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  • Jolly Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

What To Do If Your Toilet is Overflowing

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

If there’s one thing you should be able to count on, it’s that the toilet should flush properly when you need it to. But life isn’t fair, toilets clog, and to make matters worse, they can overflow.

Preventing raw sewage from spilling over onto your bathroom floor can be fail-safe, but only if you know what to do and have the proper tools at arm’s reach. It helps if you already know how a toilet works. If your toilet is prone to clogs, or if you just want to be prepared for the worst, this emergency protocol is critical.


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Stop the Toilet Leak at the Source

No matter the cause, if a toilet is overflowing, the most urgent action is to stop the flow of water into the bowl. In many bathrooms, the best place to do this is at the toilet’s main shutoff valve.

You can probably see a water line leading from your bathroom wall to the toilet, as well as a hand-crank valve somewhere along that line. If you don’t see this hardware, it’s possible that your toilet’s valve is hidden behind wall or floor tiles, in which case you should talk to a plumber near you about modifications to provide this access or even a new toilet installation. Short of shutting off the main valve to your home, the toilet valve is the only way to fully stop the flow of water.

Closing the valve when an overflow is imminent will stop the bowl from filling and grant you all the time you need to clear the clog or a running toilet. Besides accessing it, actually turning the valve can be challenging when it matters most. Since this valve usually stays open, often for years, it can be sticky and may even rust in an open position.

Be proactive and give your toilet valve a few turns back and forth today. If it’s stubborn, spray it with a little lubricant until it turns freely. Going forward, close and reopen the valve every time you clean your bathroom. It only takes a couple of seconds, and it will help make sure you can close the valve in another plumbing emergency.

The Backup Plan

If your toilet is actively overflowing and you can’t get the shutoff valve to budge, your next stop should be the inside of the toilet tank. Carefully remove the lid and set it aside.

The first part to check is the flapper - usually a hinged rubber disc covering a hole at the bottom of the tank. If the flapper is open, reach in and close it manually. This should stop the flow of water. It may also be why you hear a hissing sound coming from your toilet.

If the flapper is not open, or if it won’t stay closed manually, find the float ball. This is the component that floats on the surface of the water and stops the tank from filling at a certain level. If you manually lift the float ball to the top of the tank, the water will shut off.

This can create a precarious predicament if no one is home to help you. If lowering the float ball causes water to continue flowing into the bowl, you may need to prop the float ball up or hold it in place while you fight with the shutoff valve with your spare hand. As always, our local Colorado Springs plumbers can help with all of these plumbing services.

What Causes the Toilet to Backup and Overflow?

Most homeowners know that there are certain items you simply cannot flush down the toilet. You should only put toilet paper down the toilet. Despite that knowledge, as the COVID-19 crisis grew larger and many people started hoarding toilet paper, the situation in your bathroom may have become more desperate. Of course, we are all guilty of flushing something we know shouldn’t be flushed on occasion, but it’s still good to be reminded of what products are okay to flush, and what products are not. Even if there is no toilet paper available, you are better off using some form of thin paper product than backing up the whole plumbing system and risking a small flood. Below are some items to never flush down the toilet.


Even if the packaging says ‘flushable’ wipes of any kind are notorious for causing huge plumbing backups in homes across the country. Wipes are not made from a material that breaks up upon contact with water, at least not immediately. If enough of them get trapped in your plumbing it could create a serious clog.

Feminine Products

Products like pads and tampons should never be flushed down the toilet on account of one very simple thing: they absorb water. If you can imagine something traveling through the pipes of your home that continues to expand the more water it absorbs it becomes obvious why plumbers are dispatched so often to clear these types of products from plumbing lines. Though it may seem less sanitary, you are much better off throwing feminine products in the trash.


This is a big misconception people are fed from movies, TV shows, or even bad advice from friends. If you have old prescription medications or vitamins around don’t flush them down the toilet. Not only does standard toilet water not break down the tablets properly, but it can also actually get into the water supply and become dangerous in high enough quantities. If you have a medication that is expired or you are no longer using contact the physician that prescribed it to you so they can advise you on how to dispose of it.


Like other items on this list, hair is not water-soluble at all, meaning it will gather together in a clump and never dissolve. Next time you are shaving or trimming your hair, spread out a towel so that all the clippings fall onto the towel then you can throw everything away at once.


This is a product that has been used to clean bathrooms for decades because of its disinfectant qualities and the ability to get stains off of white surfaces. It may be your go-to product to clean the toilet, but you may be surprised to find out it’s actually extremely harsh on your home plumbing system and septic tank if you have one. Next time you are scrubbing and disinfecting the toilet, try to use an alternative product or regular white vinegar for cleaning.

Get Things Flowing

Once the overflow has been prevented, the final step is to clear the clog. If you have a toilet plunger, preferably one with a toilet flange, that should be your go-to tool. If you don’t have one, pick one up today -- a clogged toilet is more a matter of “when” than “if”.

And for clogs that you just can’t clear, or for any other plumbing emergencies, the most fail-safe option of all is to contact a licensed, local plumber.

Contact an Experienced Colorado Springs Plumber Near You

Here at Jolly Plumbing, we are experts in Colorado Springs bathroom remodeling services. We specialize in bathroom remodeling, commercial bathroom remodeling, and plumbing remodels, so you can have a lifetime partner in the plumbing industry from start to finish. We have been in the plumbing and heating business since 1955 and stand by our excellent reputation.

Whether you need to fix a leaky toilet, Colorado Springs bathroom remodel or a commercial bathroom remodeling, Jolly Plumbing can handle any job, any size. We service both residential water heaters as well as commercial water heaters, which means you get the same great customer service whether you are a Colorado Springs homeowner or a local business that requires more water capacity to serve your customers.


Colorado Springs Plumbing Service Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I hired Jolly Plumbing to take care of a small leak and verify that there were no other leaks. One of their competitors did work in the house before we bought it and failed to properly secure one connection. They sent over Adam who has over 20 years of plumbing experience. Adam's father was a plumber, so this guy grew up in the business and really knows his stuff. Their charge was reasonable and I felt like Adam really had our best interest in mind. If you need an honest plumbing service, I recommend giving these guy a try. - Merlin L. on Google. ​


Jolly Plumbing is your local plumbing and heating company. We promise to offer you upstanding customer service, experienced workers, and a job done right the first time. If you have questions about your water heater, have a leak, or need a replacement, we are here to help. Call Jolly Plumbing today for a water heater inspection.

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