Becoming a parent means that you will find yourself in a whole new range of gross situations. Many of these will involve a diaper. Some of them will involve trying to figure out how to get a diaper out of the toilet.
Getting a diaper out of the toilet, even if it has been flushed and clogged, can usually be accomplished by reaching in with a gloved hand to pull it out. If the diaper is deeper inside the toilet you will need to use a coat hanger, grabbing tool, auger, or plunger to free the clog. Worst case, you will have to pull the toilet or call a plumber.
If you are reading this right now then you probably have a diaper stuck in your toilet and you should keep reading to find out how to fix it. If you are a parent reading this that doesn’t have this problem then you might as well keep reading because it is bound to happen sometime! For all of you DIY dads (or moms!) I’ll cover what you’ll need to do starting with the easiest solutions and ending with the toughest.
Steps for getting a diaper out of the toilet
When it comes to flushing things down the toilet every situation will be a little different. With most ‘natural’ clogs (need I say more?) you’ll normally be able to get by with a strong plunger to clear the clog and carry on with the rest of your day.
The problem with flushing a diaper down the toilet is that it won’t break apart so easily. Add to that the fact that they are literally designed to expand when they absorb water and you can see how you wouldn’t want to leave a diaper in your sewer system.
Since we don’t want the diaper to move into the mainline if possible, our top priority is actually to pull the diaper back out rather than just trying to plunge it down or break it up.
With that being said, here are the steps I would take to try and minimize any potential damage or further problems while we are trying to get the diaper out of the toilet:
1. Evaluate the situation
First, take a look and see what you are working with.
Don’t forget that even if a diaper did get flushed, there might not be a problem at all if the toilet doesn’t appear to be clogged. If the trap and piping on your toilet is large and you have a big enough waste pipe then the diaper might have traveled all the way through and already be flowing down the mainline towards your local sewage treatment facility.
If that’s the case, just flush the toilet a few times to be sure that there isn’t a clog.
For clogged toilets:
Ideally, you will have clean water inside your toilet bowl and the diaper will be clearly visible. This will make things much quicker and cleaner.
If you are dealing with dirty water in the bowl and can’t see where the diaper might be hiding, it would be a good idea to try and get rid of some of the extra water. Be sure to wear gloves and other protective gear if you are handling dirty toilet water so that you are exposing yourself to as few germs as possible.
I would recommend, at the very least, long rubber gloves and safety glasses. It’s probably also a good idea to have some cleaning products (like bleach!) standing by.
2. Try to pull the diaper out by hand
Once you have your safety gear on and you see that the diaper is visible you’ll just need to reach in there and grab it.
Of course, if someone flushed the toilet then the diaper could have traveled deeper into the trap of the toilet. If that’s the case, make sure your gloves are long and try to stick your hand into the pipe to feel for the diaper.
I know this sounds totally gross, by the way, but this guy managed to get it done and saved himself a lot of hassle in the long run! Extra points for who I presume to be his wife and daughter hanging around for emotional support!
As you can see, it took a bit of work but he was able to reach the diaper and pull it out with his (bare!) hands.
3. Use a coat hanger or tool to grab the diaper out
If the diaper isn’t visible or you can’t reach it by sticking your hand in then you’ll need to move onto the next step. At this point, it would be great if you had a small, flexible claw-grabber.
Even if you don’t have one, I would recommend picking one up because they are SUPER handy for grabbing things that have fallen into places your hands can’t reach – think nuts and bolts while changing the oil or a wedding ring down the sink drain (don’t ask me how I know about this one!). Anyway, you can pick up a cheap one on Amazon that should last you forever.
For those of you without a grabber tool, look for a metal coat hanger and use a pair of pliers to pull it apart and straighten it out.
Once you have your tool of choice, slowly extend it into the drain hole of the toilet and wait for it to bump into something soft and diaper-like. Be warned that your toilet might have a couple of sharp turns pretty close to the entrance so you might have to bend your hanger or do some twisting and angling to get deeper into the toilet.
After you’ve made contact, either grab it with the claw-grabber or apply pressure and twist with the hanger. Once you have it attached, slowly pull the diaper out of the toilet and release the clog.
If you can’t get your tool to make the turns or just plain can’t reach the diaper then move on to the next step.
4. Use a toilet or closet auger to pull the diaper out or break it up
At this point, my advice will start to depend on whether or not you’ve flushed a disposable diaper in the toilet or a cloth diaper.
While not the best scenario to wish for, you’ll probably want to find a toilet auger or closet auger and try to either pull the diaper out or break it up. These augers basically have a spiral spring on the end that will allow it to burrow into whatever is blocking the toilet as you twist it. They are better than the wire hanger though because they can extend pretty far down the drain and the rotating motion helps it take the turns as it goes. Once it’s burrowed enough, you’ll have more leverage to pull it back out of the toilet.
Worst case, you’ll just rip into the diaper and release all of the absorbent material on the inside. Once that’s gone the diaper will be much slimmer and will likely pass through the pipe on its own. That’s why we didn’t just jump straight to this – we want to keep the diaper together if possible.
Check out this video to see how to use the auger:
You’ll follow the same advice above, but if you can’t pull the diaper out with the auger then you will probably have to skip to step 7 because you aren’t likely to be able to break a heavy-duty cloth diaper down enough to get it to pass through.
5. Plunge the toilet to force the pieces down the line
If you can’t locate the disposable diaper with the auger because it’s too far down the line or just can’t seem to break through with it enough to rip the diaper apart then I would try the plunger.
The reason I’ve waited this long to recommend using a plunger, especially when it’s usually the first thing I go to with plumbing issues, is that we really don’t want to try and force the diaper further down the line if we don’t have to.
That being said, sometimes you just need a little extra pressure to get a clog to pass through the line. Since sewage system lines typically get bigger as you go further down, forcing it through the smaller piping in your bathroom is still an option.
Most people probably have a plunger lying around and hopefully, you already know how to use it. If not, check out the video below to get a brief rundown on the basics of how to use a plunger:
6. Try a test flush
Hopefully, at this point, you have cleared the clog and the water has drained out of the bowl. If it has, then go ahead and give your toilet a couple of test flushes to make sure that the clog is fully gone and that you’ve swept away all of the bits and pieces that might be lingering around.
If the clog is still there, then you’ll have to move on to the next step which is definitely a bigger job than anything else so far.
7. As a last resort, pull the toilet or call the plumber
If you’ve made it through all of the first steps and you still have a clogged toilet then it might be time to give up and call a plumber. Personally, I would pull the toilet and try to attack the drain line from there (or get the diaper out of the toilet itself if it was still stuck in there) but that might be beyond the realm of many DIY plumbers.
To pull the toilet, you’ll need to empty all of the water out that you can first because it will drain out and make a huge mess. From there, it’s usually just a couple of bolts holding the toilet to the floor. Be warned that you’ll need to purchase a new wax seal before you reinstall the toilet to make sure that it doesn’t leak down the road.
Here is a pretty good tutorial that will walk you through the basic process:
I hope that you’ve gotten some value from the information here today. As a bit of a DIY dad I’m always on the lookout for ways to do things myself so I can save money and learn a new skill along the way!
Hopefully, your children will never make you learn this skill like mine did!