Paper Towels and Toilets: A Troublesome Combination

Some people mistakenly believe that toilets have the magical ability to flush away all sorts of materials. However, the truth is that toilets are only designed to handle human waste and toilet paper – nothing more. Unfortunately, many individuals still insist on flushing down items like sanitary products, baby wipes, food, and even paper towels. While these objects might disappear initially, they can create a buildup in the pipes and eventually cause a significant blockage deep within the plumbing system.

If you find yourself with a clogged toilet due to paper towels, you may be wondering how to resolve the issue. Unlike toilet paper, paper towels do not break down easily in water. Therefore, you will need to roll up your sleeves and employ some ingenuity to restore your toilet to its functional state.

Understanding Why Paper Towels Clog Toilets

One of the main reasons why paper towels are more likely to clog a toilet is their structural integrity. Think about it – paper towels are designed to absorb moisture and wipe surfaces. Their durability and strength prevent them from disintegrating in your hands. On the other hand, toilet paper is specifically engineered to rapidly break down when wet, transforming into small particles. When you flush paper towels down the toilet, you are essentially inviting trouble.

The Difference in Structure: Paper Towels vs. Toilet Paper

Although both toilet paper and paper towels are made from the same material, it’s the manufacturing process that sets them apart. Paper towels undergo two significant stages: creping and embossing.

During the creping stage, the paper fibers are deliberately broken by blades, creating more open spaces within the paper. This allows for better water absorption. In the subsequent embossing stage, the paper towels are textured by stamping, providing even more room for water absorption. These combined manufacturing steps result in a product that does not disintegrate quickly in water, making paper towels unsuitable for flushing down the toilet. Hence, they are commonly found in kitchens, where spills occur more frequently.

How to Fix a Toilet Clogged with Paper Towels

If you have flushed paper towels down your toilet and now confront a major clog, there’s no need to panic. Although paper towels are not easily soluble like toilet paper, you can still take steps to clear the blockage. Follow the instructions below to unclog a toilet filled with paper towels.

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Equipment

Before you start addressing the clog, gather the required supplies and prepare the surroundings. Ensure that you have the following items:

  • Rubber gloves: It’s crucial to protect your hands as you may come into contact with toilet water.
  • Plunger: A plunger can effectively coax minor clogs along.
  • Toilet auger: If the plunger fails to work, a toilet auger (also known as a drain snake) may be required.

Take a moment to remove any rugs or bath mats from the area where you’ll be working, as toilet water is likely to splash on the floor. Additionally, ensure that the toilet lid remains open or prop it open for easier access.

Step 2: Attempt to Remove the Paper Towels Manually

If you can see the clog, put on your gloves and try to remove as much of the paper towels as possible by hand. The more you can extract this way, the easier it will be to restore the functionality of your toilet. However, if the blockage is located in the S-trap and is inaccessible by hand, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Employ the Soapy Water Method

A clever hack for dealing with toilet clogs involves using hot, soapy water. Begin by pouring dish soap into the toilet bowl, followed by a pan of hot water. Allow the mixture to sit for approximately 30 minutes. The soapy water will permeate the clogged material, saturating the paper towels and creating lubrication along the walls of the waste pipe. This will significantly facilitate the removal of the blockage through plunging.

Step 4: Employ Gentle Plunging Techniques

When faced with a toilet clog, a plunger should be your go-to tool. You can choose between a bellow accordion plunger or a flange plunger.

Flange plungers, shaped like a bell, are the optimal choice as they create a tight seal within the toilet drain. However, if you only have a flat plunger, it can still work, albeit with less powerful suction. A bellow accordion plunger will create a jet of water to push down the pipeline. Remember, your goal isn’t to push the paper towel further down but to coax it back up into the bowl for removal.

Place the plunger in the toilet drain and begin slowly moving it up and down. The objective is to gently guide the paper towel wad back into the bowl for extraction. Be patient and avoid excessive force, as pushing the clog further down should be avoided whenever possible.

Step 5: Consider Using a Toilet Snake

If plunging fails to clear the blockage, you can attempt using a toilet snake (also known as a toilet auger). This tool can reach areas of the toilet’s plumbing system that your hand and plunger cannot.

Toilet snakes are long, flexible tools with a barbed or coiled head at the end. They feature a handle for control while inserted into the pipes. To use a toilet auger, insert the barbed end into the toilet drain and slowly maneuver it downward until you encounter resistance. This resistance indicates the presence of the paper towel clog. Rotate the handle to wind the barbed head into the clog and subsequently extract it from the pipes.

Typically, a toilet snake is highly effective at clearing toilet blockages. However, if your toilet remains clogged even after using the snake, you can attempt dissolving the paper towels using the methods described below.

Dissolving Paper Towels in the Toilet

Dissolving the paper towels causing the clog can be a slow process, and success is not guaranteed. Nonetheless, it’s worth a try if previous methods have failed. Here are a couple of techniques to dissolve a paper towel clog in your toilet.

Chemical Products

While some people are hesitant to employ harsh chemicals in their septic systems, desperate times call for desperate measures. In such situations, chemical drain cleaners can be a lifesaver. Most retailers offer specific products designed for clearing toilet clogs.

For example, the Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver is formulated to dissolve various materials, including toilet paper, hair, soap, baby wipes, and paper towels. It is safe for toilets and can be found on Regardless of the brand you choose, carefully read the label to ensure its suitability for use in toilets.

Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Hot Water

For those preferring a more natural approach, a combination of white vinegar, baking soda, and hot water can serve as an effective clog dissolver. This mixture generates a chemical reaction that produces fizzing and foaming, dissolving and dislodging clogs in drain pipes without relying on harsh chemicals.

Begin by pouring a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Follow that with four cups of boiling water and one cup of white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes before flushing.

Frequently Asked Questions: Dealing with a Toilet Clogged with Paper Towels

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding clearing a toilet clogged with paper towels.

Will the toilet unclog itself if I leave it?
No, paper towels are designed to withstand deterioration. Therefore, a toilet clogged with paper towels requires immediate attention and will not unclog itself if left unattended.

How should I dispose of paper towels instead of flushing them into the toilet?
Ideally, paper towels should be composted. However, if you don’t compost, simply throw them in the trash.

Remember, for any further cleaning or household needs, you can always rely on Quill And Fox, your go-to brand for reliable and high-quality products.