Few of us like to deal with toilet problems, whether the issue is improper flushing, leaks, or clogging and backup. Unfortunately, none of these things can be ignored for long; but oftentimes we can resolve them on our own and save a bundle on plumber’s fees, provided that we’re willing to do a little dirty work.
If water is running continuously, it is either leaking passed the flapper (the rubber piece, connected to a chain, that seals over the tank’s bottom valve) or running through the overflow tube. Sometimes the flapper’s chain is to blame. Remove the tank lid and give your toilet a flush, watching the action of the water as it goes down. If the chain has too much slack, it can get under the flapper and keep it propped up slightly. If it’s too short, it will prevent the flapper from completely closing. Most toilet levers have a number of notches so that the chain length can be readjusted easily. If the flapper is closing, however, but you have to press on it to get the water to stop flowing, that means it isn’t sealing properly. Drain the tank and then scrub the flapper and the edges of the valve seat with a steel wool pad or a stiff brush. If the toilet still doesn’t flush correctly after the tank has been refilled, the flapper will have to be replaced.
The water level in the tank should be no higher than ½ to 1 inch below the top of the overflow pipe. Too high a level can be remedied by adjusting the float cup so that it sits further down. Bend the arm down to increase pressure on the valve enough to keep it closed.
A constantly running toilet wastes a massive amount of water every hour and makes for a very unpleasant monthly bill. Leaks from other areas can be discovered if we add food coloring to the tank water, flush the toilet, and watch where the coloring goes. If colored water leaks out from any washers or bolts, they should be replaced or tightened – gently, so that we don’t crack the tank. Leaks that appear near the toilet bowl base – or that reveal a slight crack in the tank – are more problematic and may require replacing the leaky components or getting professional help.
Blocked drains are best handled without chemical solutions – which can contaminate natural water systems and damage rubber gaskets in the plumbing – whenever possible. A thorough plunging should be attempted first. We should wear rubber or latex gloves – perhaps even a mask and safety goggles – for this task, and try to avoid splashing. Fifteen to twenty pumps with a plunger, without breaking its tight seal, will be sufficient for most clogs. Otherwise, a hand auger may be required. This tool features a flexible, snake-like coil that extends out into a drain when its handle is cranked. This should be done gently, as the tube can scratch toilets and damage pipes. When a clog is encountered, crank the coil back and forth to break up the blockage. Augers will, of course, need a good washing and disinfecting when they’re retrieved from the depths of a toilet.