toilet Overflow Effectively Step-By-Step

Overflowing Toilet? Not sure how to stop it & How to clean up the Toilet Overflow afterwards?

In this article, you will learn:

  • Common causes of toilet overflows & Dangers of Overflowing Toilet,
  • How to unclog an overflowing toilet,
  • How to clean up and sanitize after a toilet overflow.

Toilet Overflows if not dealt with properly can lead to serious issues, including water damage to your flooring and serious health risks.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic because we’re here to help!

How To Clean Up & Sanitize Toilet Overflow

When a toilet overflows, responding quickly is of the essence. 

The longer water remains in contact with your floor, the greater the risk you run of water damage, not to mention the unhygienic nature of whatever else may have been in that water now being outside of the toilet bowl.

An unpleasant thought, for sure, but if you’re reading this while witnessing the horror of your toilet overflowing unfold before you, the sooner you get past the initial shock the sooner you can take action.

1.Stop the toilet from overflowing

Before you do anything else, the overflowing water needs to be stopped.  The less water that flows over, the less you’ll have to clean up and the more potential damage you mitigate. 

You can accomplish this more quickly and easily with two people, but you have to main goals here.

First, you need to get the water valve shut off.  Most toilets have a visible water valve nearby, so it should be as easy as turning right until it tightens and shuts off the flow of water.

At the same time if possible, lift off the tank lid to the toilet, and locate the circular rubber valve near the bottom.  This needs to be pressed down on while lifting the float, so as to prevent further water from entering the toilet and flowing over the rim.

If you’re alone, this is going to be tricky, but do the best you can and start with the water valve. 

Your objective here is to stop as much water from spilling onto the floor as possible, so move quickly and work efficiently.

2.Clean up the water

Regardless of what has spilled out onto your floor, you need to get it cleaned up right away. 

Gloves are going to be your best friend here, so if you have some disposable ones or even some dish gloves on hand, now is a good time to put them on because this might get really gross.

Before you can tackle the liquids, any solids in the area need to be cleaned up first. Hence the gloves. 

Bag them up in plastic, and dispose of them right away.  Solid waste is considered a biohazard, so be sure to handle it as such.

Once the area is free of solid waste, a mop and a bucket are going to be your best means of getting the liquids up, and getting the floor as dry as you can. 

For surface moisture that the mop can’t get up, towels can finish the job.  Just be sure they go right in the wash when you’re done.

3.Address the clog

With the overflow stopped and the water up off the floor, it’s time to tackle the source of the problem. In most cases, you’re probably already aware of what caused the clog to begin with, so hopefully the fix should be an easy one.

If you don’t own a plunger, now is the time to go get one. 

When it comes to plungers, the fancy-looking ones aren’t necessarily the best.  Find yourself a good, sturdy bell plunger, because it’s the seal it creates as well as the up and down motion that is going to do the work.

While you’re already out, it might not be a bad idea to pick up a toilet auger as well.

These can be a little bit pricey at around fifty to sixty dollars, but if you’re able to get one it can make the next part easier.

Before you have at it with the plunger, make sure the water isn’t going to immediately spill over.  If it’s already at the edge of the bowl, you should remove some with a bucket beforehand, otherwise you’ll have more water on your floor to deal with.

Using a steady up and down motion, the idea behind plunging is to use the downward stroke to force whatever is creating the clog through the trap and into the actual drain.  In this regard, a good seal is important. 

Most clogs form in the bowl or the trap, so chances are good this is all that will be necessary.

If plunging doesn’t work, it’s time to bust out that toilet auger.  Similar to drain snakes, they’re designed specifically for the S-shaped trap in your toilet. 

Cranking the auger through the S-trap should snag whatever is clogging it, so be prepared to catch it with a bucket as you retract it back out.

Best case scenario, the toilet auger busts up whatever is causing the clog, and allows it to pass on through to the drain, resolving the clog.  If plunging and using the auger don’t work, you might have a much larger problem.

4.Dispose of the waste water

Once the clog is cleared and the toilet is functioning again, dispose of any waste water you mopped up or removed from the toilet.  The easiest way of doing this is dumping it into the toilet, and flushing it down.

If there is a large amount of water, do it in increments so as not to flood the toilet again. 

Make sure the water to the toilet is turned back on, and the toilet is functioning properly again before pouring more water in.

5.Sanitize the area

Now that the clog is resolved and things are functioning the way they should, it’s crucial that you don’t skip this last step.  You need to clean and sanitize the area.

Lingering bacteria from the overflow can cause serious illness if left alone, so it’s of the utmost importance you thoroughly sanitize every area where the overflow water and waste got to. 

To do this, a mixture of one cup of bleach per one gallon of warm water will be effective.

Use a mop for the floor, and be sure it’s rinsed out as best you can if you’re reusing the mop from earlier.  If the waste water reached your baseboards, you’ll want to wipe those down as well.

You can use rags to wipe down areas as well, but since you’re handling bleach water gloves are recommended (clean ones, preferably).

Toilet Overflow?

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We Can Help Clean up Toilet Overflows & Repair any Water Damage caused.

Most Effective Ways To Unclog A Toilet

In most cases, a plunger is the best way to deal with a clogged toilet.  It’s recommended that every household have a good bell plunger, preferably with a flange. 


Fancy looking plungers may be tempting, but you need one that will make a good seal around the drain.  If you’re having a hard time getting a good seal, one trick you can use is a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the edges of the plunger.

Toilet Auger

Toilet augers are your other best bet.  They’ll either break up the clog so it can be flushed through to the drain, or they’ll pull it out to be disposed of (hopefully the former as opposed to the latter). 

They’re a bit pricier, but in rare cases where plungers fail, augers almost always get the job done.

In instances where you may find yourself in an emergency situation with no means of procuring a plunger or a toilet auger, there are other methods you can attempt that aren’t as effective but may work in a pinch.

Hot Water & Vinegar

Using hot (but not boiling) water, along with gentle, non-toxic household cleaning products such as dish soap or vinegar and baking soda, can help soften and loosen up the clog, allowing it to pass through the trap and into the drain.

After pouring in the hot water and cleaning products, give them about 10-15 minutes to go to work on the source of the clog. 

Vinegar and baking soda are going to form bubbles, so use caution when adding them in to ensure they don’t spill over.

Once the hot water and chemicals have been given time to work, try to flush the toilet to determine whether the clog has been resolved.  If they worked, you’ll hear a fast suction sound, upon which the toilet will drain like it normally does.

What Causes Toilet Overflows?

If a toilet overflows, it can be traced back to one of four things.

1.Clogged or blocked drain

When waste or items that weren’t meant to be flushed down a toilet (such as hygiene products or “flushable” wipes) get lodged in the trap, this causes the toilet to clog and can lead to water overflowing. 

Clogs are typically the easiest to deal with, as the practical application of a plunger will resolve most clogs.  Clogs are the most common culprit of water overflowing from the bowl of the toilet.

2.Blocked vent pipe

If your toilet is clogging frequently for no apparent reason when it didn’t used to, a blocked vent pipe might be the reason.  Vent pipes are responsible for allowing external air into the plumbing system to replace the air that gets pumped out with every flush.

When the vent pipe is blocked, your toilet can’t flush properly, which can lead to an overflow.  In the instance of a blocked vent pipe, it is highly recommended you contact a professional plumber.

3.High filler float

If water is spilling up out of the tank rather than the bowl, chances are a high filler float is to blame.  If set too high, the tank overfills itself, and the excess will spill out over the top.

Fortunately this is a simple fix, and requires only an adjustment to the mechanism inside the tank.  Make sure to set it so that the float causes the water to stop filling at the appropriate level.

4.Sewer line clog

Last, but probably the most detrimental of all, is a sewer line clog.  In each home, there are drain lines that carry away waste from things like the toilet and sinks, which flow into your municipal sewage removal lines (or in some cases, a septic system).

Sewer line clogs are very serious, and will require the service of a licensed plumber. 

As sewer lines can connect to a municipal source, there are likely local laws and regulations surrounding them, so it is not recommended that you attempt the repair yourself.

Dangers Of Overflowing Toilets

The dangers of an overflowing toilet are more serious than you may think.  First and foremost, any waste water that spills out runs the risk of spreading to other areas and absorbing into any material it comes in contact with.

Depending on what kind of flooring you have, water can begin to soak in quickly once it has spilled over. 

Things like engineered hardwood that are made with MDF will absorb water quickly, and once they get wet are impossible to dry out without some warping and buckling.

There’s also the risk of any bacteria or biohazardous material that may be lurking within spilling out onto the floors, and if not sanitized properly can have adverse health effects.

It’s important that you sanitize the area thoroughly any time a toilet overflow occurs.

When To Call A Professional

In case of a large toilet Overflow, it’s important to clean it up and deal with it as soon as possible to avoid large water damage to your property. This is when professional help can be extremely useful to prevent any further damage.

If you are struggling to unblock your toilet/sewer lines & When conventional methods such as plungers and toilet augers fail, and all signs are pointing to something more serious than a standard clog or high filler float, it’s in your best interest to get in contact with a professional.

Their access to specialized equipment and training, along with knowledge of your city’s regulations concerning municipal sewer line drainage, ensure that the job will be done right without causing any damage to your plumbing and keeping your home up to code.


We have Water Damage Restoration Technicians that can help Stop the toilet Overflow, Deal with the Cause & Repair/cleanup any water Damage

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