Toilet Gurgling: What It Means (And How to Fix It)

Why Does My Toilet Gurgle?|Clogged Toilet Causing a Gurgle|A Blocked Vent Stack Causes Your Toilet to Gurgle|

Why Does My Toilet Gurgle?

The gurgling toilet: A typical sound or a cry for help from your pipes? Unfortunately, it’s the latter.

A weird, rumbling sound, whether it’s randomly or after you flush, means there’s a problem somewhere in your plumbing system. It’s tough to tell just from that whether the situation is minor or will require major work.

But, that sound is a start.

What Causes a Toilet to Gurgle?

The cause of your toilet gurgling is a blocked line somewhere. A clog is creating negative air pressure, Instead of air flowing through the lines,the air pushes back and causes the gurgling sound. Sometimes, you’ll also see the toilet water bubble. This happens when:

  • The toilet or drain line is clogged
  • Your vent stack is blocked
  • There’s a mainline or sewer line problem

In this post, we’ll look at the causes for a toilet gurgling. We’ll also go over which you can fix your can fix yourself, which require a professional — and which may not be your responsibility at all.

A Clogged Toilet Causes a Gurgle

Clogged Toilet Causing a Gurgle

The easiest problem is simply a clogged toilet. When the air gets pushed back, you’ll hear the gurgle.

That makes this a good place to start. That’s especially so if you don’t notice a problem anywhere else in the house. With any luck, you can fix this yourself.

Give it ten or fifteen good plunges. If the clog is close to the surface, this should dislodge it.

If it doesn’t, try a snake or auger, if you have one and you’re handy. A decent auger costs up to $300, so weigh that against the cost of calling out a plumber.

After that, it’s time to call in a professional.

What not to flush

A quick note about clogs: You can avoid them by not flushing anything that won’t immediately disintegrate. This includes paper towels, tissues, feminine products, cigarette butts, and even wipes that say “flushable.”

For the record, all that means is they won’t come back up when you flush. It doesn’t mean the items won’t cause a problem down the line — literally.

A Blocked Vent Stack Causes Your Toilet to Gurgle

A Blocked Vent Stack Causes Your Toilet to GurgleThe vent stack is the vertical pipe leading to your roof. It helps control your plumbing’s air pressure and also releases exhaust gas. But, it’s meant to be an open channel at all times — not even water flows through them.

So, when it’s blocked, you’re getting that negative pressure again. You may also notice some slow draining around the house or a smelly, gassy sewer odor.

Common culprits here are leaves or animal nests. Sometimes it’s a rodent or small carcass.

Whatever the reason, you’ve got to clear it out. And, most times, it’s not something you can do yourself.

First of all, you’ll have to get up on the roof. If you’re comfortable with that, carefully take a peek. With any luck, there’s just a nest or clog near the top of the vent that you can clear out.

From there, we could talk about snaking the line. But, at that point, you’re better off calling in a professional.

Mainline or Drain Line Clogs Cause Toilets to Gurgle

Bad news/good news: If your toilet is gurgling due to a water main problem, there’s no way you can fix it yourself. However, it may be your town’s responsibility, not yours.

The physics here are the same: There’s a blockage in the pipe. Negative pressure forces air to return through the channel from where it came. This causes gurgles. Maybe bubbles.

The difference is where the clog is located.

Now, in this case, you may see some other signs around the house. Other drains may back up, for instance. Or, you might flush and notice water back up in a shower.

In these cases, the blockage is way too far to reach with any consumer tools. You’ll need a professional. Before we go further, however, let’s make a distinction.

Mainline vs. drain line

The difference between a drain line and mainline is: Drain lines are the lines in your houses that various fixtures use to channel water outside. The mainline leads all that wastewater, collectively, to the municipal connection.

Making the distinction is important for a few reasons.

First, a mainline clog is harder to get to — and so more expensive to fix. Second, these also require more work. A lot of times, it requires digging outside your home to get to it.

So how can you tell the difference? Well, if the clog affects the whole house, it’s likely the mainline. Another sign is if the downstairs is clogged and you a toilet gurgles somewhere else in the house.

Meanwhile, a drain line clog on the second floor only affects that area. Same with a first-floor drain line: If the upstairs is ok, then it’s probably not the mainline.

In either case, you’ll need a professional. For the mainline, we send a camera down to find the blockage. With a drain line, we’ll probably take out a toilet and go in that way.

That leaves one more problem — that could be someone else’s to solve.

Municipal Sewer Line Clog

The last possibility for a toilet gurgle is a municipal sewer line clog — although, at this point, you’re probably noticing other problems, too.

The difference here, however, is that this is your town’s responsibility to fix, not yours. This is the line that leads that wastewater away from the house. Your mainline dumps into this. So do the lines coming from other homes.

So, if you think it’s the municipal line, ask your neighbors if they’re experiencing similar problems. If so, call your township, borough, or water company.

If it’s not, however, then it’s up to you to get the line cleared. And, on the Jersey shore, Broadley’s is the place to call. We’ve been in business for nearly a century, and offer emergency plumbing repairs, drain line service, maintenance, and more.