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What is a Toilet Drain?

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  • Written By: Scott Calonico
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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A toilet drain is an opening in the subfloor of your bathroom through which all the sewage from the toilet is passed. The bowl of the toilet connects to the drain opening via a piece of metal or plastic called a "flange" or "closet flange". A pair of bolts in the flange hold the toilet bowl securely in place over the drain. A clogged drain can result from too much waste trying to exit the bowl at one time, or it could be a problem deeper in the toilet drain pipe.

The toilet drain works in tandem with several other parts of the toilet to keep it working properly. The waste line in a toilet bowl curves upward and backward before it exits into the flange opening, keeping a small amount of water trapped in the bowl to help prevent sewer gases from seeping upward from the sewer into your house. The tank at the back of the bowl connects to your home's water supply. Flushing the tank sends water out of the tank and into the bowl, where it works to carry the waste from the bowl into the toilet drain. The toilet drain pipe then runs into your home's sewer main, the pipe that carries all the sewage in your home out to the city or municipal waste system or, in more rural locations, a septic tank.

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Many people don't consider their toilet drain until trying to repair one, frequently using a plunger to try to dislodge a clog. Dish soap and hot water added to the bowl also can dislodge some clogs that a plunger alone might not resolve. If these efforts don't work, a person can insert a closet auger — basically a long tube of flexible metal with a small screw at the end and a handle at the other — into the bowl and feed it into the drain. Move the auger back and forth several times while turning the handle to try to clear the clog. The water level in the bowl should drop noticeably when the clog is cleared.

If the auger method doesn't work, the problem is likely a clog farther down the toilet drain hole, which will require a more serious version of the auger called a plumbing snake. These are heavy-duty, electric-powered versions of the closet auger. These snakes are larger than closet augers and use a pair of claws at the end to cut through obstructions. Plumbing snakes are good for clearing tree roots that can penetrate older pipes.

A plumber can look in the opening to a home's main plumbing line and, based on how the water is flowing, tell where in the plumbing the clog is likely to be. He then will snake the main line in that direction. If all else fails, the toilet drain can be "snaked" after water to the tank is turned off and the toilet is disassembled. The snake is then fed into the toilet drain and rotated by the electric motor to break up any clogs.

A person trying to keep his toilet drain free and clear of clogs should only put readily dissolvable paper goods inside. While flushable wipes are becoming more common, plumbers advise that they may not break down as quickly as standard toilet paper and could result in clogs, especially in older pipes. Feminine hygiene products can cause similar problems. Try not to use harmful chemicals to treat a clog, because these can harm pipes.

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