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How to Troubleshoot and Fix a Toilet That Won’t Flush Properly

fix toilet flush

There are few things more essential than a functioning toilet in your home. When your toilet doesn’t flush correctly, it can be frustrating and even embarrassing when guests come to visit. A slow-flushing toilet is a problem that can usually be resolved by an experienced DIYer, but it depends on what exactly is causing the issue. In this blog post, we’ll break down the common reasons for poor flushing, how to troubleshoot and fix a slow-flushing toilet, and preventative maintenance tips to keep your toilet running smoothly.

Understanding the Anatomy of a Toilet

Before we dive into troubleshooting and fixing a slow-flushing toilet, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of a toilet. The main components of a toilet include the tank, bowl, flapper valve, flush lever, lift chain, fill valve, and overflow tube. The tank holds water and releases it into the bowl through the flapper valve when you flush, while the fill valve refills the tank with water after each flush. The flush lever and lift chain are responsible for activating the flapper valve, and the overflow tube helps prevent any overflow from the tank. Understanding how these components work together is critical to identifying and fixing any issues with your toilet.

Common Reasons for Poor Flushing

There are several possible reasons why your toilet is flushing slowly or inadequately, including:

  • Low water levels in the tank
  • A partially clogged drain or sewer line
  • Mineral build-up on the jet holes
  • A defective flapper valve
  • A blocked drain vent

Troubleshooting and Fixing a Slow-Flushing Toilet

Step 1: Check the Water Level

The water level in your toilet tank should be about 1/2 inch below the top of the overflow tube. If it’s lower than that, there may not be enough water in the tank to provide a strong flush. To fix this problem, adjust the fill valve so that more water fills the tank before the fill valve is turned off.

Step 2: Check the Flapper Valve

If the flapper valve isn’t sealing correctly, water will leak from the tank into the bowl, and your toilet won’t flush efficiently. Check to see if the flapper valve is worn or damaged and replace it if necessary. Also, check that the chain connecting the flush lever to the flapper isn’t too loose or too tight.

Step 3: Check the Flush Lever and Chain

The flush lever and chain are responsible for lifting the flapper valve when you flush. If the chain is too long or too short, the flapper valve won’t open correctly, and your toilet won’t flush efficiently. Adjust the chain so that there’s just enough slack to allow the flapper valve to open fully when you flush.

Step 4: Check for Clogged Drain Lines

If your toilet still isn’t flushing correctly, there may be a clog in the drain lines leading from your toilet. Use a plunger or snake to try and clear any blockages in the drain lines. If that doesn’t work, you may need to call a plumber to help clear the clog.

Step 5: Adjust the Fill Valve

If adjusting the water level and checking the flapper valve, flush lever, and chain didn’t improve your toilet’s flushing power, try adjusting the fill valve. A fill valve that isn’t working correctly can cause low water pressure in the tank, leading to a weak flush. Adjust the fill valve so that it delivers the proper amount of water to the tank after each flush.

Troubleshooting and Fixing a Broken Flusher

Step 1: Inspect the Flusher Handle

If your toilet won’t flush at all, the flusher handle may be broken or disconnected from the lift chain. Check to see if the flusher handle is loose or disconnected and tighten or reconnect it as needed.

Step 2: Check the Lift Chain

The lift chain connects the flusher handle to the flapper valve. If it’s too loose or too tight, the flapper valve won’t open correctly when you flush. Adjust the chain so that there’s just enough slack to allow the flapper valve to open fully when you flush.

Step 3: Check the Flapper Valve

If the flapper valve is worn or damaged, it won’t seal correctly, and your toilet won’t flush at all. Replace the flapper valve if necessary.

Step 4: Replace the Flusher Assembly

If none of the above steps resolved the issue, you may need to replace the entire flusher assembly. This is a more complex repair that may require the help of a plumber.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Regular Cleaning

Cleaning your toilet regularly can help prevent clogs and mineral build-up on the jet holes. Use a toilet bowl cleaner and a stiff-bristle brush to clean the inside of the bowl and under the rim. Be sure to wear gloves and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Avoid Flushing Non-Flushable Items

Never flush non-flushable items down your toilet, as they can cause clogs and damage to your plumbing system. Some common examples of non-flushable items include wipes, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, and paper towels.

Proper Water Usage

Be mindful of your water usage to avoid overloading your plumbing system. Don’t flush large amounts of toilet paper at once, and space out your flushes if necessary to allow your plumbing system to keep up with the demand.


A slow-flushing toilet can be frustrating, but with a little troubleshooting and some basic repairs, you can usually get it back up and running smoothly. If you’re not comfortable making these repairs yourself, don’t hesitate to call a plumber for help. Remember to practice regular preventative maintenance to keep your toilet running smoothly and avoid future issues.