Toilet Won’t Flush? 5 Common Culprits and 5 Easy Fixes

By Mengning Heil

November 5, 2021

Toilet Plumbing Tips

Reading Time: 4 minutes

toilet won't flush

Why Won’t My Toilet Flush?

When your toilet won’t flush, it is never convenient. Whether you are dealing with a clogged toilet or trying to figure out why your toilet won’t flush properly, we’re going to address those issues below so that you can get back to what matters most to you!

Here are the 5 most common culprits when your toilet won’t flush or isn’t flushing like it used to.

1. Most toilets that won’t flush are clogged. You may know the reason why or you may not. If you are unsure, check to see if there is any visible obstruction in the bowl that has left you with a clogged toilet. Objects flushed intentionally or unintentionally down the toilet may completely or partially block the water (or anything else) from passing through.

Your usual suspects are so-called flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, dryer sheets, cotton balls, hair, maybe a toy your kid dropped in the bowl, or just too much TP. In fact, it’s those brands of toilet paper that are marketed as soft and strong that can really cause you the most trouble if you use too much. If you ask a plumber they will tell you: The best practice is to only flush toilet paper!

If you know that you have a clogged toilet, skip down to the next section, “How to fix a toilet that won’t flush.”

2. Once you’ve established that you are not dealing with a clogged toilet, the first thing you want to ensure is that the handle of the toilet is not causing your water woes.

If you don’t hear or see the water moving when you flush then it likely means that the handle arm is disconnected from the chain. Reattach the chain but make sure there is not too much slack (you only want about half an inch) since excess can cause the chain to get caught underneath the flapper thus inhibiting the tight seal you want and causing water to leak into the bowl.

3. A third consideration, when your toilet won’t flush, is whether the toilet is able to let down a full tank of water.

It’s possible to accidentally nudge your toilet’s water shut-off valve while cleaning which would prevent sufficient water flow to the tank. To check look for your water shut-off valve at the base of the toilet near the wall. The knob should be turned all the way to the left. If you find that it’s not, twist the knob counterclockwise to restore the flow and the flush.

4. If you do not have an issue with your toilet shut-off valve, check whether you have a toilet flapper leaking. To diagnose you’ll need to find the flapper. It’s located in the tank portion of the toilet. If it seems at all warped or damaged then this could be the issue and it’s time to replace.

5. Lastly, the culprit keeping your toilet from flushing properly could be calcium. Sometimes the drain inside the toilet bowl can actually become caked with a buildup of calcium and magnesium due to hard water.

The best way to deal with this is to try and soften the deposits with vinegar. Pour a generous amount of white vinegar into the bowl and allow it to sit for 3-4 hours, giving time for the limescale to break down. Next, you can use a screwdriver to scrape off the softened mineral deposits and if you are successful it should flush much better after this procedure.

How to Fix A Toilet that Won’t Flush?

If you’ve identified that it’s a clog you’re dealing with try this:

  1. First try plunging the toilet. Everyone should have a plunger on hand! This works best for superficial clogs.
  2. If this doesn’t work you can purchase an auger at your local home improvement store. This is the tool that professional plumbers use and refer to as a snake. You’ll want to run the auger down the drain pipe about three feet to try and either clear the clog by pushing it out or retrieve the obstruction by pulling it out.
  3. Next you’ll want to perform a paper test to see if everything is flowing freely again. Place three balls of toilet paper in the bowl and flush. Do this one more time and if the water level rises instead of falls you know the obstruction is still there.
  4. At this point you may be forced to turn the water off and pull the obstruction out by hand. But, if you don’t feel up to DIY-ing it, Heil Plumbing DMV can assist. We do everything from toilet installation to repair and replacement. We’ll do the dirty work for you!

Are you looking for an expert plumber in Germantown, MD or the surrounding areas? contact Heil Plumbing today. We offer a range of reliable plumbing services, including drain cleaning in Montgomery County and leak detection in Montgomery County.

Heil Plumbing is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, and water heater repair in Montgomery County and the surrounding areas.