Fixes for Common Reasons your Toilet won’t Flush
Stuck in that awkward plumbing limbo where your toilet won’t flush properly? Fear not, we’re here to explain the most common reasons your toilet won’t flush and how you should be able to fix it.
So, before the next person in your home needs to go, let’s, ahem, plunge in and help you fix that toilet that won’t flush. Or, at the very least, let you know when it’s time to call the plumbing professionals at J&A South Park.
Your toilet is clogged
One apparent reason why your toilet isn’t flushing, but no doubt the first one to consider, is that it’s clogged.
Clogs often occur because too much toilet paper was in the bowl. If you have small children, you may have also experienced a clog because they decided to let a toy go swimming.
Caution: First and foremost, never ever flush anything other than toilet paper and waste down your toilet. Clogs can be triggered by flushing things that simply don’t belong there, including items such as sanitary items, bathroom trash and other such debris. Even something as small as dental floss can create a clog. Keep in mind, too, that clogs may not be visible if they’re located further down the drainpipe.
Meanwhile, a partial clog in the line could mean your toilet will still flush but not very robustly. A method to test for a partial clog is to pour a bucket with a gallon of cold water into the bowl. If your toilet still doesn’t flush properly, you’re more likely to have a partial clog.
What to do: Begin with a plunger. Plungers work by forcing water back and forth through the waste pipe, breaking up whatever debris is producing the clog. Make sure you utilize a flanged plunger, since the cup will help produce a better seal in the toilet bowl. Plungers designed like a bell with no flange extension just might work on your toilet, but they are actually intended for shower drains.
An alternative way to loosen things up is to turn off the toilet’s water, flush it and then add hot (not boiling) water to the bowl. Allow the water to sit for several minutes, then flush it. If that doesn’t work, you might want to consider snaking the toilet. Toilet snakes are constructed with the aim of breaking up clogs that take place beyond the toilet itself. They feature long coiled cables that you extend deep into the piping and break up or retrieve the debris producing the clog.
If the toilet still doesn’t flush after these attempts, it’s most likely time to call for some professional help. A certified plumber from J&A South Park can help you get to the root of the problem and fix it, saving you time, trouble and needless aggravation.
The water level in the tank is too low
When the water level in your toilet’s tank is too low, your toilet won’t flush properly. A low water level also increases the threat of clogging since there’s less pressure flowing through the waste pipe.
Every toilet should have a water level mark that indicates exactly where the water should be. The standard water level in a toilet tank is right below the overflow pipe. If the water in your toilet tank is below that mark, that’s most likely the root cause of your poor flushing unit.
The water level in every toilet tank is determined by the float, which is located in the tank. When your toilet is not in use, the float sits on top of the water keeping the fill valve closed. When you flush the toilet, the water flows from the tank into the bowl and the float drops and opens the fill valve, allowing new water to enter the tank. As the tank refills, the float rises with the water level. Once the float gets to a certain height, the fill valve closes.
What to do: To adjust the water level in the tank, you simply adjust the height of the float. Each toilet is a bit different, but most have an adjustment screw that you simply turn with a screwdriver. To increase the amount of water in the tank, adjust the float so it’s higher and more water flows into the tank before it cuts off the water supply.
If the water in your tank is too high, adjust the float in the opposite direction so less water is required to close the fill valve.
The water level in the toilet bowl is too low
If the water level in your toilet’s tank is normal, but the water level in the bowl is low, it won’t flush with the needed strength. Most likely, you have an issue with the fill valve apparatus located in the tank. If the fill valve cracks and leaks water, it takes water pressure away from the tube that fills up the toilet bowl.
To discover if your fill valve is the reason the water level in the bowl is too low, remove the tank lid and flush a few times. If water is squirting out of the top of the fill valve, it has a leak. This can be somewhat difficult to diagnose yourself, so we suggest calling a plumber if the issue isn’t obvious at first glance.
What to do: The solution is rather simple. You have to replace the faulty fill valve apparatus with a new one. However, executing this solution can be confusing if you’ve never done it before. Again, you might want to consult a professional plumber.
There’s a problem with your flapper
One other common cause for the water level being too low, and one of the easiest to fix, is a poorly seated flapper (also known as a running toilet). The rubber flapper is designed to open and release water into the toilet bowl when the toilet is flushed, and it then covers the opening to allow the tank to refill. However, if no water comes into the bowl when you push the handle, it could be that the flapper is not properly seated.
What to do: Remove the cover of the toilet tank and locate the flapper at the bottom of the tank. If it’s not entirely over the opening, you need to re-seat it. Otherwise, if you notice the rubber flapper has deteriorated or is too beat up to seat the flush tube hole, you’ll need to replace it.
Remember, the flapper is made from rubber and over time, it will most likely be damaged or warped, meaning it won’t seal properly when it attempts to close.
Luckily, flappers are easy on the pocket and easy to swap out yourself. Turn off the water to the toilet while changing to the new one and then try flushing again to check whether the problem is solved.
Chain or the lever is disconnected
Lift the top of the tank off the toilet and locate where the lever on the outside links to the chain or plastic piece on the inside.
If you have a chain that is connected to the toilet, it’s common that the chain may have come loose and fallen off. This is a somewhat common event as a toilet is flushed several times a day, which could lead to the chain being disconnected.
What to do: Simply connect the chain back on to the inside of the handle. If you’re worried about it falling off again, using a piece of waterproof tape or any adhesive can help the chain stick to the lever.
Chain is stuck
Newer toilets shouldn’t experience this problem, as the chain should be tight enough to the lever where there should be no overhand. Older toilets, however, may have a long loose chain, since that’s how they were built.
What to do: If your toilet has a long chain, we recommend making short adjustments to it or simply buying a whole new level for the toilet. The loose chain is what could be causing you issues.
Plumbing tip for the day: Don’t be afraid to take the top off the tank and experiment to visually see why the toilet might be clogged.
Cracked overflow tube
If everything works just fine, the culprit just might be the overflow tube. Instead of filling the tank, water can flow down into a cracked overflow tube.
What to do: The only proper way to fix this is to get a new overflow tube. Once replaced, the toilet should flush properly without any issues.
Mineral deposits in flusher or water pipes
Clogged inlet holes (also referred to as jets) are a common issue for people living in regions with hard water. Water-based mineral deposits clog the toilets more often than most people expect. If you’ve tried other solutions mentioned above and they don’t solve the problem, you might want to try unclogging the inlet holes.
These holes are located along the underside of the toilet bowl rim. When you flush, the water from the tank above rushes down through these small openings to create the swirling action you see. If they become clogged with lime or corrosion, it will limit the strength of the flush.
What to do: You can inspect the inlet holes by holding a small mirror under the rim of the bowl. If the holes are clogged, you can pour white vinegar into the overflow tube which is inside the tank. Let the solution sit overnight before you flush again. If that doesn’t work, you might want to try using a small piece of wire to clear the inlet holes.
Improper installation of the toilet drainpipe
If your toilet’s flush is very slow, the issue might be due to the insufficient installation of the drainpipe or its inferior design.
The system of drains is not hard to understand. The water from the bowl gets to the main sewer line through the drainpipe. If this pipe doesn’t have a sufficient downward slope, proper flushing will not be possible.
What to do: If you have an idea that this might be the problem, call a plumber. They’ll check the system of drains and redesign it if needed.
Problems with plumbing vent system
Most homeowners don’t realize that their plumbing, like many other systems in their home, requires a vent system to function properly. The plumbing vent system is designed to control air pressure, helps move water through the pipes and eliminates gas and odors from the home.
When there is something wrong with the vent, it affects water pressure, drainage and flushing power. You can normally tell something is amiss with the vent system if you detect gurgling sounds in the drains or smell ghastly sewage odors.
What to do: If you suspect that your toilet has a week flush due to a vent system issue, call a plumber immediately. Vent system are not something that you’ll be able to troubleshoot yourself even with the help of Google and YouTube.
Need help from a professional plumber?
While we’ve recommended you call a professional plumber for several of the issues above, many of these situations are the most common reasons for a toilet failing to flush properly and can be tackled by the homeowner. So, we hope this post will help you take care of flushing problems quickly and easily the next time they occur.
But if you’ve tried everything and the toilet is still giving you a half-hearted flush, we’re here to help. If you live in the Pittsburgh region, schedule an appointment with J&A South Park today. Our plumbers are ready to help when you need expert plumbing service.