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What if My Toilet Won’t Flush All the Way?

a toilet that won't flush all the way

It’s annoying when your toilet won’t flush all the way. This problem is already bad enough if it’s just you in the house, but it’s especially frustrating if it happens when family is visiting or you’re hosting a gathering. Not only is it gross when the contents of your toilet bowl don’t completely empty when you flush, but it’s also concerning. This could be an initial sign of a larger issue that could lead to messy and expensive problems.

When you push the handle on your toilet, this should start a chain reaction. The handle should lift a stopper, which should then allow water to flow into the toilet bowl. Then, all the contents flow out through the drain in the bottom. However, this process doesn’t always work, which means that the contents in the bowl might get left behind. There are a few different reasons why you may be having this problem.

The Water Level Is Set Too Low

If the water level is set too low, then it’s likely there’s too little water flowing through your toilet tank. In order for a toilet to flush completely, the water in the tank must be at a sufficient level near the top of the overflow tube. A few different things can cause the water level in your toilet to get to a place that’s too low.

For one, it’s possible that someone manually adjusted the water level to a setting that’s too low. This can happen if you or a previous owner of your home adjusted the water level as a way to try to save water. If you think this might be the issue, you can look for a water level mark inside your tank and adjust it if it’s too low. Manufacturers usually mark toilet tanks as a way to show owners how much water should flow into the tank after each flush.

There Is a Clog in the Toilet, Flange or Drain

One of the other more common problems is when there is a clog in the toilet, flange or drain. Homeowners might first try to clear the issue by using a plunger, auger or snake inside the toilet, but this could be just a temporary fix. Many different things could have caused this problem to develop, depending on where the clog is located.

There could be something that’s temporarily stuck in the pipe that will clear on its own. But, there might also be a more serious blockage caused by an issue like a larger item or poor pipe design. With any kind of blockage, it is smart to contact a plumber, since clogs can quickly lead to even messier problems like an overflowing toilet.

One of Your Toilet’s Parts Isn’t Working

This issue can also happen if one of the essential parts of the toilet isn’t set up correctly or has worn down over time. It’s typically best to contact a plumber to inspect your toilet’s parts to make sure they’re working. One part your plumber will likely check is the float in the tank of the toilet. The float plays an important role in regulating how much water will flow into your tank. What serves as a float might be either a large rubber ball or a floating cup ballcock.

Another part that a plumber will look at is the flapper. The flapper is located inside the toilet tank and it’s essentially a small stopper that helps hold water inside the tank. Once you press the lever to flush the toilet, a chain lifts the flapper and water flows from the tank into the toilet bowl. If the flapper isn’t working as it should, there may not be enough water flowing into the bowl. Conversely, if the flapper isn’t working as it should and too much water flows in, your toilet will flush twice.

Additionally, if your flapper doesn’t fall into place securely, then water will slowly leak out of the tank through or around the flapper. This can happen if the flapper has a manufacturer defect or if it has worn out over time. Similarly, the chain or lever arm that helps control the flapper could be too short or too long, which can keep the flapper from sealing tightly. If you’d like to check this issue on your own, you can adjust the chain length to see if that solves the problem, or you can replace the flapper with a new one.

Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for homeowners to diagnose and fix toilet problems on their own. There are many different parts of the toilet that can cause these types of issues. That’s why it’s wise to contact a licensed plumber. Professionals can save you time by inspecting your toilet and by making any plumbing repairs that might be needed.

Although we touched on the different parts of the toilet, you may still have questions. Like, what is a toilet flapper?

a light blue bathroom

What is a Toilet Flapper?

A toilet flapper is a stopper that helps seal the valve between the toilet tank and bowl until someone flushes the toilet. Once a person flushes the toilet, the flapper raises and allows the water in the tank to rush into the bowl.

Toilet flappers are typically made of rubber or plastic, which means they can wear out over time. These devices usually last around five years, but it’s important to check them each year because anything from cleaning chemicals to minerals in the water might cause them to degrade more quickly.

Types of Flappers

There are a few different types of toilet flappers. The most common type is the rubber flapper, which consists of a cap that sits on the overflow pipe and a chain that helps control the flapper. Similarly, the tank ball flapper also has a chain that controls the flapper, but it uses a rubber ball to close off the overflow pipe. There’s also the seat disk flapper. This is an older kind of flapper that uses a small disk and a connecting hinge to cover the overflow pipe and control the water that flows through it.

If the flapper in your toilet is broken or worn down, then water might leak out of your toilet tank and the toilet might not flush completely. A common sign that you might need to replace a toilet flapper is if you start to hear water leaking or see water flowing continuously into the bowl. You can also visually inspect the flapper and its components to look for any damage.

If you decide to try to tackle this issue on your own, it’s important to follow some basic safety measures. First, be sure to turn off the water valve between the wall and the toilet and empty the water in the tank to help keep the toilet from overflowing. Next, be careful with all the components of your toilet. For example, if you place the tank lid on an unstable surface, it could slide off and crack. You can also crack other areas of the toilet if you fasten bolts and other connectors too tightly.

Additionally, make sure you know the make and model of your toilet before you go to the store to buy a replacement flapper. If you buy a part that doesn’t fit your toilet correctly, it could mean another trip back to the store.

While you can try to replace a toilet flapper on your own, this can be confusing, time-consuming and stressful—even more so if you are prone to making plumbing mistakes. A better option is to contact a plumbing specialist, who can take care of everything for you, so you can get back to your day-to-day.

When you call a licensed plumber, they can help make sure the toilet is in good working order. A pro can inspect your toilet, plumbing connections and the rest of the system to figure out whether your toilet flapper is the problem. They will also be able to replace your toilet flapper if needed. If that isn’t the issue, they can investigate further to help determine what’s causing your current problem and help catch other potential problems before they get worse.

a toilet with a clogged drain pipe

What Can I Do About a Clogged Drain Pipe?

You might be able to prevent clogged drain pipes by taking measures like avoiding flushing any items down the toilet besides basic toilet paper. But sadly, clogs are a common plumbing problem that can happen to even the most careful homeowner. When this happens, it’s wise to call a pro.

If you think you might have a clogged drain pipe, It might be tempting to try to handle this issue on your own. Unfortunately, do-it-yourself fixes can lead to messy, expensive problems. That’s why it’s typically best to contact a professional for drain pipe issues and for any other problems with your toilet. They have the skills, experience and specialized tools that are typically needed to effectively unblock your pipes.

ABC Can Get Your Toilet Flushing Properly Again

When your toilet isn’t working, it disrupts your day-to-day life. Instead of guessing why your toilet won’t flush all the way, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our licensed plumbers can adjust your water level, replace your flapper or unclog blockages that are creating problems. When you contact us, you can feel confident that we will get your home life back to normal again.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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