Five Toilet Repairs You Can Totally Handle Yourself
How To

Five Toilet Repairs You Can Totally Handle Yourself

Drip, drip, drip. That’s the sound of a running toilet keeping you awake at night. You flush the toilet. You fiddle around the tank and push and pull on the levers, desperately trying to stop the running. Nothing. Maybe it will just stop on its own…right?

You go back to bed and then you hear it again. Drip, drip, drip. You have no idea what to do at this point. Well, here’s what you shouldn’t do: don’t call a plumber. Here are the most common toilet problems that you can totally handle yourself—with many repairs requiring nothing but a good wrench.

The Toilet Is Overflowing

The Problem: You flush the toilet, but instead of draining, the water starts rising. This is the classic sign of a clog. Don’t panic—it happens to the best of us. 

The Fix: Make sure to shut off your toilet’s water supply. Here are five methods for clearing your commode:

  • Plunger: Place a flanged plunger into the toilet bowl, making sure it completely covers the toilet drain. The bell of the plunger should be fully submerged in the water to create a proper seal over the drain. If there’s not enough water in the toilet bowl, add more water until it covers the plunger. Start with a few gentle plunges while keeping the suction intact. Then, begin to plunge up and down vigorously, about 15 to 20 times. This should do the trick, but if not, keep reading!
  • Home remedy: Add one cup of baking soda to the toilet bowl. After the baking soda sinks to the bottom of the bowl, add two cups of white vinegar. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours. Plunge the toilet to dislodge any obstructions. Give the toilet a flush to see if the obstruction has cleared. 
  • Snake/closet auger: Insert a snake into the toilet drain. Turn the handle clockwise to lengthen the snake into the toilet pipes until you feel it reach the obstruction in the toilet. Crank the handle counterclockwise to pull the obstruction out of the toilet. Repeat until the toilet is unclogged.
  • Wet/dry vacuum (also known as a Shop Vac): Use the vacuum to suck up the water in the toilet bowl. Place the vacuum’s hose into the toilet drain. Wrap an old towel around the hose to create a seal over the drain. Use the vacuum again to suck up the obstruction in the toilet.
  • Enzyme product: The most common products are Rid-X, Drano, FDC Breakdown, and Green Gobbler. Make sure to look for an enzyme-specific product—anything else can ruin your pipes. These products can only break down waste, not toys or other obstructions. Follow the instructions that come with your product.

The Toilet Is Continuously Running

The Problem: You flush the toilet. It drains properly, but then you continue to hear a trickling of water that never ends.  This is most likely caused by water running from the tank into the bowl. It could also be caused by a faulty flapper valve or fill valve.

The Fix: Luckily, this is one of the easiest toilet problems to fix. Simply re-adjust the pull chain or loosen the toilet handle

If that’s not cutting it, you might have a faulty flapper valve. The flapper is located in the toilet tank and helps retain water after each flush. A warped flapper doesn’t retain water properly and can cause continuous running. Here’s how to replace a flapper

If your flapper doesn’t appear to be the culprit, chances are it’s a problem with the fill valve. The fill valve refills the toilet tank after flushing, but if it’s improperly set, it will allow the water to run continuously. Follow this guide to replace your fill valve.

The Toilet Doesn’t Flush

The Problem: You push the toilet handle and nothing happens, or the water in the toilet bowl slightly swirls around but doesn’t go down. Chances are, there isn’t enough water in the tank. If the water level is sufficient, there may be a faulty or broken part inside of the toilet tank. 

The Fix: If the water level in the tank is low, make sure the water valve is turned on and that water is flowing to the toilet.

You’ll want to read through this list to make sure all of the internals are working properly. If any of the following parts are broken, consider replacing the handle, flapper, or fill valve.

The Toilet Is Leaking

The Problem: The toilet leaks water from the tank or bowl. Toilet leaks are most commonly caused by a cracked bowl or tank, a failing tank to bowl gasket, or loose nuts and bolts on the toilet.

The Fix: Check out these resources for patching or replacing a cracked toilet. Need to replace your tank bowl gasket? We’ve got you covered with a handy guide. Here are some solutions if loose hardware is causing the leak.

Still having problems? For a more comprehensive list of problems and solutions, we’ve put together a full troubleshooting guide to quell your worst toilet terrors.

Title photo by Axel Naud/Flickr.