Easy Fixes for Toilet Flushing Issues

Problems with your toilet might have you running for the plumber, but many common issues are minor and easy to fix with a little know-how.

Easy Fixes for Toilet Flushing Issues

The flush doesn’t empty the bowl

Check for blockages

A flush should clear the bowl the first time. If it doesn't, there may be a blockage in the waterway inside the bowl, or the tank mechanism may need a quick tweak.

  • First, test for a blockage in the bowl by pouring a full bucket of water into the bowl; if it flows away quickly, your problem most probably lies in the tank. If the bowl empties slowly, try unblocking the toilet.
  • When you flush the toilet, water enters the bowl through holes under the rim of the pan. If you live in a hard-water area, these may have clogged with lime. Check under the rim with a small mirror; if you can see a buildup of lime around the holes, pick off any large pieces with a bent coat hanger and treat the area liberally with a descaling agent.
  • There may not be enough water in the tank to generate an efficient flush. Raise the level of the float on the fill valve to allow more water into the tank for more flushing power. Don't raise the level too high, otherwise water will overflow and leak constantly into the bowl.

My toilet is really noisy

Silence the ball float valve

Toilet tanks refill quickly in readiness for the next flush. The rapid inflow of water can cause noise problems if you have a toilet that uses a traditional ball float valve to control the water inlet. Don't let your toilet keep you awake at night — silence the tank with some easy fixes.

  • Take the lid off the tank and locate the float valve; it is at the end of the float arm, at the opposite end to the float itself. Flush the toilet and note where the water flows into the tank. It usually enters through a flexible plastic fill tube that prevents the water from splashing; however, it's not uncommon for this tube to slip off. If the tube is loose (and probably lying on the bottom of the tank), simply reattach it to the valve. If the tube is missing, buy and fit a new tube to the fill valve, so that the water doesn't splash into the tank.
  • If the tank fills quickly, the float may bounce on the ripples, causing water hammer — a shock wave in the water pipe as the flow is rapidly turned on and off. Fitting a fill tube may prevent this, too.

When I flush the toilet, my shower runs hot

Slow down the refill

The speed at which a toilet tank refills means that it draws a lot of cold water. If your home has an old plumbing system, you may find that faucets and showers will run hot as the toilet refills.

  • Try turning the service valve on the incoming water pipe to a partly closed position to reduce the rate at which the tank refills.
  • Reduce the volume of water that your tank draws by placing a water-filled plastic bottle into the tank.

I can smell sewage when I flush

Maintain a seal

Water will evaporate from the toilet bowl, and if you don't use your toilet for a while, the water level may drop enough to let air from the drains past the trap. Flush the toilet once a week to prevent this from occurring. If that doesn't work, try one of the below solutions.

  • Check the vent pipe, or soil stack, outside your building. A nesting bird or debris may be blocking the exit.
  • Pour 250 millilitres (one cup) of bleach into the tank's overflow tube (the one that pokes above the water surface in the tank) and flush the toilet.
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