Is A Broken Toilet An Emergency? Find Out Here!

Problems associated with broken toilets range anywhere from a seat that no longer fits to a cistern that refuses to fill up or flush. The degree of urgency required is determined by what is broken in or on that toilet.

Yes, a broken toilet can present a potential emergency, though you don’t need to call 911. It likely doesn’t present an immediate danger, but it can eventually present hazards to health and infrastructure from human waste and water damage. Therefore, it can require prompt intervention.

This article offers some guidance on what constitutes a broken toilet emergency and how you should react to it.

When Is A Clogged Toilet An Emergency?

A clogged toilet can be little more than an inconvenience if you are lucky, but that is only when the blockage can be cleared by yourself with a plunger, baking soda with vinegar, Epsom Salts, or a few gallons of water. 

In slightly more extreme cases, you might need something like septic tank treatment, but all of those things are easily accessible and affordable, while the implementation of the various techniques is relatively straightforward too.

If you can fix the clogged or broken toilet yourself and use it without leaks or other problems, it doesn’t need emergency intervention. But if you can’t fix it on your own and there’s human waste or water flooding, then it’s time to call somebody in.

However, there are instances when a clogged toilet can be considerably more than a minor inconvenience and can potentially destroy entire infrastructure systems. 

This is also when clogged toilets can be a very costly business, denting your appetite to take any form of responsibility for either causing the problem or rectifying the situation.

In some instances, a clogged toilet can become a significant legal issue that carries serious consequences. You need to know what you can or should avoid getting roped into.

If your toilet bowl is smashed, that might present a significantly bigger problem to you than a cistern swivel lever that is no longer operational. The seriousness of the broken toilet emergency might also depend on where you live.

If you live in a well-developed country, a dysfunctional swivel lever arm might be a bit of a nightmare. However, if you are living in a medium-income country, the absence of a swivel lever arm can quite easily be compensated for by just removing the lid of the cistern and flushing the toilet “manually.”

Who Is Responsible For A Broken Toilet?

Landlords are generally expected to be directly responsible for any plumbing issue and maintenance required, including keeping a toilet fully functional. However, any legal obligations for the landlord are usually determined by where you live. 

This can vary from country to country, state to state, and even county to county.

The cause of the broken toilet can also determine responsibility for a broken toilet. If it is merely a maintenance issue, it is something that the landlord will likely need to resolve. 

However, if you flush something down the toilet that should not have been flushed, that is likely on you. Likewise, if you break a toilet bowl in a drunken rage, or anything resembling one, that will also be on you.

The basic rule is this. If the toilet is broken because of general misuse, the landlord is usually absolved from all costs associated with fixing the damaged toilet. However, your landlord will probably still oversee most of those toilet repairs.

What To Do If Your Toilet Is Broken

The most rational thing to do if you don’t have a functional toilet is to ask a neighbor or a friend if you could use their toilet while you fix yours.

The most likely scenarios that would warrant using another household’s toilet are:

  • A toilet that doesn’t flush
  • A water outage or broken water lines
  • A broken sewer system

All three of these scenarios (and others like them) will invariably require external interventions, which means there is no immediate fix because you cannot simply use something around the household to address the dysfunctional toilet. 

If you are not patient enough to wait for your external interventions to yield meaningful results, you might need to look at something more drastic, like modifying your toilet so that you will be able to collect waste without flushing. This is not meant to be a permanent solution.


A crude but effective method is to line a plastic bag on the inside of your toilet bowl. Hold it in place by trapping the top of the plastic bag between the seat and the toilet bowl – similar to what you would do with a trash bag in the kitchen. 

Once you are done, you can remove the bag and safely dispose of your waste.

If, for whatever reason, you cannot pull this off, you can go back to your roots and dig a hole in the ground so that you can squat. If you have to go down that route, you must ensure the hole is dug on dry land, away from wells, streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. 

You can only use those holes once, so it would also be prudent to mark where you dug up your last hole so that you don’t dig up your waste again.

If you live in an area where there are regular earthquakes, plumbing, sewer systems, and septic tanks might get damaged a lot. People living in those areas already have access to a TwinBucket Emergency Toilet, an excellent alternative even for people outside of disaster-prone areas.

What To Do If Your Toilet’s Just Clogged

If it turns out that your toilet is merely clogged, there are some options available to you within the household. That would include: 

  • Using a plunger to unblock your toilet
  • Using a septic tank treatment chemical to dissolve toilet paper that might be causing the clog
  • Use vinegar and baking soda to dissolve any toilet paper that might be causing the clog
  • Use several gallons of water to dissolve toilet paper that might be responsible for the clog

If any of these initial interventions fail to yield positive results, it would be prudent of you to get in touch with your landlord or building owner (if it is a rental). At this point, it would seem plausible that you are dealing with a large-scale infrastructure issue. 

There might be a problem with the septic tank and broken pipes. Both are things that would require the help of a professional. If your septic system fails, your point of departure would be to contact an accredited septic tank professional on a national register

If you get the sense that there might be a larger environmental issue at play here, you might also need to contact your local health department for guidance on combatting the potential crises.

It is also quite possible that the matter will get so serious that lawyers and other mediators are brought into the equation. 

Fixing a broken toilet system can turn into a costly and dangerous business, and you need to make sure that you are on the right side of the fight if other parties are involved or affected. There is always somebody to blame in these circumstances.

How Do I Know If I Need A Professional Plumber For My Toilet?

You should call a plumber for your toilet if it is still blocked after trying to unclog it. If you fail to unclog your toilet with a plunger, you could still look at throwing more buckets of water at the problem and play the waiting game, hoping that the water will dissolve the toilet paper.

If more water does not do the trick, you could still experiment with household items like Epsom Salts, Baking Soda, and Vinegar. If all of those fail, you can take more drastic steps by going to your local DIY store and purchasing strong and corrosive materials that might help dissolve the toilet paper and anything else contributing to your clogged toilet.

If it becomes apparent that the chemicals aren’t doing the trick, fixing your toilet will no longer be a DIY problem but rather an emergency requiring trained plumbers’ intervention.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Plumber?

Your location determines how much you pay to get a plumber. In Beverly Hills, you could pay anything between $59 and $77 per hour for a plumber. In Michigan, a plumber can cost you as little as $50 and as much as $200 per hour. 

Sometimes it will be a little more or a little less. It all hinges on how much work you will need to do with your clogged toilet and septic tank.


A broken toilet only becomes an emergency once you are no longer able to fix the problem or if you cannot fix the problem in good time. When a broken toilet becomes an emergency, your health, that of your family, and that of your community are on the line. 

When a broken toilet becomes an emergency, external help is usually required, and that help usually comes at a high cost. 

When a broken toilet becomes an emergency, you need to find a long-term solution to the problem, but equally important is being able to find an interim solution to the problem, to limit the scale of the emergency.