Toilet Not Flushing

Toilet not Flushing? This is a sample of some details Mike provides in his book:

Mike Quick uses his forty years of experience to help you avoid costly mistakes

Toilet not flushing or a slow flushing toilet? Mike is here to help save you money, avoid aggravation and maintain healthy living conditions.

Toilet not flushing or toilet flushing slow:

First I will provide advice concerning a toilet not flushing, then, I will provide advice concerning a slow flushing toilet.

A stopped up toilet is best unclogged with a special snake made for cleaning toilet drains. Plumbers call it a closet auger but the clerk at your neighborhood hardware store probably refers to it as a toilet auger. A good toilet auger will probably cost you between $35.00 and $50.00. Usually the clerk where you buy one will be happy to show you how to use it. If you buy one online it will probably come with instructions.You can buy extremely cheap toilet augers but I don’t recommend it. Flimsy, cheap toilet augers are usually more difficult to use and are more likely to make extremely difficult to remove marks on your toilet.

On this website, eventually I will provide advice concerning plungers. I will provide advice concerning proper selection and proper use of plungers designed especially for toilets. Now I want to move on to important advice concerning slow flushing toilets. This is important because you won’t find these important details on other websites and because slow flushing toilets will eventually end up being toilets not flushing (completely clogged).

A slow flushing toilet, poor flushing toilet or what ever you choose to call it can create unhealthy living conditions and lots of aggravation.

Most people seem to know that an obstruction can cause a slow flushing toilet. Most people and many plumbers don’t realize that there are many factors that control the flush. 

  • Obstruction and/or buildup
  • Proper water level in the tank
  • Proper water level in the toilet bowl
  • How quickly water flows from the tank to the bowl
  • Poorly designed and/or made toilet
  • Improperly installed toilet
  • Improper pipe work
  • Overloading toilets

An obstruction and/or buildup in the toilet bowl can cause a complete or partial blockage. A partial blockage is a poor flush. Usually this will soon be a complete blockage. An obstruction is usually from an object, an overload, or from gradual buildup. Sometimes the wax seal between the bowl and the floor flange can cause an obstruction.  Too much wax and/or misalignment can choke the flow.

The proper water level in the tank is controlled by the ballcock (AKA fill valve) being in proper working order and properly adjusted. Most toilets require that the water level in the tank be five-eighths of an inch to one inch lower than the top of the overflow pipe.

The proper water level in the toilet bowl can be determined by slowly pouring water into the bowl. Pour slowly and gently as pouring too quickly can cause the toilet to flush. When the water in the bowl gets high enough to begin draining down and out, it has reached the proper water level (the maximum before it begins to drain). After determining the proper water level, steps can be taken to insure the proper water level is maintained after each flush. The most common factors that cause problems with the water level in the toilet bowl are:

Amount of time the flush valve stays open. Most flush valves stay open long enough after the flush to help refill the bowl. The amount of time the flush valve stays open is different on various flush valves. Some toilets require that the flush valve stays open longer than others (some are adjustable). New toilets always come with the correct flush valve. Sometimes I find that someone has replaced the flush valve with an incorrect one. Sometimes I find that someone has replaced a part on a flush valve with an incorrect part (i.e., flapper). People don’t seem to realize that some parts work on the majority of flush valves, but some flush valves require special flappers or other parts. Proper flush-valve timing requires proper parts.

  • The amount of water the refill tube squirts down the overflow pipe helps refill the toilet bowl. If insufficient water is flowing from the refill tube, make sure it isn’t kinked. If that is not the problem, you will have to adjust, repair, or replace the ballcock.
  • The water level in the toilet bowl before it is flushed is important. The proper water level must be maintained. For example, often people dump mop water into the toilet and lower the water level, or the water evaporates because the toilet is not used for a long period of time.

How quickly water flows from the tank to the bowl affects the quality of the flush. The most common cause of water flowing too slowly from the tank to the bowl is build up inside the toilet bowl flush holes (the small holes around the inside perimeter of the toilet bowl; also, most toilets have a large flush hole at the inside bottom). I use dental tools to clean the flush holes. If dental tools aren’t available, you can use a nail, small screwdriver, or a wire coat hanger. Be careful that you don’t accidentally mark the toilet bowl (marks are difficult to clean off). Often toilet bowl cleaning tablets placed inside the tank will cause reoccurring clogging of flush holes (the one I hate the most looks like blue jelly). The blue jelly type is very messy to remove, but if the complete tablet is not removed, you will have a reoccurring problem. I have had a few jobs where someone has dropped something down inside the flush valve (obstructing the flow to the bowl). I have picked out, and I have vacuumed parts out of toilets to correct this problem.

Poorly designed and/or made toilets usually require replacement. Some toilets are just not capable of a providing a good enough flush to suit the customer’s needs. Also, toilets are pottery, and sometimes they have defects.

 Improperly installed toilets might develop all sorts of problems. One of the most common problems is misalignment and/or too much wax. I can usually tell if I pull my snake back, and it is loaded with wax. If the problem is just too much wax, often I can clean it out with a special snake. I like a drop-head closet auger for this. If misalignment takes place with the type of wax seal that has a plastic funnel built in, I have to take up the toilet. Even if there is no misalignment problem, people seem to have more frequent stoppages when the funnel type wax seal is used because it seems that the funnel chokes the flow. Every good plumber I ever asked recommends cutting the funnel off. This funnel creates unnecessary back pressure and can create leaks and other problems. Mike’s book provides very import details concerning the proper installation of toilets. Dangerously unhealthy leaks and flooding often result from improperly installed toilets.

It is rare that improper pipe work causes a poor flush. Some toilets are sensitive to the pressure and flow of incoming water. Certainly clogged or defective waste pipe can also cause problems.

 Overloading toilets with too much toilet paper or anything else can create a problem. There is a dramatic difference between various toilets as to the load limits before they stop up and/or begin accumulating build up. Often people need to experience a toilet stoppage before they can determine what they can and cannot get away with. Sometimes I have to tell people to “do half your business, flush the toilet and then finish your business.” (Sorry, but I had to say it.)  If you click on you can look inside Mike’s book for free.

About the Author

Mike started his plumbing apprenticeship in 1969. He has over forty years experience solving plumbing problems in homes. Mike helps people avoid mistakes. He is the founder and president of Quick Quality Plumbing Inc.. Mike published a book ( and he is the administrator for the web site (