continuously flushing toilet

Why does my toilet keep flushing?

#Jimmy Stanton 17 Dec 2020
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When it comes to your bathroom, there are many things that can go wrong given the number of plumbing pipes and other essential fittings that enable you to take a bath or shower, run the tap in the sink and use the toilet.

Being without a shower can be hugely inconvenient but when things go wrong with your toilet, it can be even more of a nightmare. One of the biggest issues is having a toilet that just continuously flushes and won’t stop. There are a few different potential causes behind this but before you call the plumber out, it is worth investigating the problem yourself to try and identify the source of the problem.

As well as rendering your toilet unusable, it will be wasting large volumes of water and potentially costing you a fortune in water bills if you’re on a water meter. If you are experiencing this issue then it is best to turn the water off at the toilet’s shutoff valve or your main water stopcock, so that you don’t lose any more water unnecessarily.

Here are some of the checks that you can do to determine the cause of the problem:

Inspect the toilet flapper/valve seal

The most common cause of a constantly flushing toilet is a damaged flush valve seal. This seal is the plug that holds the water in the tank after a toilet is flushed. If it is not working, the water from the tank will keep running into the toilet bowl.

By lifting the tank lid off the toilet, you should be able to inspect the flapper to see any visible cracks or damage through decay. If you cannot visibly see any cracks but suspect that water is running through the valve, another way to identify this is by pouring some food colouring dye into the tank and seeing if it appears in the bowl. If this is the case, then the flapper will need to be replaced. If it is being caused by a build-up of dirt on the flapper, it can simply be cleaned.

Cleaning the flapper

To clean the flapper, all you need is some vinegar and a toothbrush. Fill a bowl up with the vinegar and remove the flapper from the tank, unhooking it from the chain and pulling the pegs out from where they attach to the overflow tube. Place the flapper into the bowl of vinegar and leave it to soak for up to an hour. During this time, the mineral deposits that have built up will loosen. Then you can use the toothbrush to rub all the dirt away from the flapper. Wipe the flapper down and then fix it back into place before testing whether it works again.

Replacing the flapper

If you are trying to replace the flapper yourself, be aware that they come in varied sizes and you will need to measure yours to ensure you fit the right size or take it to the store with you.

The flapper can be easily removed by unhooking it from the chain and opening the pegs that attach it onto the overflow tube. Clip the new flapper into place by hooking it onto the lift chain and clipping the pegs onto the overflow tube.

Before turning the water back on you can check whether it looks like the seal is firmly closing when you pull the flush handle. Turn your water back on and check that the issue has been resolved and the toilet only flushes once and then the valve closes. If this hasn’t resolved the issue, move onto the next check:

Check the length of the chain

The length of the pull chain could be causing the problem, as if it is too long it can become caught on the flapper, causing it not to seal properly. If the chain is too short then the flapper won’t be able to close at all, as the chain will be restricting it. The length can quickly be adjusted by hooking the flapper onto a different part of the chain.

Examine the toilet tank float ball and float arm

Another problem area that could be behind the continuous flushing is the float ball and arm. The float ball and arm tell the toilet when there is enough water and to stop filling with more water.

By simply lifting the arm, you might find that the water stops running, in which case, the issue is to do with this mechanism. Usually what has happened is the ball has gotten stuck against the side of the tank, meaning the ball is not high up enough to stop the water from running. To fix this, you can move the arm slightly to pull the ball away from the tank wall.

If the ball is not touching the side of the tank, then the other problem that might be there is a crack in the ball, which is stopping it from floating to the top. If it is cracked, it will get filled up with water and get weighed down, resulting in it not being able to perform its function.

Check the water level

If none of the above fixes have worked then the problem could be down to the water level being incorrect. If the water level is too high, then water will be flowing down the overflow tube. You can adjust the water level by lowering the ball float. If the ball float cannot be easily adjusted by hand, it might be because there is a problem with the screw where the ball float arm attaches. You should be able to use a screwdriver to loosen the arm and allow it to lower. Now you should see that the water level adjusts accordingly and hopefully this will have resolved the issue of the running toilet.

Overflowing toilet due to blockage

These are the most common issues behind a constantly flushing or running toilet but there could be other issues to be aware of in conjunction with these. For example, if your toilet is blocked then it could cause an overflow. When your toilet starts to overflow it can cause a great deal of damage to your home, so it should be resolved as quickly as possible. As well as potentially damaging the flooring in your bathroom, water could seep through the floor into the room below, if your toilet is upstairs.

You should cut off the water to stop the water from continuing to flow into the bowl. If you think that the main reason that the toilet is overflowing is because there is a blockage in the drain, then there are a few ways of unblocking it.

The first thing to have a go at, if you have one, is a plunger to try and get the blockage to dislodge. Other ways to remove blockages include using a specialist unblocking fluid to pour into the toilet bowl. Another effective way to unblock a toilet is to use a toilet snake, which is a long wire that will bend around the toilet piping and break the blockage up or allow you to pull it out. You can then try turning the water back on and checking whether unblocking the drain has rectified the overflowing issue.

When is it time to call a plumber?

If your toilet continues to keep flushing after you have attempted all these fixes, then it is time to call in the professionals. These are some of the more simple and straightforward fixes for a constantly flushing toilet. However, if you are not a trained plumber then you could end up doing more damage than good if you try the more complex types of repairs. If you are looking for a reliable, professional plumbing company in the Bristol area, then call Bristol Plumber 247 to help you with your toilet repairs or any other plumbing issues.