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Few things match the sinking feeling one gets when a poorly flushing toilet comes to their notice!

For those who have never encountered this issue, it can be frustrating to figure out a solution without knowing what to look for. However, it’s a common plumbing problem, and almost everyone is likely to face it at some point.

The important thing to note here is that such issues are usually DIY-fixed quite easily if you know what to do. Finding the source of the problem and fixing it with implements that you can find lying around in your house will do just fine.

So, to help you diagnose and solve the flushing issues of your toilet, we’ve compiled a guide on how to fix a toilet that won’t flush. Without further ado, let’s explore these solutions thoroughly!

Common Reasons Why Your Isn’t Flushing

Toilet Cistern Clear Water

1. Faults With The Lift Chain Or Flush Handle

This is one of the most common reasons for the flushing mechanism not working in most toilets. A telltale sign of a faulty flushing mechanism is when nothing happens upon pressing down on the flush handle. It could indicate other underlying issues with the toilet cistern or tanks, such as a problem with the water supply or a completely broken flushing mechanism.

But sometimes, it may signal a faulty flush handle, which may fly under your radar if you are not looking for it. In this regard, a common problem you may encounter is the chain link between it and the flapper disconnecting on either end.

When this happens, pressing on the handle does nothing, as the flapper doesn’t rise to let the water into the bowl.

Another issue may be the length of the lift chain, which may end up being too long or too short to operate the flushing mechanism for the required time. A short chain keeps the flapper from sealing the cistern properly, while a long chain can’t pull the flapper enough to release water.

2. Low Water Level In The Toilet Tank

The problem involves the cistern not filling up properly, which contributes to the flushing mechanism not working properly. Generally, the water level should be an inch below the overflow tube to allow optimal flushing. If the cistern doesn’t have enough water, it won’t be able to create the pressure needed for a proper toilet flush.

If the water levels are too far below the overflow tube, the problem is with the cistern inlet valve. Poor adjustments, faults or the water valve being in contact with the side of the toilet tank may be the source of the problem.

3. Damaged Or Misshapen Flapper

The cistern contains a small rubber valve at the bottom, allowing water to run into the toilet bowl. This flapper lifts or closes as you press on the flush handle. Since this part is in contact with flowing water, it can damage or deteriorate over time.

Check the flapper if you see water constantly running into the toilet bowl or if nothing happens when you press the flush handle. There’s a good chance you’re dealing with a warped or broken toilet flapper.

4. Clogged Toilet

Another reason for your toilet not flushing properly is a clog. Your toilet can get clogged if things like sanitary products, wet wipes, paper towels, or too much toilet paper are flushed down the toilet. These objects can deposit in your main sewer line, causing a build-up and eventual blockage.

Diagram Plungin Toilet Gloves

There is a chance that a toilet block isn’t immediately visible as a result of a partial clog. Such clogs potentially form further in the sewer line and cause issues with the flushing. A simple way of testing partial clogs is to pour a bucket of cold water down the toilet and check the flushing mechanism afterwards. You may face a partial clog if the toilet still doesn’t flush correctly.

5. Blocked Toilet Jets

Toilet jets are tiny holes in your toilet bowl through which water fills the bowl when you press the flush handle. These openings are responsible for cleansing the inner sides of the bowl, making their role quite significant in the flushing mechanism.

If these openings are blocked, the effectiveness of your flushing mechanism will be severely limited. The reasons for these could either be corrosion or mineral deposits.

How To Fix A Toilet That Won’t Flush

1. Don’t Flush Repeatedly

If your toilet bowl fills up when you press the flush handle but doesn’t flush properly, the first step is to stop flushing. This usually happens when your toilet is clogged, causing the water to not escape into the sewer line. Repeatedly flushing the toilet may cause it to overflow, creating a new mess for you to deal with.

2. Check Your Water Supply

When facing a cistern that won’t fill up properly, you should check the water supply to see if the valves are functioning properly. If the water valve is turned off, turn it on and watch for the water level to ensure the cistern fills up below the overflow tube.

If there are problems with the water valve, turn off the water supply and examine it carefully. Chances are, the valve may be blocked or damaged, preventing the cistern from filling up with enough water. You may clear out the blockage for the former while replacing the valve with a new one is an easy fix for the latter.

3. Replace The Toilet Flapper

If your toilet flapper is misshapen or broken, you must replace it. Since it’s made from rubber, the chances of repairs are fairly low.

Luckily, rubber flappers are an inexpensive part of the toilet cistern, and replacing them is simple and quick. All you need to do is drain the toilet’s tank, remove the old rubber flapper and fix the new one in its place.

Turn the water supply back on and try flushing the toilet again. If it does not work, you may want to step back and locate the source of the problem again.

Blue Dye Running Toilet

4. Adjust The Lift Chain

A lift chain that is too long is solved easily by adjusting its length so that the toilet handle can pull the flapper without trouble. Ensure that there isn’t too much slack on the lift chain.

However, a chain that is too short will need you to attach additional chain links or replace it entirely. You can find lift chains easily at any local hardware store.

5. Unclog The Toilet

One of the most effective methods of clearing a toilet clog is to use vinegar and baking soda. The method involves pouring half a cup of each into the toilet bowl and letting the mixture work for 20-30 minutes. You can try flushing afterwards to see if the clog clears up.

An alternative way to clear clogged toilet pipes is to pour hot water directly into the toilet. This loosens the debris that is the source of the problem, allowing you to use the flush button to clear them up.

Some other ways to unclog the toilet involve using a toilet auger and chemical products like dish soap. The ways to DIY-solve a toilet clog are numerous; each is as simple as the next.

Lastly, if the toilet still won’t flush after using these methods, you can also try using a good old-fashioned toilet plunger to create suction. You’ll have to ensure that the plunger’s cup is submerged, after which you can begin vigorously pushing and pulling on the seal. If it works, you’ll see the water level drop gradually once you remove the plunger, and the toilet should be flushing properly.

6. Clear The Toilet Jets Thoroughly

You can use a wired brush to clean the jets of the toilet bowl, but an old toothbrush will also work well enough. Using a small mirror, you can check for blocked toilet jets and clear them out one-by-one.

Major blocks may need vigorous brushing, but they are usually not too difficult to clean. Before long, you’ll have them all unclogged and ready to be used again. Pull on the flush handle to test if the block has cleared, and if the water flows into the toilet bowl is free, you’re done!

Get That Toilet Flushed!

Issues with a toilet’s flushing mechanism usually don’t happen often, and you’ll have little trouble solving them on your own. However, there can be times when you can’t fix the problem on your own.

For example, you may be unable to identify the source, or the solutions you try may have only a partial effect. In either case, feel free to contact a professional plumber.

A licensed plumber, like Woolf Plumbing & Gas, will have the expertise to locate and eliminate any flushing issues your toilet may have. At the end of the day, no matter the severity of the problem, having it solved is what matters the most. So, contact our Perth plumbers to book an appointment!


Ashley Woolf

Ashley Woolf

Find them on their website: Woolf Plumbing & Gas, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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