How to Stop a Toilet From Overflowing

How to stop a toilet from overflowing is an important skill that every homeowner, renter, landlord, and everyone else should know!

No need to call in the Pros and pay a ton of money when you can fix an overflowing toilet yourself.

Read below on our tried and true methods for stopping a toilet from overflowing FAST!

how to stop a toilet from overflowing
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How to Stop a Toilet From Overflowing

If you’ve got a sh*tty mess on your hands or maybe the kids flushed some toys down the ol’ poop shoot the last thing you need is an overflowing toilet.  

It’s never predictable and always happens at the WORST time!  How to fix your toilet overflowing needs to be done FAST to keep nasty toilet water from flooding your bathroom and maybe even your home.

Before grabbing your toilet auger, you will need to stop the flow of water.  Read on for our tips to save your bathroom!

Make sure whatever you do, don’t flush the toilet!  The toilet bowl could overflow and all of that toilet water will end up on your bathroom floor.  Gross.

How to Stop a Toilet From Overflowing : Simple Steps

Stop an Overflowing Toilet FAST

#1. Turn off the water valve behind the toilet

#2. Make sure the flapper in the tank is CLOSED

#3. Lift up the Float Arm inside the tank

#4. Unclog Toilet with a toilet auger or a plunger

Since you’re probably in a pinch, let’s get right to the nitty gritty about how you fix a toilet that is overflowing.

The first step is to turn OFF the water supply to the toilet.  Behind or maybe beside the toilet, there is a tap/valve with a line from the wall directly to your toilet tank.  That tap turns the water on and off which fills your toilet tank.  Bend down, reach over, and shut the water off.  This will keep anymore water from going into your toilet tank.  If for some reason the water tap is stuck, move quickly onto step 2.

Our second step is to remove the top off of your toilet tank, be careful, it’s heavier than you think. Don’t drop it, place it gently on the floor.  Then, look into your tank and look for the black or beige rubber flapper that is on the very bottom of your toilet tank.  It will be covering the hole in the bottom of your tank.  Push the flapper down until the hole is covered and water stops flowing into your bowl.  If it’s messed up or won’t go down for some reason, move onto step 3.  If your flapper is bent out of shape, cracked, or old, you may need to replace it.

In step three, you will have to grab the float that is sticking out into the middle of the bowl.  It’s basically a big black rubber ball attached to a metal or plastic arm called a float. Sometimes it’s just a metal rod with a hook and chain through it, that goes down to the flapper. It rises as the water fills your toilet tank.  Once the float reaches the top of the tank, water stops flowing into your toilet bowl.  Pull that float up.   What that does is tell your toilet that the bowl is full of water and it will stop draining the water from the tank into the bowl.  

Since no more water can get into the bowl, your overflow in the bowl should stop right away.  Secure the float so that it doesn’t move using a hanger, some wire, or some duct tape, even the kids can help by holding it up for you so you can fix the toilet.

Next you WILL have to figure out what is clogging up your toilet and remove that clog, or else your toilet will just keep overflowing anytime someone uses it.

What is a Toilet Float?

Red Arrow Pointing at the Toilet Ball Float Source: Family Handyman

A toilet float is a mechanism inside your toilet that determines how much water should be in your tank. When you flush the toilet, the flapper opens allowing water out, and the float sinks inside the tank.

When the tank starts to fill up, the float lifts up and once it reaches the proper fill level, the filling valve will shut down. The float makes sure that your tank doesn’t overflow with water.

There are two types of floats: a ball or a cup float. Most toilets I’ve seen have a ball float, which is basically a big ball on the end of a metal rod that rises and falls with the water level.

Fixing Your Toilet: How to Fix an Overflowing Toilet

How do you fix a toilet that keeps overflowing?  Why does your toilet keep overflowing?  SIMPLE: you have a clog.  Somewhere in your toilet line, there is something stuck, or the pipes have gathered a ton of gunk.  Either way, a toilet auger is the tool you need to fix your toilet that keeps overflowing by unclogging the toilet drain line.  

A toilet auger is also the best way to prevent future overflows.  Our favorite toilet augers are tested and reviewed by us in this post HERE.  There’s one for every budget.  Save yourself cash on hiring Pros, especially since your toilet always clogs on the weekend, holidays, or in the middle of the night!

Can a Bad Flapper Cause a Toilet to Overflow?

The flapper in your toilet is a piece of rubber that lifts up when you flush, allowing the water in the tank to flush your toilet and escape down the drain. A bad flapper won’t cause your toilet to overflow because it lets water out of your toilet. But, a bad flapper might be the cause of your toilet running. Or, it may cause you to be unable to flush your toilet. You can buy flappers and replace them yourself super easy. Here is a how to video on getting that done yourself.

What causes a Toilet to Overflow

Why is my toilet overflowing when I Flush? Toilets overflow because there is a clog in the line where the dirty used water needs to go. If it can’t go down the drain, it comes right up and overflows from the toilet bowl. Read how to prevent future toilet clogs below.

What Plunger do I Use for Which Clogs?

SinkSink Drains

Toilet Clog Prevention

Here are some tips to prevent future toilet clogs:

  • Don’t flush too much TP down the toilet at once
  • Flush multiple times during a big poop
  • Watch that the kids don’t flush anything
  • Don’t flush any wipes down the toilet. It doesn’t matter if they say they are “flushable”. They aren’t. Most of my service calls are for this issue.
  • Clean out your pipes twice per year with a toilet auger
  • Don’t flush cat litter: it turns into cement in your pipes
  • Don’t flush paper towel
  • Don’t flush large feminine hygiene products
  • Grease should be poured into a container and thrown out, not down your toilet

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How to Stop a Toilet from Overflowing Video

Here is a step by step video for those visual learners on how to stop the toilet from overflowing.

How to Stop a Toilet From Running

  • Check that the flapper is in good shape and forming a seal in the toilet tank
  • Make sure that the float is lifting up properly
  • Make sure that the chain or mechanism is properly attached to the flapper
  • Make sure that your tank and toilet aren’t cracked or leaking any water, if yes, replace them right away

How do You Unclog a Toilet when the water is high?

Whatever you do, don’t flush the toilet. Make sure that the water is turned off to the toilet and that the flapper is closed and the float is up (secure it in the upwards position if you have to). These things will keep any more water from coming into the toilet. If the water is just too high to plunge without getting water everywhere, then you’ll have to get a bucket and scoop enough water out of the bowl so that you can work on the clog with a plunger or a toilet auger.


How to stop a toilet from overflowing isn’t hard, but requires some quick thinking on your part.  Now that you have our handy tips, you are sure to be able to deal with your next toilet emergency smoothly.


What to Do if Your Toilet keeps overflowing?

Check the flapper and the float are in good shape and working properly. If they are, then you’ve got a clog that you’ll need to work through with a toilet auger.

My toilet is overflowing but I don’t see a clog

Bad news my friend, if your toilet tank parts are working properly, you’ve got a clog. You can’t see it because the clog is located down the pipes, out of sight.

How to stop a toilet from overflowing without a plunger

After you’ve checked that the flapper, valves and float are in good shape, then you have a clog that can be removed with either hot water (short term remedy) or a toiler auger. Your toilet will back up again if you don’t take care of it.