Taming Your Toilet

Ever have trouble with your toilet? I have and I hate it. I don't mind cleaning the bowl, but ask me to reach into the netherlands of toilet plumbing, you can forget it. I don't know what it is, but I just can't stand sticking my hand in to adjust the inner workings. Bleah.

My condo association recently published the following in their monthly newsletter. Thank you Parkfairfax for these tips!

1) Is your toilet firmly set to the floor? If your toilet can be rocked from side to side (eek!), you can end up breaking the ceramic bowl base, or cause water to leak onto your floor, or through to a downstairs neighbor's ceiling.  Your toilet should rest firmly on the floor. A wax ring is compressed between the bottom of the bowl and the pip flange and this seal should last for many years.  If your toilet has been repaired or replaced recently, call the plumber back if it's not securely set to the floor.  Tightening toilet flange bolts sounds very simple, but it is easy to over tighten them and crack the base of the toilet. Once it's cracked, it can not be repaired; it must be replaced.

2) Does it fill and shut off? If the toilet runs non-stop, it can result in a tremendous waste of water (on the order of hundreds of gallons per day right down the drain).  It can cause constant dripping condensation on the bathroom floor (normally a winter-time problem). Some toilets use a "fluidmaster" flush valve. This is the gray plastic cylinder with the black canister type of float.  Remove the toilet tank lid and flush.  The float should rise with the water level and then shut completely off.  The water level should end up below the top of the brass overflow tube. If the water level continues to rise above the top of the overflow tube, you can try adjusting it with chrome slide clip on the Fluidmaster. If the toilet will not shut off, the Fluidmaster seal may need to be replaced, or the entire device may be defective.  This job can be done be done by most experienced do-it-yourselfers who strictly follow the written instructions that come with the repair parts.

3) Does your toilet run periodically throughout the day? A defective flapper usually causes this nuisance, and waste of water.  This is the black or red rubber device at the bottom of the tank that is connected to the flush handle by a chain. Make sure the flush handle is "free" and not obstructed by the toilet tank cover.  Make sure there is a little slack in the chain, adjust it if there isn't. Make sure a toilet "cleaner/dye" container is not impeding the flapper.  Flappers are relatively easy to replace.  Follow the written instructions on the package.  Remember, if you have a water saving toilet, you must use a water saving flapper.

While I've never had my toilet rock from side to side, I have had it run periodically through the day or not shut off. I've learned on my own how to fix that, mostly because I was so upset about wasting all that water. If you're not annoyed by wasting water, you may be annoyed by the toilet running all the time.

Heather Schaefer is the Founder and Executive Director of Go Green Alexandria, dedicated to environmental education and outreach. Find out more on Go Green Alexandria.

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