Running toilets are some of the most common home plumbing issues people can face. Although common, a running toilet is not something to be taken lightly. A running toilet is wasting water every second it runs, which can mean hundreds of gallons per day and hundreds of dollars added to your water bill at the end of the month.
The quicker you can fix a running toilet, the better. The good news is, you typically don’t need to call a plumber for a running toilet issue unless the problem continues to persist. Instead, you can try these simple home fixes to get your toilet back to running how it should.
Fixing a Running Toilet With a Flapper Issue
The toilet flapper is the number one culprit for most running toilet problems. Typically, if you can fix the flapper, you can fix the running toilet. Here’s how to do it:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet via the pipe next to the toilet bowl.
- Flush the toilet so that excess water drains from the tank. This will give you a clear path to the flapper and will let you take your time to fix the issue without the toilet still running.
- Locate the flapper in the back tank of the toilet. It is the round rubber seal that prevents water from draining from the tank into the bowl. It will have a chain attached to it.
- This chain that pulls the flapper up when the toilet flushes should be examined first. If it is too long or too short, it can cause issues with the toilet running.
- If you notice there is too much tension on the chain and it looks too short, remove the hook attaching the chain to the flush lever and reattach two links higher so there is more slack.
- If you notice the chain is too long and is getting caught on the valve in the back of the toilet, use a pair of wire cutters to trim the chain or reattach the chain on a higher link to make it more taught.
- If the chain looks fine, inspect the actual rubber flapper. If there are mineral deposits, discoloration, warping or build up around the flapper, then you should clean it. You can clean the flapper by soaking it in vinegar for 30 minutes then scrub it clean.
- If the flapper is degenerating or broken, replace it with a new flapper from your local hardware store.
Once you make these repairs, turn the water back on to determine if the toilet is still running or not.
Replacing the Fill Valve
If there isn’t a problem with the flapper, there may be a problem with the fill valve. Once again you will need to work with an empty tank, so you should shut off the water supply to the toilet, then flush the toilet to remove excess water. If there is still water in the bottom of the bowl, remove it by soaking it up with a sponge.
Once you have prepped the toilet, it is time to repair the fill valve.
- Completely disconnect the water supply with a pair of pliers. You can do this by unscrewing the locknut that connects the water line to the toilet.
- There is also a lock nut on the outside of the toilet tank. This is what attaches the fill valve to the toilet. Remove it with your pliers, by turning the nut counterclockwise.
- With the nut removed, pull out the old fill valve. Take it to your local hardware store and replace it with a new one.
- Insert the new valve right where the old valve was and replace the lock nut, tightening it clockwise with your pliers.
- Look inside the tank for a small tube known as the fill tube at the top of the valve. Make sure the tub is positioned so it drains into the large overflow tube next to the valve.
- Adjust the large float in the toilet according to your toilet’s recommended height. The float is lying horizontally along the back of the tank and looks like a plastic balloon. You will need to measure in order to make sure it is the right height. It can be adjusted by hand.
Once you are done, turn the water back on and let the tank fill up. Flush the toilet to test and see if the toilet is still running.
Adjusting the Water Level in Your Toilet
Sometimes issues with running toilets actually have nothing to do with the physical toilet, but with the water level in the toilet tank. If the water in the back of your toilet is too high, it will be constantly draining into the overflow tube and cause the toilet to run. You can fix the problem by adjusting the float and here’s how:
- Use a pair of pliers to loosen the screw attached the float arm. Turning the screw loose allows you to change the height of the float.
- Lower the arm of the float to ensure less water is going into the tank.
- Flush the toilet and make sure that the water level goes to about an inch below the top of the overflow tube.
- Repeat the process. You may need to adjust the float and flush several times until the water height is correct.
If the toilet continues to run from time-to-time, you can also check the fill tube. It is attached to the float and is the curved tube near the top of the water. If for some reason the tube is below the water line, then you need to adjust your float so that the water doesn’t come as high and the tube can operate as it is supposed to.