The 3 Most Common Causes of Toilet Problems

Of all the plumbing appliances you want to stay functioning as efficiently as possible, the toilet may be number one. Due to the unsanitary nature of its function and purpose, it’s pretty important that toilet problems be avoided as much as possible like the Bubonic Plague (which might not have ever happened if they had well-functioning toilets).

Some problems with the toilet are minor but annoying, like “phantom flushes” and hissing sounds. Others are more bothersome, like overflows, clogs and leaks. Most of these issues occur because of the following causes. Keep in mind there really is no finite number of possibilities (oh, good).

Foreign objects

There are certain things you never put down a toilet, but people definitely do it anyway. Ask any plumber. They have found things in toilets that you wouldn’t believe. So, it happens. People forget, or they don’t know, or they have small children that find the toilet as a fascinating source of entertainment.

The trusty plunger can release most non-serious clogs. Usually, someone just used a little too much toilet paper. In those cases a regular household force-cup plunger will do the trick. Insert the bulb into the bowl over the drain and pump vigorously.

For more serious clogs, you’re going to need a closet auger to clear the drain hole. Most homeowners don’t have a closet auger readily available, so these are the cases where they tend to call the plumber.

Bad or worn parts

A bad flapper (or flapper seat), when worn, dirty or damaged can allow water to leak into the bowl, causing the dreaded “phantom flush”. Your toilet will run intermittently as if someone had recently flushed it. Drain the tank and bowl, then check and clean the flapper seat. Replace the flapper if it’s too far gone.

If you ever hear a constant hissing sound coming from the toilet, it’s probably a result of water seeping into the tank through the supply line. This is normally caused by the float, refill tube, ballcock and inlet-valve assembly (the “hiss” is usually the sound of water coming through the inlet valve). Sometimes the float is sticking or just needs adjusted a bit. The refill tube might be inserted too far into the overflow tube. If none of those solutions work, you may need to replace the ballcock assembly.

Chlorine helps kill the microbes in the toilet bowl,  just as it does in a swimming pool. However, chlorine is a powerful chemical that can actually eat at or deform rubber parts of the toilet and surface of the seat.

Mineral build-up

This is a particular problem for anyone living in places with hard water. Hard water contains a higher volume of minerals that can build up over time and restrict water flow, causing a blockage that makes the water in the bowl empty very slowly when you flush. Using a curved wire (like coat-hanger wire), just poke gently into each flush hole and siphon jet to clear out the debris. Use a little mirror to help you see under the rim.

Whoever installs the toilet also has to make sure all of the parts are in the correct place. Improper installation can cause many of the above problems and beyond.


So, as you can see, most toilet problems can be avoided by using good parts, cleaning, maintenance, and not flushing random things! By the way, plumbers, we are very interested to hear about some things you have found clogging up customers’ toilets. Feel free to share.

Posted in: Home Improvement, Plumbing Tips

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