Having a toilet that doesn’t flush properly can be frustrating, not to mention embarrassing. Have you ever gone to the bathroom while you have a house full of people only to find you can’t get all of your waste to disappear? You start to panic, flushing over and over, trying to remove the evidence of your bathroom adventures from the bowl. How do you make your toilet flush stronger?
There are several things you can do before you call a plumber for an expensive fix. Often the problem can be fixed quickly and inexpensively all by yourself. Many of these solutions don’t cost a thing. In this article, we will explore the possible causes and quick fixes of many common reasons why your toilet isn’t doing its job as well as it should.
How to Find and Fix a Weak Flush
In the steps below, we will go through the possible causes of weak flushing and potential solutions. It’s always wise to start with the simplest solution first, and the worst result of this method is a cleaner toilet. Let’s get started.
Checking the Waste Pipe for Clogs
A clogged waste pipe is typically the reason behind power flushing strength. It’s not uncommon to find a build-up of toilet paper or large waste to be the cause of a partial clog that makes flushing more difficult. You’ll know immediately if the waste pipe has a total clog because if the water has nowhere to go, it will quickly fill up the bowl, causing an overflow.
Using a Plunger
A plunger works by forcing water back and forth through the waste pipe repeatedly, breaking up the clog. The most common plunger found in bathrooms is the standard round, rubber variety. Although you can use this in a pinch, it’s not as effective and is intended to break up clogs in shower drains.
The most effective type of plunger to unclog your toilet has a flange extension or an extension of the rubber part inside of the plunger. A few examples of flange plumbers can be found here.
Using a Toilet Snake
If the plunger doesn’t do the trick, you can use a toilet snake. A toilet snake is a long coiled cable that can be adjusted to different lengths by feeding it into the waste pipe.
A snake works to reach clogs further down the pipe, breaking them up. If you are unsure how to use one, you can follow the instructions that come with it. Toilet snakes are relatively inexpensive and easy to use and can be used to unclog any drains in your home.
Checking the Jet Flush Hole for Clogs
The jet hole (also known as the siphon jet) is located in the bowl’s front. Its job is to hold water, releasing it at an angle to push waste into the waste pipe when you flush the toilet.
This hole can develop a build-up of calcium or other mineral deposits over time, causing a clog. This is especially common in areas whose water supply is hard.
The jet hole can be cleaned in a couple of different ways. The best way to complete this job is with the water supply turned off. Once you’ve done that, get a small brush, like the kind you would clean a bottle with, and scrub out the area.
Another inexpensive fix to try while you’ve got the water turned off is filling the overflow pipe with vinegar, allowing it to sit for a while. Much like using vinegar to clean a coffee maker, it will eat away at any calcium or mineral deposits developed over time. After about ten minutes, turn the water back on and flush. Follow up with a good scrub using your handy brush once more.
Checking Rim Jets for Clogs
This can be a pretty simple fix. We suggest turning off the water by turning the valve found behind the toilet itself. Using a small pocket mirror, you can check for clogs. Use the mirror to reflect the holes beneath the rim. Simply tilt the mirror until you have a good view.
Once a clog is established, turn off the water supply. After you’ve turned off the water supply, grab that bottle brush again. Using the end of a coat hanger, poke through each jet. This will free any debris or mineral build-up that is keeping the toilet from working.
Once you’ve finished, turn the water to the toilet back on and flush to determine if the problem was solved. This is nearly identical to the process we’ve mentioned above for the jet hole, as both work in a rather similar way. By giving all of these jets a proper scrub every time you clean the toilet, you prevent a major clog. (Use this as a comprehensive guide to properly cleaning your toilet.)
Here are some other tips to prevent clogging:
- Installing a water softener in homes where a well provides the water will also reduce mineral build-up frequency. Although the initial cost is high, you’ll notice it saves time and money in the long run.
- Get familiar with the parts inside of your toilet tank to help you locate the overflow tube, as well as the other components inside of the toilet bowl that you could clean out to reduce clogging. Here, you’ll find some helpful illustrations for reference.
Adjusting the Water Pressure on a Toilet
There are a couple of simple ways you can adjust the water pressure in your toilet. Again, these are quick and inexpensive methods you can try before resorting to calling a plumber.
Check the Water Valve
If you look behind your toilet, you’ll find the water valve. Every toilet is connected to a water supply by a water valve that controls how much water goes into the tank. It’s likely this valve was not completely opened last time you shut the water supply to the toilet off. This limits the amount of water provided to the toilet, causing a weakened flush.
In a clockwise motion, turn the valve to open it completely. It requires quite a few turns to properly open this valve, so keep up the turning until you can’t turn it any farther.
Adjust the Water Level
A low level of water will not only cause your toilet to flush improperly, but it also raises the likelihood of clogging due to a lack of pressure flow through the waste pipe.
This level is controlled by the float located inside of the toilet tank. This float remains on top of the water level when the toilet is not in use to prohibit any additional water from filling the tank. Flushing your toilet causes the water level to drop, along with the float, allowing water to fill the tank. As the tank refills, the float rises once more, closing the water supply to the tank.
As a rule of thumb, tank water levels should be about an inch or two below the opening of the overflow pipe. If your tank’s level is below that guideline, troubleshooting the cause is simple.
- First, give your float a little shake. If you can feel water sloshing around inside, you need to have it replaced. Although this can be done yourself, it’s best to contact a plumber for a float replacement. DIY float replacements can lead to new problems if you aren’t experienced.
- If your float isn’t waterlogged, look on top of your fill valve for a screw. Using a screwdriver, or even just your hand, give it a full clockwise rotation. This will allow the float to go higher in your tank. Keep twisting until your float places the water level in the appropriate place.
Adjusting the Water Level in the Bowl
A low level of water in the bowl will also affect the flushing power of your toilet. If the level in your toilet’s tank is okay, but the level in the bowl is too low, it’s more likely than not because the water valve behind the toilet is faulty.
To determine if a leak is an issue, flush your toilet a few times. If there is water shooting out of the fill valve, that means it has a leak. This is sometimes a more comprehensive and difficult repair, requiring the assistance of a plumber. The process of replacement, if not done correctly, can cause other parts in the tank to become loose. The faulty valve apparatus needs to be replaced with a new one, but if you’ve never done this before, it can be rather tricky.
Although there are always tutorials like this one, if you are not completely confident in your do-it-yourself skills, you may want to call a plumber or seek assistance from someone who’s done the replacement before.
Check the Slack in the Flapper
A good way to check if your flapper has too much slack is to see how long you have to hold the flusher down to obtain a decent flush. Is it taking a while before the toilet actually flushes? If that’s the case, then chances are you need to make changes to the amount of slack in your flapper chain. If you hear water running in the tank after a flush is complete, it’s probably the flapper.
Not only does a faulty flapper cause a loss in the power of your toilet’s flush, but it can also raise your water bill significantly. Once you’ve located your flapper in the tank, look to see how long the chain is and whether it has too much slack. If that chain is too long, the flapper closes too quickly, limiting the amount of water that flows into the bowl. Removing a little bit of the chain should do the trick.
If you continue to hear water flowing or don’t notice an improvement, the flapper needs replacing. Since it’s made of rubber, time and use will cause it to harden or warp. When this happens, it can’t perform its job efficiently. Replacing your flapper is similar to adjusting the chain. In most cases, the instructions will be on the outside of the flapper’s packaging.
Check for Problems Within the Plumbing Vent System
Like other systems in your home, your plumbing system needs a vent system to regulate air pressure, push water to keep it moving through the pipes, and ensure the odor of your sewer pipes doesn’t leak into your house.
When this vent system isn’t up to par, it affects not only water pressure but also drain function and flushing power. If you hear gurgling in your pipes, notice your shower or sinks are draining less efficiently, or can smell the nasty odor of sewage in your house, chances are your plumbing vent system is not working correctly.
Unfortunately, this is one of those issues you need to call a plumber. Even with a tutorial, a clog in this vent system isn’t something you want to take on yourself. Although this video will give you an idea of what your plumber will do, it’s only intended as a reference guide. It is not advised you attempt to do this yourself.
In this case, you should contact a professional as soon as possible. Contact with raw sewage can cause multiple health problems if not handled correctly, and waiting too long can cause a backup of raw sewage in your house. Once this happens, clean up and repairs your home can quickly become very costly.
Reverse Any Water Saving Efforts
Many articles on the internet provide DIY solutions to run more cost-effective home or resource conservation tips. Still, sometimes you’ll find these tips will affect how well some of your systems or appliances perform.
Although displacing the water in your tank can save you money in one respect, it can also cause an issue in the flushing power of your toilet, leading to additional costs we’ve covered earlier.
Call a Plumber
Of course, if the above steps are a little too overwhelming to take on yourself, you can always call a plumber.
Most homeowners can find a good plumber by asking neighbors and friends for references. Many people have a plumber they use frequently and can help you there. In some cases, plumbers even offer a discount for referrals as an incentive.
If you can’t get a referral, check peer review sites like this one. Most provide reviews from other consumers in the area who have used their services in the past. You can then determine the service that is best suited for your needs. Remember, it’s always okay to ask questions about suggested repairs as well.
Why the Strength of Your Toilet’s Flush is Important
To ensure your waste goes down in one try without returning to the toilet bowl, your toilet needs to have a strong flush. Without a strong flush, you will find yourself flushing your toilet multiple times to remove waste completely.
Inefficient flushing power can also lead to the need to clean your toilet more frequently, and that’s just another reason why flushing strength is important.
Higher Maintenance Costs
The need to flush multiple times can become costly. If you are using bowl cleaners activated with every flush, you’ll be going through them twice as fast. Often, you’ll find the need to clean the toilet itself more frequently, racking up the purchasing of products. Also, each flush shortens the lifetime of your toilet’s flushing mechanism.
Spending Too Much Time in the Bathroom
When you have to flush multiple times to remove your waste, you’re monopolizing its use, leading to frustration in guests and family members. While you panic, flushing repeatedly, everyone else waiting to use the facilities grows frustrated. This is an issue easily avoided.
Increased Likelihood of Flooding
Every time you flush inefficiently, you are risking a clog. Often, multiple or impatiently repeated flushing can lead to bathroom floods. This causes the need to clean the bathroom, doubling you and your guest’s embarrassment. Now not only has their waste not flushed, but there is no hiding the fact!
Increased Need for Repair
When your toilet doesn’t flush properly on the first try, it’s usually not an isolated incident. Improper flushing eventually leads to clogging over time. In a larger household, this will most certainly lead to more frequent maintenance and repair.
Most often, the solution to your problem can be resolved quickly and without the need for a plumber by using the steps above to diagnose and repair the issue. Again, many homeowners experience the same problems. You aren’t alone.
Although we’ve provided a comprehensive guide to finding and fixing common issues, it’s important to seek out step-by-step tutorials and videos for performing the steps above if you are unsure of exactly what needs to be done. You can also seek out the assistance of friends and neighbors who’ve experienced and corrected similar issues themselves. You’ll usually find they are more than happy to help.