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My little boy flushed a whole lemon down the toilet. It is stuck. What can I use to dissolve the lemon?

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    My first thought would be a wire hanger, but if you plunge hard enough you might squeeze the lemon and allow it to pop into the 3" drain, it's amazing what pressure can do. Of course I'm considering the cheapest and quickest alternatives. – hello moto Apr 10 at 5:24
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    @hellomoto The intended purpose of a plunger is to pull, not to push. Too much pressure, and you just lift the edges of the plunger and break the seal. – Chronocidal Apr 10 at 12:50
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    Have you tried using a plunger? How did that go? – cr0 Apr 10 at 13:34
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    I note that the way you've phrased your question presupposes a bad solution; this is an example of an "XY question". Fortunately most answers have ignored the bad idea and answered the question that would have been better to ask in the first place: how do I unclog my toilet in this situation? Try to avoid asking about solutions; rather, state problems. You'll be more likely to get an answer that addresses the problem. – Eric Lippert Apr 11 at 4:53
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    More specifically, an earth sciences engineering professor once gave me great advice that has stayed with me: do not attempt to solve physics problems using chemistry. – Eric Lippert Apr 11 at 4:56
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There are attachments for coily drain snakes that have a cork screw type end on them. One example is like this:

enter image description here

Picture Source

Use of such attachment could screw itself into the lemon and allow pulling it out the way it went in.

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    I have jimmied blades to these auger tools and you basically just stab at the object over and over until it breaks up and goes down. I have done this in toilets, sinks (needs a small blade to get past trap) and main stacks. – DMoore Apr 10 at 15:47
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If you have access to a hardware store or can find one that ships it, you'll want a Toilet Auger

enter image description here

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14

I'm assuming you're sure that the toilet is blocked by the lemon. Of course it depends on how tightly the lemon is wedged in the toilet. Toilets have a goose neck built into them that serves as a trap to provide a water seal. The lemon is almost certainly in that goose neck.

I don't know of anything safe that will dissolve the lemon that wouldn't be harmful to the toilet, the sewer/septic system and possibly to you. The only good solution I can offer is mechanical.

That involves removing the toilet giving you access to the goose neck from both ends and removing the lemon. It isn't a difficult job but does take some work and know-how. You will need to replace the seal that seals the toilet to the waste line.

The problem with other potential solutions such as pushing it through the goose neck can cause you more serious problems than you have now.

You might want to call a plumber to do this. If you want to do it on your own either I or someone else at this site can help you.

You might want to try Michael Karas' suggestion first. However, be sure to use a toilet-rated auger with the attachment. They have a protective sleeve to keep the auger from damaging the porcelain. Again, good luck.

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If you have a shop vac try sucking it back out, removing the 'water' first or just sucking it up too and dealing with the shop vac clean up later. The better the seal of the hose end to the hole in the toilet the better of course. You might try a wet towel as a seal that will conform to fit. This actually might work better if the lemon has a tighter fit as it will create a better seal and therefore more vacuum pressure that can build up so that when/if it releases, it will have some momentum and hopefully come all the way out or at least close enough to reach in and grab it by hand.

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  • You might try taking a toilet plunger head, cutting a hole in it slightly (1/8"?) smaller than the diameter of the wet-dry vac's wand, sliding it up the wand, and then back down the wand once it's in the toilet to form a tight seal when sucking water out of the toilet. Some grease on the wand (automotive grease, or just good old Crisco) would A) help the plunger head slide along the wand, and B) help ensure a good seal. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 10 at 21:52
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    I know using a shop vac works. Never underestimate the power of a vacuum (negative air space) I have used a shop vac to pull all sorts of things from dry and water filled pipes from 1/2" to 4" diameters. – G Warner Apr 11 at 0:14
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    Your comment got me thinking about the numbers, air pressure, one atmosphere is about 14.7 psi and I believe that the 'hole' or 'pipe' (I don't know what this is called) within the toilet is the same size as the outlet which I believe is 3" diameter. The area is then 7.07 sq in which equates, at a perfect vacuum, to 104 lbs of force, not too shabby – Ack Apr 11 at 0:20
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Pickling

A brine solution would suck water out of the lemon by osmosis. This could shrink the diameter enough to make it pass through.

The difficulties with this method are:

  • May take days to work.
  • Only one side would be exposed to the brine.
  • The lemon may have a wax coating to extend shelf life that would slow the process.
  • Complete mixing of the salt within the drain would need to be ensured.
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    This answer has killed me. If life gives you lemons in your toilet, make toilet lemon pickles. – user1169420 Apr 13 at 16:57
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By far the safest, fastest, easiest and cheapest method to unblock is to put a single large garbage bag over one hand and see if you can reach the lemon to dislodge it. If it's further down and not directly accessible, you can use your hand to create a plunging action which provides way more push pressure than any hardware-store plunger - you can increase the effectiveness of the plunge by adding toilet paper and filling up the bowl with water so that you have some hydraulic pressure also behind the push. Increase your chances again by adding some dishwasher liquid to make everything slide a bit better.

Dispose of the garbage bag after you've finished with it. For what it's worth this method also works a treat with other common blockages.

Specific to your question of dissolving the lemon - over time the lemon should change shape from dehydration or at least decay enough to dislodge so this should become more effective at later intervals. Just be sure to put an 'out of order' sign on the toilet until it's fixed. Not recommended to use anything caustic as even harsh acids wont actually eat into the lemon itself enough to make a difference and can be dangerous.

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For actually dissolving the lemon (or at least enough of it to unclog the drain), ordinary NaOH (lye / caustic soda) based drain opener should work, at least as well as any other reasonably common substance would.

However, since the lemon is whole and presumably intact, it might take a considerable amount of time (as in perhaps days) for the NaOH to work its way through the lemon's skin and pith, which act as natural protective layers. If you can manage to somehow poke a few holes in the lemon's skin, e.g. by sticking a piece of wire down the drain, that should help the process along quite a bit by exposing the soft and acidic flesh of the lemon directly to the NaOH.

(For maximum effectiveness, especially if using solid NaOH powder, pour some hot water in after it to help the NaOH dissolve and react faster. Pre-mixing the NaOH with hot water is also possible, but if you do, make sure to wear proper eye protection while doing so! The dissolution of NaOH in water generates additional heat that could easily make the water boil and splash hot caustic droplets around. If you do get any on your skin or clothes, rinse it off immediately with lots of cold water!)

Note that I haven't actually tested this myself. I do happen to have NaOH and some whole lemons around, so I'm kind of tempted to sacrifice one for science and see how long it takes for the NaOH to start acting on it. I'm not sure it's worth ruining a perfectly good lemon, though.

In any case, physically removing the lemon e.g. using a toilet auger, as suggested in other answers here, is probably much easier and quicker than trying to chemically dissolve it — possibly even if you factor in the time needed to go to a hardware store to buy a toilet auger in the first place. I would only suggest trying chemical methods if the lemon is stuck so deep that you really cannot physically extract it by any practical means.

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  • I thought of the same. Caustic soda can usually be bought in powder form (or small pebble sized chunks). These are usually used for cleaning drain pipes. My guess is that 200 grams of solid caustic soda in the toilet would make short work of the lemon in less than 15 minutes. At least it would be decomposed enough to be flushed. – magguu Apr 11 at 5:40
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    In case you do try out NaOH, I can't overemphasize that you must be super cautious. Do NOT try mixing any water to it if you haven't handled NaOH before. Just pour the powder directly into toilet (with some care of course) ... and leave it for some time. – magguu Apr 11 at 5:46
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Use your hands and a cork-screw. The problem is you can't get a grip on the lemon and it's slippery. Use the cork-screw to get a grip and just pull it out.

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    I don't know where you live, but a decent number of wines still come with corks – Machavity Apr 10 at 15:41
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Use a floor mop, the bigger the betterFloor mop

Push hard down so that you get downward water pressure.

Eventually it unclogs anything and everything!

Best trick ever!

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