Causes of Toilet Problems – Flushing, Leaking, Running Repairs

It seems nearly impossible for anyone to walk though life without having experienced a wide range of small and large toilet problems.  Every week we receive a ton of questions revolving around why the toilet is not draining or why is it running or leaking, etc. You name it and it has probably been asked. Indeed we are going to provide you with a list of questions from our readers that will give you an idea of the scope of  things that can go wrong.  What is interesting is sometimes by reading through the types of toilet problems people are experiencing you learn that your own toilet may be behaving in a similar manner.  Though some of these issues can be very frustrating, know that there is a cause to the toilets misbehavior and a solution!

In this article, we will give you a variety of ways in which you can address these most common of toilet problems (and some that are uncommon) that occur in one’s home.  While neither list (questions and answers) will be exhaustive, chances are that if you are experiencing a frustrating issue with your toilets, we will offer some DIY solutions to help you now or in the future when the toilet gremlin decides to climb out of the tank.

Common Toilet Problems – Questions that Spell Help!

1.  I have a toilet that doesn’t clear when flushed. The swirl last a long time but you never get the evacuation. I’ve been told it might be the venting. The toilet is three feet from the stack and the vent is about two and a half feet from the toilet on a horizontal run. Any solutions?

2. Toilet and shower first backed up when dishwasher ran, pipes were snaked an fixed the problem for only a week, toilet and shower mow back up when washing machine runs, what should I do… I’m on sewer line not septic

3. Tank in toilet will not fill up after flushing.  I have to turn the water supply off then back on for tank to fill.   Any ideas out there?  Thanks for your help

4. In upstairs baths, toilets would not flush & refill. Water in faucets came out clear for a short time then it turned brown, then it stopped altogether. We checked the faucets  downstairs, they ran clear and the toilet flashed clear. We went back upstairs the faucets ran but were clogged with brown silt & tiny crystals. Once cleared, they ran clear again. The toilets will not refill.

5. When I flush the toilet the water goes down very slow. And then it does not feel to the correct level.

6. Sometimes I hear for about 5 seconds running water from the area of our basement toilet.  It sounds like a partial flush.  I notice in that tank the water level varies at different times by an inch or more.

7. After I flush my toilet at the moment it stops filling the bowl the pipes in the wall make a foghorn sound that is very loud. I think my condo association had a plumber changed the water pressure in my entire building but I am not sure. How can this be solved?

8. I have a 2 bath home with a septic system. Yesterday water back up in shower and in master bathtub. Today both toilets wont flush. Is it main line clog or full tank?

9. Anyway, my toilet is having a problem with flushing. To get a complete flush I have to hold down the lever for several seconds. And even when I do this it sometimes will stop flushing and just sort of give up even if i am still holding the lever. It also runs for a long time after I flush. There is also only a small amount of water being refilled into the toilet every few flushes. For instance, if I don’t use the toilet for a while, several hours or so it will flush just fine if I hold the lever down for several seconds. But if I have tried to flush the toilet a lot it won’t complete the flush and won’t fill the water back up. This is driving me crazy please help!

10. I have a toilet that loses water after flushing it, about 10 to 15 minutes later.  I’ve tried using a  plunger several times, but same result.  I’ve ready many articles on line, but each expert has their recommendations and I’m not sure what to try.

This toilet is located on top floor of townhouse.  There is another toilet on the same floor, but no issues with it.  All other toilets in the house seem to work fine, no loss of water in the toilet bowl.

11. Our upstairs toilet makes a loud noise when flushed; what could possibly be causing that?

12. I own a Mansfield porcelain toilet with a ‘Sloan Flushmate’ 503 series 1.28gpf, model no. m-101526-f3. My Mansfield tank has a number 119OCT1800. Each time I flush the toilet the water jet seems to flush back on itself. I plunged, replaced the ‘Flushmate’, even poured a vinegar/baking solution down the drain, but still have the same problem. I tried to sneak from the top, but that did not help either. The water reseeds when the bowl fills, but the actual flush seems to have some sort of resistance. I was thinking of replacing the bowl assembly, but not the tank. Is that possible? Also, after reading some of your articles I found that replacing the whole toilet might be what needs to be done. Can you help solve this issue?

13.  I have a 1959 American standard toilet with an over-flow tube/canal on one corner of tank by lever, and not on the center. In the center there is only the hole (~3″ diameter) for flush valve, so the challenge for me and you is to figure out a way to somehow convert it to a dual-flush system. Please help! Thanks

14. I dropped my wedding ring in toilet, how do I get it out?

15. Our toilet has flushing issues and has had for some time. I usually plunge it and it works okay for a while but now I cannot seem to get it to cooperate. We have had this toilet for 16 years. Should I pay to have someone come and look at it or should I just invest the money in replacing the toilet altogether?

16. Each time one toilet in our house flushes we can hear the water rushing and draining though the drain pipe of the tub across the room. This just began a few days ago and does not appear be a problem in use of the toilet. I do not know if it is a problem in draining the tub as the tub is a jacuzzi type which no one has used in the past year and I’m afraid to fill it to find out. I think we can hear the sink draining, too, but am not positive on that. The sound is faint. Has some seal between the two been compromised and does this need to be fixed immediately?

17. One of my commodes is not filling the holding tank correctly.  The water comes into the tank at a very slow speed.  Instead of the water running for 10 to 15 seconds it now takes about 20 minutes to fill, almost no flow.  Is that the float valve malfunctioning (clogged).  The valve opens and closes but when open you can hardly hear the water running.  This just started all at once.  The valve is like or is a Fluid master valve. Something is blocking the water flow.  Any idea of where to start?

18. How can I fix “phantom flushing”?

19. Why does my toilet have black dirt in it? I cleaned my carpet a few months ago with one of those heavy-duty carpet cleaners. I poured the dirt and left over water in the toilet (I don’t have a tub) and now this black dirt that I thought was gone is now entering the bowl through the little spouts. (Not from the tank) How can I fix this??

20. All of a sudden the toilet does not flush completely, the water starts flushing to the top and sometimes it overflows. I tried the plunger many times and it will work good one time and if its used it will go to the same problem again.

21. The Handicap toilet works properly when you hold the handle down for a long  time, 10 to 15 seconds. Otherwise it just swirls and does not empty out. any suggestions?

22. My upstairs toilet bowl is warm to touch (has hot instead of cold water? In the bowl). I can also hear  water trickling in the pipes (causing the well pump to kick on) on in the wall which subsides when the water to toilet is turned off. Recently had our well pump worked on and water was off for short time while the well pump switch was replaced. Downstairs toilet seems to be working fine. Any idea why the hot water old be in bowl and ht the trickling sound might be? Are they related problems?

23. My toilet keeps running but not continuously where I could jiggle the handle to fix it. What can I do?

24. After each flush, the tank does not fill up with water. I have to go in an push down on a black cylinder piece of equipment in order to start the water back into the white tubing

25. My toilet bowl fills with water when flushed but it does not drain out normally, it just slowly drains out and doesn’t take anything with it.

26. My toilet got clogged so I plunged it and it flushed. But then the water bubbled up in the toilet, bathtub and shower, overflowing the toilet. I turned off the water at the well to stop it. Any thoughts on the cause of how to fix it?

27. My toilet seems to have low water pressure problems. Whenever I try to flush the toilet, water drains from the tank into the bowl, but the water doesn’t swirl. It just constantly drains from the tank into the bowl. In order to get it to stop, I have to manually push down the flapper, otherwise the toilet would flush forever. There is no blockage or clogging as I have both plunged and snaked and never hit anything. Also, the toilet never overflows. It just stays at the same level. It never rises or lowers, just drains at the same level all the time. So how can I fix this?

28. My toilet constantly has yellow water behind the base but it is not the o ring. My apartment maintenance has told me it is just toilet sweating and urine from boys “missing” but I don’t think that is the case.  My husband doesn’t miss enough for the water to be that yellow and smelly. Any ideas where the water is coming from?

29. Hello: Recently we noticed that with flushing the toilet, water splashes up in the sink next to the commode. We have 2 bathrooms and have also noted that there will be a gurgling noise heard in the bathtub of the 2nd bathroom when that toilet is flushed.  The other day I was doing laundry and noticed that I also hear loud gurgling noises coming from the bathtub drain when the washer is draining. We have had nothing but problems with plumbing since moving in 2 months ago. So, what might this gurgling and backwash of dirty water into the sink be a problem of?

30. I have feces and toilet paper coming up through my basement shower drain and when I run the shower the toilet gurgles water it also does that when the upstairs toilet is flushed. The upstairs toilet frequently runs. Should I get a new toilet upstairs?

31. I  have a toilet that when flushed, fills the tank, but won’t flush it back down. I tried some sulfuric acid. Are there any other home remedies?

32. Can a toilet be removed temporarily (2-3 months) and still be able to use the sink and tub?  We have an additional half bath but we need room by the tub for a bath transfer bench and the toilet in our full bath will be in the way.  We only need to use the bath transfer bench for a short time after my husband’s hip surgery.

33.  I bought a new two story house 6 months ago and over the weekend when I went downstairs the bathroom and living had water all over the floor.  I looked inside the toilet and it had no water.  I wasn’t sure where the water came from.  After calling the contractor he asked me if I had taken a shower and I had a few minutes before.  He said to try to flush the toilet and when I did water came up and a little piece of grass.  The plumber came over and put the snake thru and said it was a backup of toilet paper.  Is this normal for you to have toilet paper backup on a brand new house that is only 6 months and that I am the only living there??  Also, I only use the bathroom upstairs and only one shower.  They told me I had to call my insurance for them to replace the floor and that it was my fault.

34. I bought two wax rings for a toilet leak. Previously I used the thickest ring I could find with a sleeve and still had a leak. My question is, do I put the standard one on first or the thick one with the sleeve?

35.  I have a 1st floor bathroom, and right above is the 2nd floor bathroom.  Water is dripping from the ceiling in the 1st floor bathroom, which I assumed was a bad ring from the 2nd floor toilet needing to be replaced…ended up replacing the whole toilet as it was 30 years old.  Well the drip is still there and the ceiling has a growing brown spot and the actual corner of the wall of the 1st floor is puckering… (I had already turned off the water line of the 2nd floor toilet).  So this is Saturday and the plumber is coming Monday am.  What do you think this is? broken a pipe i guess… how bad of an emergency is this?

36. My toilet seems to have a couple of streams of water constantly flowing down the insides of the bowl. Every so often we can hear the water run as to completely fill the tank. Just curious what might have caused the problem and what the solution is to fix it?

37. We are getting ready to move into a modular home that runs off of a well. There are two houses on the property and a pool.  The hose and the other houses water runs just fine but the house that we are moving in to only parts of the house works. Both bathrooms tubs faucets(opposite sides of house) works but the sinks and the kitchen sink do nothing but dribble.  The master bath toilet fills just fine while the other does it very slowly, we have no idea where to begin and look.  We ran the water for 15 minutes thinking that maybe there was air due to not being used for a couple of years, but still nothing happened.  What do you think the cause could be?

38.  Am building a cottage with 2 toilets 6 feet apart. One furthest toilet is at the end of the sewer line the next is downstream. question is: can I use one 2 inch vent located between the two toilets? The vent (2″) is plumbed from the sewer line (3″) through the roof about halfway between the toilets.

39.  After I flush my toilet I have to wait for the water to build back up in the tank before I can flush it again and that might take days. does this mean i need a new toilet or just new parts.

40. What is the recommended action to remedy the following problem; When I flush my toilet, the kitchen sink gurgles and bubbles. No waste comes back up except for once. It looked like dark mulch. All the house sinks and showers/tubs drain well. The house sewer possibly had tree roots disturbing it. We used root kill and it worked for several months, but now it is worse and the root kill is not effective anymore. Home remedy suggestions please….

41. Very tiny  pair of plastic reading glasses were accidentally dropped in toilet as it was being flushed…Surprisingly they went down the drain. Concerned whether it will cause plumbing problems if left alone. Haven’t used or flushed toilet but tried to use coat hanger thinking it might help pull them out but No luck! Don’t care about retrieving glasses but concerned if it will cause plumbing issues if left there?

42. I’m looking at getting a new toilet for my basement. Should i go with a low flow toilet? I have heard they don’t work as well in the basement because there isn’t enough volume.

43. My toilet tank is leaking at the bolts that hold it to the seat. Can I get replacement bolts and re anchor the tank to the seat?

44. My toilet keeps running after I flush it and the water fills the tank.  If I lift the “ball”, it stops but when I let the ball go, it keeps filling (the extra water seeps into the toilet bowl).  Any suggestions?

45. Our toilet won’t flush even when using a plunger. We have tried using a snake and that worked a little bit. We also took the toilet apart and that worked a little bit. At one point the water would go down and not come back up. What could be the problem?

46. To flush the toilet you have to press real hard on the handle.  The suction appears to be real tight at the base of the part that lifts up for the flush

47. We had a frozen septic line a few weeks ago. Before we had someone come and dig up our line we attempted to snake the toilet from the inside of the house….this didn’t work….  After the line was no longer frozen, we put the toilet back in place and cleaned up the mess in our house. The problem I am now having is that the toilet we snaked seems to flush “sluggishly” and the toilet bowl only fills back up to half full….. can  you help me figure out what I need to do to fix this?

48. When all the windows are shut in our house and someone is running water in the kitchen sink the toilet cannot flush,it just backs up. when the water stops running in the kitchen sink the toilet will go down in about 5 second. This problem will not occur in less all the windows are shut and someone is running water down the kitchen sink drain. WHAT IS GOING ON?

49. Got 3 Kohler toilets that began leaking at the flap. The kohler replacement flap (with chain float) still leaks. The Fluid master reinforced flap is the only one that stops the leak. Why won’t the others work?

50. We fixed a leak in the toilet, new wax seal. When we drain the tub or sinks the water in the toilets bubble and don’t flush. Water is also coming up in the tub. Plugged somewhere or would the septic tank need to be cleaned out?

Causes of Toilet Issues – Exploring Solutions to Everyday Toilet Problems

For every problem associated with your toilet, there is a cause and a solution.  Sometimes arriving at the solution is a process of eliminating probable causes.  But in most cases, it will be evident which of these toilet fixes will pay dividends in your home situation.  So let explore some of the methods and actions you can undertake to bring that temperamental toilet into the proper working condition.

A. One of the common problems that you may have experienced is the “phantom flush”.  This occurs when the toilet begins filling up spontaneously.  Sometimes the underlying condition is evidenced by the toilet continually running.  It almost all cases, this is a problem associated with the toilet flapper or the flapper seat where the flapper seals off at the bottom of the tank.  These flappers seem to have a built in shelf life or in this case, tank life, and will just cease to operate reliably. If you are experiencing this problem, drain the water in the tank and examine the flapper for wear.  I usually have several of these flappers on hand for replacement.  You can also test your toilet flushing mechanism to see if the small metal chain which is sometimes used (as opposed to a rubber connector chain) to attach your flush handle to the top of the flapper is getting stuck and obstructing the flapper.  The flapper should close and seal completely.

B.  Since we are talking about toilet noises, if you hear a hissing noise coming from the toilet, chances are the water supply line (i.e. refill tube) is not properly attached and may be spraying inside the tank as opposed to directing the water into the overflow tube. Other things you can check if you still hear this hissing or water trickling noise is the float or ballcock.  It may be just a matter of adjustment.  Though often manual adjustments can remedy the situation, sometimes you may need to replace the ballcock assembly.

C.  Sometimes you will notice that the toilet bowl empties very slowly.  Unless you are encountering a meaningful water pressure issue, the likely culprit is a clog.  This is not unusual at all and why you should always have a plunger nearby to clear out the clog drain commode.  Another possibility is that the clog is more upstream at the holes underneath the rim of the bowl.  These are the flush holes and sometimes paper and other debris can block off these holes and water cannot pass through and empty the bowl.  In such a case, you can also make use of a wire to clear out the debris.  You may also want to employ a small mirror to get a better look in guiding you with your clean out operation.  If neither of these two tactics does the job, then you may need to use a toilet auger or plumber’s snake to clear out the obstruction.  If it still is not working properly, get a bit more aggressive with your plunger, auger, or snake.

D.  Leak around the base of the toilet is often associated with a leaky seal.  Generally, most toilets have up to five seals and while you would think that would provide plenty of protection from water passing through, bear in mind the toilet get a lot of use and also unless the toilet is properly seated, level with the floor, it can potentially shift in and out of place, compromising the seal and inviting incremental leakage.

The largest seal is the one between the tank and the bowl.  Any seal breakage here, and you have a leak with every flush….not good at all.  If this is the culprit, simply drain the tank, remove it from it position and turn it upside down to get to the seal.  Remove the seal and replace.  Bingo, you are back in business.

There are smaller seals at base of the ballcock and also where the mounting bolts ar located.  The seal replacement operation is self evident, but before embarking on this path, first try tightening down the mounting bolts/nuts as that might do the job.

The wax seal at the bottom of the toilet where the plastic flange is located is the one that you will definitely to address as water leakage here can heavily stain the floor and potentially damage your floor.  The first sign of leakage is usually evidenced by a staining around the base of the toilet around the caulked area.  What you don’t want to do is re caulk as that does not resolve the underlying condition.  You will need to remove the toilet and inspect the wax seal.  If the flange is damaged, then you have a bigger issue that may require the services of a plumber.

E.  Sometimes you may want to pretty up the toilet by replacing the toilet lid and seat.  This is an easy DIY job.  First take a sanitizer cloth and wipe off both the lid and seat as you will be handling these items for the next few minutes.  Then it is a matter of removing the mounting bolts, washers, and nuts.  If rusted, use WD-40 or similar penetrating oil and then put your wrench to work.  Once removed, take these toilet seat with you when you pick out your new one so you can be sure that the size of the new one is comparable to the original verizon.

F.   More solutions for the annoying toilet tank water running constantly.  We talked about this already, but let dive a bit more into the tank and particularly the float assembly.  Sometimes the running noise can be attributed to water getting into the float which disturbs the proper operation.  Drain the water or replace.

Sometimes the float ball is misaligned or the rod is bent, so that it is making contact with the side of the tank.  Bend it in the right direction.  Sometimes you need to evoke a little trial and error to get the float ball in the right place. If the water level needs to be higher, you can bend the rod accordingly.  Vice versa if you need to lover the water level for proper operation.

If you observe the operation within the tank and the ballcock valve does not shut off the water as it should, then just replace the entire assembly.  Sometimes this operational failure is evidenced by a whining noise within the tank.  You can also try and replace the ballcock valve washers.

In the case of no flush, double check to make sure you have water.  check the water supply valve behind and below the tank to see that it is turned on the on position.

G. If you discover that you have a cracked bowl or tank, look for evidence of leakage as it may be necessary to replace one or the other or both.  But generally toilets are tough and can last a very long time.  They are also expensive if you have to replace the entire toilet, so be sure that it is no longer functional before buying a new one.

H.  Also, for those who flush their toilet and the water just does not empty and begins to rise and rise higher and higher….you have a clog (just in case you didn’t know) and you often will have just seconds to stem the tide of the rising water before it laps over the toilet bowl all over the floor.   You can either reach quickly for your plunger and give it a couple of good plunge motions to dislodge the blockage. This almost always works as the blockage is often just partial and can be addressed.  What do you do if your trusty plunger is no where in sight.  My advice is to first (and quickly) remove the floor mat and anything else on the floor you don’t want getting wet  assuming your next action is not successful.  Then quickly turn off the toilet’s water supply at the valve behind the toilet.  I have also tried removing the tank lid and pushing the toilet flapper to seal off the opening leading the the toilet bowl.  That also works.


2 Responses to Causes of Toilet Problems – Flushing, Leaking, Running Repairs
  1. kathy thomas
    July 20, 2012 | 3:53 pm

    My question is: what can you put in a commode to further help dissolve toilet paper in the sewer system? My friend uses more toilet paper than usual and wants to be able to add something to the sewer system to help it out, like Rid-X does for septic systems.

  2. ron
    October 14, 2013 | 11:18 am

    my toilet leaks at the base when flushed

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