Informational Guide

How To Use A Toilet Auger

Plunger not quite cutting it? Follow our step-by-step guide on how to use a toilet auger to unclog a toilet fast and effectively.

by Ian Haynes

So your toilet is clogged, and the first thing you do is immediately turn to the plunger. But what if your toilet plunger just doesn’t cut it and isn’t up for the task of clearing the blockage? In that case, it might be time to resort to a toilet auger.

While most people are familiar with how to effectively use a plunger, the same can’t be said about toilet augers. Luckily, you can find out exactly how to use an auger to unclog a toilet in this complete guide, plus learn all the need-to-know DIY tips for using an auger successfully.

A toilet auger is a tool that plumbers commonly use to unclog toilets. It's just like a drain snake; only drain snakes are geared towards smaller drains like bathroom and kitchen sinks, while augers are designed for larger drains, such as toilets.

It’s constructed of a long flexible shaft usually made from metal but sometimes wood that has an auger bit at one end and a crank handle at the other.

The steps for how to use an auger on a toilet start by rotating a cable until it moves into the drain opening. For most augers, the cable is released from the bottom end of a long pole, and on the other end (at the top), there is a handle.

The position of the cable is determined by rotating this handle, and as you rotate the cable down the toilet drain, the goal is for the auger to clear the clog - or grab onto the obstruction and retrieve it to restore normal water flow.

A toilet auger, also called a "closet auger" for the old-timey phrase "water closet" that used to refer to the toilet, is specifically designed for toilets and no other drains. It’s even equipped with a rubber sleeve along the cable to protect the bowl from damage or scratches.

5 Different Types of Toilet Augers Explained

  • Cable or Drain Augers
    A cable auger utilizes a flexible, pliable cable controlled by turning a handle manually. As you turn the handle and the cable extends into the drain, the auger cable latches onto the blockage so that it can be pulled out of the toilet.
  • Flat Tape Auger
    The only real difference between a cable auger and a flat tape auger is that the flat tape type uses a flat cable rather than a pliable hose. Some are designed to push blockages all the way through the pipe, unlike cable augers which are designed to pull them out from above.
  • Power Augers
    A power auger comes with a built-in motor that eliminates the need to manually feed the cable down the drain. These are fast and efficient, but of course, they’re also more expensive. 
  • Rocket Nozzle Augers
    DIY homeowners don’t often use rocket nozzle augers. These are strictly used for commercial/professional purposes and utilize highly pressurized water to remove a toilet blockage. The water is so powerful that it essentially disintegrates everything in its path.
  • Toilet Closet Augers
    While all the previous types of augers can unclog toilets, toilet closet augers are specifically designed to do just that and nothing else. They are capable of unclogging toilet bowls with a flexible cable that can maneuver through the plumbing system to effectively remove any blockage that stands in its way.

When to Use a Toilet Auger

Don’t head to your nearest Home Depot just yet - it’s always a good idea to first try the plunger method before resorting to the steps on how to clear a toilet clog using a closet auger. Plungers are usually extremely effective, so try that before moving on to more extreme measures. 

If the plunger doesn’t work or if you know that the clog is caused by a foreign object that shouldn’t be pushed further down the drain, then it’s time to move on to the auger method.

It’s best to use a plunger first because there is a greater risk of damage when using an auger. If you do it correctly, all should be fine, but there is still a risk of damaging the porcelain or scratching the toilet bowl from mishandling an auger.

closet auger

Drain Auger vs Drain Snake: What’s the Difference?

When looking at the steps on how to use a drain snake, it’s easy to assume that a snake and auger are exactly the same. However, there is one key difference, and that is that an auger is designed for larger drains while a snake is meant for smaller ones.

Since drain snakes are smaller, they can be used to remove clogs in a variety of appliances, like shower drains, bathroom sinks, kitchen sinks, and bathtubs. They come in a variety of different sizes, whereas a toilet auger usually just comes in one size since it’s designed to fit a standard toilet

How to Use Toilet Auger: Easy DIY Steps

Before getting started on how to use a drain auger on a toilet, grab a pair of gloves. These will protect your hands as you crank the handle to move the auger cable down the drain. From there, you can follow these easy DIY steps for removing the clog on your own:

  1. 1
    Find the source of the clog - The most common type of toilet clog happens within the toilet drain and isn’t usually too far from the toilet bowl. It could be from using too much toilet paper or flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed. The other type of clog happens in the sewer system, and unfortunately, this requires professional plumbing help.
  2. 2
    Remove any visible debris - Before rotating the auger down the toilet drain, remove any accessible debris that could get in the way. This is where a heavy-duty pair of gloves comes in handy, and to make things easier, have a large bucket nearby to empty the bowl’s contents.
  3. 3
    Insert the toilet auger - Next, you’ll carefully place the auger into the toilet and push it in until the rubber elbow is resting in the crook of your toilet. There’s a rubber material lining the cable so that you don’t have to worry about it cracking the porcelain, but still, try to move carefully.
  4. 4
    Crank the handle to auger the cable into the clog - You’ll start to release the cable down the toilet drain by cranking the handle that’s located at the top of the auger. Do this slowly so that the cable can effectively push through whatever is causing the clog.
clog toilet
  1. 5
    Release the flexible cable - Try to crank the handle until the entire metal portion of the cable has gone all the way down your toilet curve. If the cable gets stuck or you start to feel resistance, don’t increase pressure. Just try to jiggle it while reversing the handle to remove the auger carefully without causing damage.
  2. 6
    Wiggle the cable inside the toilet bowl - If all goes well, the auger cable will be all the way down the toilet curve by now. Once that happens, begin to gently wiggle the cable and rotate the handle in opposite directions. This will hopefully disintegrate the clog and allow water to pass through. Remove the auger and place it with the soiled end on some newspaper or an old rag.
  3. 7
    Flush the toilet - If the clog has been successfully removed, you’ll be able to flush the toilet like usual. If not, you may need to repeat the steps listed above again.
  4. 8
    Clean and dry the auger - After being submerged in dirty toilet water, you can bet that your auger is covered in germs and debris. Keeping your gloves on, disinfect the auger by submerging it in a bucket with water and cleaning solution. Do this for about 5 minutes, then dry the auger completely to prevent rusting.
  5. 9
    Carefully inspect the toilet - Lastly, inspect the toilet carefully to make sure the clog didn’t cause any visible damage. This is also the perfect time to remove the tank lid and make sure that everything is working as it should be.

For more guidance on performing each of these steps, refer to an online video tutorial to determine how homeowners handle tough toilet clogs using an auger.

People also Ask (FAQs)

How long of a toilet auger do I need?

Toilet auger lengths vary, ranging anywhere from 3 to 6 feet. Since most clogs happen early on in the toilet drain, many homeowners choose to go with a 3-foot auger for removing clogs.

Can you use a toilet auger on a sink?

Nope, toilet augers are designed specifically to clear clogs in toilets. To clear a sink clog, you’ll either want to use a drain snake or a sink auger, also called a drum auger or canister auger.

How do I use a Ridgid toilet auger?

The Ridgid toilet auger is one of the most popular augers on the market. You can follow the general steps listed above for using it, or check out this video tutorial created by the company. 

How do I use a drum auger to unclog a toilet?

Technically, drum augers are a better solution for sink clogs because of their smaller size. If you can, try to go for a toilet-specific auger if you’re dealing with toilet clogs.

What happens if a toilet auger doesn't work?

With the first go-around, the clog might not be cleared, so you might have to go through the steps on how to use a toilet auger a few times. If that still doesn’t work, it’s time to call a plumber since the clog is most likely too far down for the auger to access. See some other methods of unclogging toilets here.

Can a drain snake break a pipe?

It’s very unlikely for a drain snake to break a pipe, but it can cause damage. If used too forcefully, the end of the snake could scratch the pipe - especially with electric drain snakes - and damage the coating.

Why does my toilet keep blocking?

If your toilet keeps clogging, Williams Comfort Air says that “frequent toilet clogs are a sign something is not right – the issue typically has to do with your plumbing, your toilet, or what goes down it. Common causes when a toilet keeps clogging include:

  • You have an older model low flow toilet
  • Items that shouldn’t be flushed have been flushed
  • Too much toilet paper use
  • The toilet trap is clogged
  • The toilet vent is blocked
  • Your sewer line is clogged."


Now that you know the complete answer to "how do you use an auger to unclog a toilet?" you won’t feel like all is lost if the plunger method fails. Even if you have yet to experience a pesky toilet clog, every homeowner should own this handy tool.

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.