Bonfe Insider: July 2021

A local resident plunging their toilet

Why isn’t my toilet flushing? And what should I do about it?

Toilets are something most people don’t generally think about…until something goes wrong.

We think about toilets a lot. It’s a professional hazard. And we’re not embarrassed or squeamish about it at all. We happen to be experts on the subject, and we’re here to help.

Here are four main reasons your toilet might not be flushing. Let’s start with an obvious one.

Culprit #1: There’s a clog.

We all know what a serious toilet clog looks like. There’s often a visible wad of toilet tissue and waste stuck in there. Or, sometimes it’s something that shouldn’t be in the toilet – like a toy car.

However, there are times a clog isn’t visible because it’s further down the pipe.

What to do:

The easiest step is to plunge your toilet, even if you don’t see a visible clog. Give it a really good plunge and try to flush again.

Pro tip:

Don’t flush again until the water stops running. Multiple flushes in rapid succession are more likely to cause an overflow.

Culprit #2: There’s a problem with the flapper.

The flush handle on the outside of the toilet connects to a flapper valve inside the toilet tank.  The flapper valve uses a chain as part of a little pulley system but it’s prone to issues.  The chain might have too much slack in it (meaning it doesn’t lift the flapper) or the chain might entirely disconnect from the handle.

What to do:

Lift off the lid from the tank of your toilet. Be careful, it’s probably going to be heavy! Set it safely aside and look inside. Don’t worry, the water in there isn’t used toilet water! It’s clean water from your pipes.

Check to see if the chain is still connected to both the handle (on the top) and the flapper valve (on the bottom). If not, reconnect the chain. When the chain is connected, try flushing while watching the chain to see if there’s too much slack in the chain to lift the flapper. If there’s too much slack, shorten the chain.

Pro tip:

If the chain looks fine, check the flapper valve itself. If it’s misaligned, shift it so it sits perfectly over the opening. If it’s cracked or broken, replace it. Call Bonfe if you want a certified plumber to diagnose and replace the flapper.

Culprit #3: The water level is off.

If there is not enough water in your toilet tank, it might not flush very well – or at all. Take the lid off the top of the tank to check the water level. Some tanks have lines indicating where the water level should be. If there’s no line, locate the overflow tube (usually a pipe in the center of the tank). The water level in the tank should be about an inch below the top of the overflow tube.

What to do:

If the water level is too low, you may be able to fix it yourself, but it depends on the type of toilet you have. Most newer toilets use a float-cup fill valve. To adjust the water level, you can pinch the spring clip in the tank, slide the float downward or upward and the water level should adjust to wherever the float is set.

Pro tip:

Some older toilets have piston ballcocks or diaphragm ballcocks that can be adjusted by gently bending the rod that’s attached to the float – but you might want to call in a professional for this one!

Culprit #4: The toilet is gunked up!

Did you know there is a row of water holes at the top of your toilet bowl just under the rim where the seat rests? They’re called “rim jets.”

Rim jets are how the water gets from the tank into the toilet bowl every time you flush.   The rim jet openings can get clogged over time – especially if your water has a high mineral content. It often happens gradually, so you might not notice until it’s a real problem.

What to do:

Fortunately, the solution is as simple as the problem. All you have to do is use toilet bowl cleaner and a toilet brush and give the rim jets a brisk, thorough scrub.  If you have high mineral content water, you can try cleaning the rim jets with white vinegar, which helps dissolve the minerals.

Pro tip:

If it’s a chronic problem, a water softener might help clear up the issue.

The bottom line

If you strike out on all four of these – or if any of the steps intimidate you – don’t panic. Toilets are pretty essential, so there’s no shame in having someone come out to take a look. Make sure you hire a trusted professional who can diagnose the problem and fix it promptly. We’d love to help! We offer evening and weekend appointments and our highly trained technicians carry extensive supplies on our trucks.

Skip to content