Constant Toilet Clogging and Back-Up

No-Hub Cast Iron Sanitary Cross

Frequent Toilet Clogging Is A Nuisance

Q:  I have a business with public toilet rooms. The women’s room is behind the men’s. They back up constantly; I’ve had my plumber out 5 times in six months to rod. He can’t seem to give me a solution.

Jim: I’m going to need for you to answer several questions for me before I can give you a possible solution. The toilet rooms are back to back. Meaning:  they fixtures share the same plumbing wall. What type of toilet paper are you using? Do you have paper towels in the bathrooms? What type of toilets are you using? i.e. flush valves, traditional tank type toilets or pressure assisted?

A:  The men’s and women’s toilets are definitely back to back. We changed the toilet paper to one ply because someone told us two ply could cause back-ups yes we have paper hand towels. The toilets are pressure assisted; because we didn’t have flush valves we thought pressure assisted toilets would take care of potential backups.

Jim: O.K. first of all ask the plumbing professional what material he brought back on the rod. I know it can be pretty gross but any plumber worth their salt can tell you they pulled back paper towels. PAPER HAND TOWELS ARE NOT MEANT TO BE FLUSHED DOWN A TOILET. They are not made to break down in a sanitary system. If that ends up being the issue post a sign if the sign doesn’t work remove them and put up an air drier. If it’s not the paper towels there is a possibility it could be women’s hygiene products. This is a difficult situation to address because no one wants to confront their employees about it and it can be an uphill battle to convince people that those products aren’t meant for the sewer system. Most think if it’s flushable it’s meant to be put in the sewer line. If it is neither the paper towels nor feminine hygiene products and it’s just simple toilet paper it’s probably time to take a look in the waste piping. There are two reasons for this, one to see if there are any breaks or abnormalities in the piping and two, to see what kind of fitting/piping configuration services the fixtures.

Let me explain why you would want this information.  A perfectly acceptable fitting to use to install a back to back toilet is a sanitary cross. Please see the picture below.

toilet clogging
You can click on the link to Charlotte’s Website for more info

The branches to the left and right have a very short sweep unlike a combo fitting pictured below.

toilet clogging

With traditional gravity flushed toilets the waste is evacuated and drains down the sweep and there are usually no issues. However quite a few commercial and retail facilities after toughing out the early 1.6 gpf toilets heard that pressure assisted toilet worked fantastic and they do but no one thought about the velocity at which these new toilets evacuated the waste. What can happen is the waste is traveling so fast that it jumps over the outlet. Picture the back to back toilets flushing the waste back and forth over the outlet until there is a major back-up. Sanitary crosses also pose a problem for rodding. Because of the rigidity of the rod and the shortness of the sweep the rod can jump over the outlet and back up into the other toilet. Even a drop head tool used to drop down the outlet can have a difficult time making the sweep. There a few ways to handle this issue and unfortunately none of them are without costs.

  1. Change the toilets from pressure assisted to gravity flush. The pressure assist toilets work great but in this application they tend to be a problem. The current batch of gravity flush toilets work pretty well so a slight drop in performance shouldn’t be too painful.
  2. Change the fitting servicing the toilets to a double combination wye and 1/8th bend. This is an expensive fix because most times walls have to be removed, concrete needs to be sawcut and removed and the waste pipe and fittings need to be excavated for the repair to be made.
  3. Change the piping configuration so that each fixture drains independently into the waste line. I actually like this fix because it permanently takes care of the issue, each toilet along the waste line can be rodded with no fear of the rod crossing over to the toilet behind it. Again as with the previous repair, wall removal, concrete sawcutting and excavation are a factor, a factor that can be expensive.


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