Author: Jake Lewis, Plumbing Expert
The more essential something is to our everyday life, the more we take it for granted… until something goes wrong. And besides food and beds, there are few things more critical to daily life than toilets.
A lot can go wrong with your toilet. Maybe your toilet seems to run regularly, but it takes an unusually long time to flush. Here are a few of the possible reasons your toilet flushes slow and some tactics for trying to take care of it without having to hire a plumber.
While you may usually be able to identify a clog pretty quickly, it can be less obvious some times. You might not be able to see whatever it is causing the clog. Flushing anything other than waste or toilet paper can stop things up pretty quickly as well. You’ll be able to tell that it might be a clog causing your problems if the toilet is slow to drain the water out when you flush.
Your first step should be to try a plunger to see if you can open up the water flow and flush out whatever is causing the clog. If the plunger doesn’t have any effect, but there may be an object causing the blockage, you should try reaching in yourself to see if you can get the object out. This can be unpleasant, and you should definitely use gloves, but it’s the quickest way to resolve a clog.
Insufficient Water Supply
Perhaps it’s not the water draining out of your toilet but the new water that’s coming in too slowly. A slow influx of water can slow down the flush as you wait for the water level to return. It can also slow down the removal of waste. Flushing out waste depends on a suction effect that needs water to work.
This problem can be caused by something as simple as a shortage of water flow. You may know what this can look like if you’ve ever tried to flush immediately after someone else flushed the toilet. An efficient long-term option here would be to consider buying a more water-efficient toilet that doesn’t require as much water. It should be easy enough to resolve this problem by increasing the water flow with the valve attached to your toilet.
Another frequent reason for slow running toilets is a partial blockage from a buildup of rust or minerals like calcium and lime. If there are high concentrations of these minerals in the water supply, you’re likely to encounter a problem with them eventually. These minerals will collect in the holes around the rim of the toilet that bring water down into the toilet bowl. You may even see some discoloration in the toilet where that water flows down.
Simply clearing out the passageway a little with a long, narrow object like a wire hanger can visibly improve water flow. You might also want to consider buying a special cleaning product to get rid of some of these deposits. Find a chemical cleaner specialized for removing these minerals and add some to the overflow tube in the tank. After you let it sit for a while, you should flush to send it through the areas where you’re dealing with the concentrated minerals.
Broken or Missing Pieces
Stop and test every piece of the toilet while you’re trying to find the source of your problem. It might be that the lack of sufficient water flow isn’t caused by anything in the toilet or water but rather the mechanical pieces that make it function. Remove the lid of your tank and watch what happens when you flush.
The flapper is the cap of rubber on the central pipe in your tank. When you flush, you’re pulling on the chain to pull up the flapper and let water down into the toilet bowl. You should see it open completely and stay open long enough for enough water to pour in. If it isn’t opening and staying open as it should, you should check the chain and find out where the problem is. You may need to shorten or lengthen the chain or replace it to improve the flow.
Keep Things Flowing
Now you have some tools for taking care of your plumbing. If you put in the work, educate yourself, and stay alert to problems with your toilets or water flow, you can keep your plumbing running smoothly all by yourself. Good luck, and don’t forget to wash your hands!