A toilet that doesn’t flush is one of life’s inconveniences. The panic and the stress you feel are palpable, leaving you to wonder what you can do to resolve the issue.
There are a variety of options you can try before you need to call in a professional plumber.
Read on to find out why your toilet refuses to flush and how to fix it.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The links below may be affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.
Why doesn’t my toilet flush?
You try to flush your toilet and nothing happens. You don’t want to look in the bowl as that…well, that’s not worth thinking about. What has caused this calamity?
It could be due to any one of the following:
- The water shut-off valve isn’t completely turned on.
- Your lift chain is the wrong length.
- The water level in the tank is low.
- A damaged or distorted flapper.
- The toilet’s inlet holes are blocked.
- There is a clog in the toilet.
Let’s run you through how to diagnose each of the above scenarios and how to deal with them. Then you will have a toilet that flushes like a charm.
The toilet won’t flush because of the water valve
The water shut-off valve is typically situated behind the toilet. It is just out of the wall and should be left fully open at all times. However, you may have inadvertently knocked it whilst cleaning your toilet floor.
You know you may have a water valve issue when there is no water left in the tank after a couple of flushes.
This is an easy fix. Look at the water valve and see if the tap is turned to the left. If it isn’t, then turn the tap so that it is now on the left.
Wait a minute or two and then try flushing your toilet.
Adjust the length of your lift chain
This chain within the tank attaches the flapper to the flush button outside the toilet. If the chain is too long, the slack can prevent the flush button from lifting the flapper. The result is a toilet that won’t flush.
Shorten the length of the lift chain and you’ll have a toilet that flushes.
Low water level in the tank stops the toilet from flushing
A successful flush requires at least 80% of the water in the toilet’s tank. If there isn’t enough water you are going to experience either a half flush or no flush at all.
When you have no flush at all, check the water level in your tank. If it’s empty, then it could be because your water valve has been accidentally turned off.
Another reason for water level issues in your tank is a cracked overflow tube. This tube is located within the tank and prevents water from overflowing if the ballcock isn’t working. When the overflow tube has cracks, it can cause water to constantly leak into the bowl. That means less water in the tank when it comes time to flush.
You can purchase a new overflow tube and try to install it yourself.
A faulty flapper
The flapper creates a seal between the toilet bowl and the tank. When you flush the toilet, the flapper lifts, and water is released into the bowl.
If the flapper is damaged or bent out of shape, then its ability to move is affected. The best course of action is to replace it with a new flapper. A job that you can tackle as a DIY project.
Blocked inlet holes stop the toilet from flushing
Sitting under the rim of your toilet are tiny holes that let the water flow from the tank to the bowl. Sometimes these inlet holes can become covered by mineral deposits or bacteria contained within the water.
To check if they are blocked, take a small mirror and have a look at the holes. Bacteria build-up has an orange or black color. Minerals are a light color.
If clogged inlet holes are the issue, then pour a solution of bleach and water into the overflow tube. Flush your toilet. Finish off the task by clearing the holes with a piece of wire.
Give the toilet another flush.
Your toilet is clogged
The piping within the toilet can easily handle toilet paper. However, if other things are flushed down the toilet there is that chance you are going to cause it to clog up.
If that’s the case, then you need to grab hold of your plunger and get to work.
Use a disposable cup (or something similar) to scoop out water from the bowl. You want the water at a level where it’s not going to spill onto the floor whilst using your plunger.
Position your plunger directly over the drain and form a good seal. Pump the plunger several times to create a decent suction that will free up the blockage. Once the pipe is clear, give the toilet a flush.
Use hot water to clear the blockage
This is worth a try if you don’t have a plunger. It’s a method that uses a combination of hot water and dish soap to soften whatever is blocking the pipe.
Heat four liters of water. In your toilet bowl add a couple of squirts of dish soap, then slowly pour in your hot water. You want to be careful with the water as you don’t want it to cause the toilet to overflow.
Wait for a quarter of an hour as the heated water and dish soap interact with whatever is clogging the toilet. Try flushing your toilet.
Try baking soda and vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar may help to unblock that toilet that won’t flush. For this method, you need to consider if the clog is a minor one or something major.
With minor blocks, you can combine the baking soda and vinegar at the same time. More pronounced clogs require applying the ingredients in stages. The sort of reaction you get is determined by how much baking soda you use.
First, add ½ a cup of baking soda to the toilet bowl. Pour in an equal measure of vinegar. Close the toilet lid to contain the foam as the vinegar and baking soda react. Wait 15 minutes.
Pour a pot of hot water into the bowl to flush away any clogs. Give the toilet a flush.
A toilet that won’t flush is one of life’s inconveniences. Yet, it is an issue that can be quickly resolved by any of the methods we have given you.
Once you have a toilet that flushes once more, you want to keep it that way. Make sure that nothing is being flushed down the toilet that shouldn’t be. If the blockage was caused by toilet paper, swap over to a different ply.
If none of the suggestions we have given you work, then it’s time for you to call in the professionals. Give your local plumber a call.