Common Toilet Problems You Can Fix Yourself


Having toilet problems can be very frustrating and inconvenient. However, many common toilet issues can be fixed yourself without having to call a plumber. Being able to diagnose and repair minor toilet problems can save you money on plumbing bills. This comprehensive guide covers the most common toilet problems homeowners face and provides step-by-step instructions on how to fix them.

Clogged Toilet

A clogged toilet is one of the most common toilet problems. There are several reasons why your toilet might get clogged:

Buildup of Waste and Paper

Over time, waste, toilet paper, and other debris can slowly build up in the drain pipe and cause a clog. Flushing too much paper or trying to flush something that should not be flushed down the toilet, like baby wipes or feminine hygiene products, can also lead to clogging.

Mineral Deposits

Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium that can accumulate in toilet bowls and drain pipes. These mineral deposits build up over time and restrict water flow, causing clogs.

Old or Faulty Parts

Problems with the inner workings of the toilet, like a leaky flapper valve, misaligned pipes, or a broken flush valve, can also prevent proper flushing and cause clogging.

Luckily, most clogged toilets can be cleared with a plunger or closet auger (toilet snake).

Using a Plunger

Plunging is typically the first method to try for unclogging a toilet:

  • Take the plunger and hold it under running water for a few seconds to wet it. This helps form a better seal.
  • Place the plunger over the drain hole in the bottom of the toilet bowl to form a tight seal.
  • Press down firmly and plunge vigorously several times to dislodge the clog. Really work the plunger up and down.
  • Flush the toilet to see if the clog has cleared. You may need to plunge a few more times if water is still draining slowly.
  • Still clogged? Try using a closet auger next.

Using a Closet Auger

A closet auger (sometimes called a toilet snake) has a long, flexible metal cable you feed down the toilet to break up and grab the clog. Follow these steps:

  • Insert the auger down the bowl and feed the cable down the drain. Crank the handle clockwise while gently pushing down.
  • When you feel resistance, that means you’ve hit the clog. Continue cranking while applying light downward pressure. The auger will work to break up the blockage.
  • Rotate the handle counterclockwise to retract the cable from the drain and pull out any debris hooked on the end.
  • Flush the toilet to check if the drain is clear. You may need to repeat plunging and snaking a few times to fully clear a stubborn clog.

Preventing Future Clogs

To help avoid clogging in the future:

  • Only flush pee, poop, and toilet paper. Never flush baby wipes, feminine products, cotton swabs, dental floss, or other items not meant for the toilet.
  • Install a toilet with a higher flush performance. Newer high-efficiency toilets have more force to clear out waste.
  • Consider replacing an old toilet that uses 3.5 gallons per flush or more with a new 1.28 gpf model. Low-flow toilets are less prone to clogs.
  • Use a toilet cleaning wand or brush to scrub the bowl regularly. This removes stains and buildup that can gradually cause clogs.
  • Put a drain screen in your toilet bowl to catch items before they go down the drain.
  • Use a monthly preventative drain cleaner to dissolve buildups and keep drains clear.

Leaking Toilet

Finding water on the floor around your toilet indicates a leak. There are a few common culprits:

Damaged or Faulty Flapper

The flapper is a rubber seal at the base of the tank that lifts up to release water into the bowl when you flush. If it becomes warped, cracked, or misaligned over time, it can result in a leak. Replacing a worn-out flapper valve is an easy fix:

  • Turn off the water supply valve behind the toilet.
  • Flush the toilet to empty the tank. Use a sponge to soak up any remaining water.
  • Disconnect the flapper chain from the flush lever arm.
  • Unhook the flapper and remove it. Inspect it for any cracks or deterioration.
  • Get a replacement flapper that matches your toilet model. Attach the new flapper to the tank with the existing hardware.
  • Connect the chain to the arm and adjust it so there is about 1/2 inch of slack.
  • Turn the water back on and test for leaks.

Problems with the Fill Valve

The fill valve in the tank controls water flow when refilling the tank after flushing. A fill valve that does not seal properly due to mineral buildup or corrosion can cause water to continuously trickle into the tank and leak down into the bowl. To fix:

  • Turn off the supply valve and empty the tank.
  • Unscrew the locknut holding the fill valve to the tank and lift out the valve. Inspect the valve parts.
  • If needed, replace the valve, gaskets, and float cup. Make sure the water level is set correctly, about 1 inch below the overflow tube.
  • Reinstall and turn the water back on to test for leaks.

Loose Toilet Base

The toilet base (where the bowl meets the floor) can become loose over time, especially on a wobbly floor. This allows water to leak from the tank down to the base. Checking for leaks:

  • Add a few drops of food coloring into the tank and wait about 10 minutes without flushing.
  • Check around the base on the floor for any colored water.

To stop leaks from a loose base, tighten the bowl-to-floor bolts:

  • Turn off the toilet supply valve and flush the toilet.
  • Use a wrench to tighten the nuts on the bolts that anchor the toilet bowl to the floor. Tighten evenly to avoid cracking the porcelain.
  • Turn the water back on and check for leaks. No more leaks? Problem solved!
  • If leaks continue even after tightening, you may need to reset the toilet on a new wax seal ring.

Continuously Running Toilet

If you can hear your toilet continuously running even when not in use, you likely have a leak. This wastes a lot of water. Some possible causes:

Flapper Not Sealing Properly

Just like with leaking toilets, a faulty flapper that doesn’t form a tight seal can cause continuous running. Follow the steps above to replace the flapper valve.

Problem with the Float

The float ball rises with the water level in the tank. When full, it triggers the fill valve to shut off. A stuck float or water level set too high causes overfilling.

  • Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet, observing the water level. The water should come up about 1 inch from the top of the overflow tube.
  • If the float cup is too high, gently bend the float rod down to lower the water level. It may also need adjusting if installed improperly.
  • If the float is sticking, clean it, or replace it if worn out.

Faulty Fill Valve

Again, similar to the fix for a leaking toilet, if the fill valve is allowing water to continuously enter the tank due to wear and tear or contamination, the valve will need replacement.

  • Turn off water supply and drain tank. Remove old fill valve.
  • Install new fill valve and adjust float cup height correctly. Turn on water and test operation.

Weak Flush

If your toilet doesn’t fully clear the bowl with one flush, you likely have a weak flush. Some things to check:

Low Water Level in Tank

  • The tank water level may be too low if the flapper is leaking or the float is set very low. This decreases flush volume and power.
  • Adjust the float to raise the water level to about 1 inch below the overflow tube.

Clogged Passages

  • Built-up deposits, debris, and limescale can partially clog internal toilet passages and reduce flush power.
  • Use a bent wire coat hanger to carefully fish obstructions out of the rim holes. Clear calcium deposits with vinegar.

Old Flapper Valve

  • An old, worn out flapper may not seal well or open fully to allow sufficient water flow when flushing.
  • As described above, replace the flapper with an exact matching part.

Partially Clogged Trapway

  • The trapway is the S-shaped curve in the toilet bowl exit passage. A partial clog here also cuts down on flush power.
  • Use a toilet auger in the bowl as outlined above to break up debris or buildup in the trapway.

Noisy Toilet

The sounds coming from your toilet can provide clues to what’s wrong. Here are some common toilet noises and their causes:

Hissing, Leaking Sound

  • This usually means there is a leak around the tank, typically caused by a bad flapper or loose tank bolts.
  • Follow the instructions above to fix a leaky flapper or tighten tank mounting bolts.

Hammering Noise

  • Known as “water hammer,” this loud banging noise comes from abrupt water pressure surges in the pipes.
  • Install air chambers or water hammer arrestors on supply lines to muffle these pressure spikes.
  • Make sure pipes are properly secured to prevent movement and hammering sounds.


  • A whistling or squealing noise usually results from a poorly seated flapper allowing water to flow down the flush valve while the tank is refilling.
  • Disconnect the chain to hold the flapper open while the tank is filling. If noise stops, worn or misaligned flapper is the issue. Replace the flapper.

Gurgling from Below Floor

  • Gurgling noises from below the floor indicate venting issues in the main drain line, causing water to be sucked out of the toilet trap.
  • Plunging can clear debris restricting drain line venting. Otherwise, you may need a drain technician to correct venting issues.
  • Adding an inline vent cap device can also help equalize pressure in the drain system and reduce gurgling.

Common Toilet Problems You Can Fix Yourself


Clogs are one of the most frequent toilet problems. There are several causes of clogs:

  • Buildup of waste, paper, and other debris lodged in the drain pipes
  • Mineral deposits from hard water that accumulate over time
  • Roots growing into exterior drainage pipes
  • A faulty inner flapper value or flush valve that prevents proper flushing

Most minor toilet clogs can be cleared with a plunger or a closet auger (flexible metal snake). For tough repeat clogs:

  • Use a handheld drain auger inserted down into the bowl to thoroughly clear the trapway and drain pipe.
  • Try a hydrojetting drain cleaner like Roto-Rooter to blast pressurized water down the drain and dislodge stubborn obstructions.
  • For roots in exterior pipes, you may need advanced hydrojetting equipment that can cut through roots with high-pressure jets of water.

Prevent reoccurring clogs by:

  • Only flushing waste and toilet paper, never wipes or other items.
  • Using enzymatic drain cleaners monthly to dissolve buildups.
  • Replacing old low-flow toilets prone to clogging. Newer 1.28 gpf models have superior flush power.
  • Installing a drain screen to catch debris before flushing.


It can be tricky to pinpoint the exact source of a toilet leak. Try these steps for diagnosis:

  • Add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait 10 minutes without flushing. Check floor/base for colored water to confirm leak site.
  • Listen for hissing sounds near tank or base. Place your hand against the exterior toilet surfaces to feel for vibrating.
  • Inspect tank parts like flapper, fill valve, bolts, gaskets for deterioration or looseness.
  • Check floor stability and looseness of bowl-to-floor bolt connections.

Common sources of leaks:

  • Tank – faulty flapper, damaged bolt gaskets, loose fittings, cracked tank
  • Bowel-to-floor – loose floor bolts, damaged wax ring seal
  • Supply line – loose connections, cracked supply tube
  • Fill valve – worn washers, stuck open valve, incorrectly set float

Fixing a leak usually involves replacing a single faulty part like the flapper, gasket or fill valve. Adjusting water levels or tightening connections can also stop leaks. Watch for continued leaks that may indicate issues like a cracked tank requiring replacement.

Weak Flush

A weak, inefficient flush results in waste not fully clearing the bowl. Causes include:

  • Insufficient water – low tank level, leaky flapper reduces siphon during flush
  • Clogged passages – debris, buildup in rim holes or trapway
  • Old flapper – worn and warped flapper prevents adequate flush
  • Pipe obstruction – partial clog in trapway or drain pipes

To improve weak flush:

  • Clean rim holes and trapway passages of obstructions
  • Check and adjust tank water level 1″ below overflow tube
  • Replace flapper with identical or higher flush rating model
  • Clear partial clogs in drain pipe with closet auger
  • Upgrade to 1.6+ gpf high efficiency toilet for stronger siphon flush

Failing to fully clear the bowl with one flush also risks clogging and overflowing. A weak flush indicates toilet service or upgrades are needed.

Noisy Operation

Strange noises from a toilet can signal problems. Here are common toilet sounds and fixes:

  • Hissing – Flapper or tank leak. Replace flapper, tighten fittings.
  • Hammering – Water hammer. Install water hammer arrestors.
  • Gurgling – Poor venting in drain line. May need venting repairs.
  • Whistling – Poorly sealing flapper. Replace flapper valve.
  • Running – Flapper not closing fully. Replace worn flapper.
  • Squealing – Needs lubrication. Lubricate toilet tank bolts with non-petroleum grease. pay attention to new noises and change in sounds – this can indicate parts wearing out. Lubrication and isolation of moving components can help reduce noisy operation.

Bowl Water Level Problems

An improper water level in the toilet bowl can cause problems:

Too high – Water rises into overflow tube. Clogged vent pipe reduces siphoning. May need venting repairs.

Too low – Unsanitary, allows sewer gases to escape. Adjust fill valve to increase refill amount.

Discolored – Rusty color indicates iron contaminants in water. May require ongoing bowl cleaning treatments.

Poor Refill – Weak stream indicates issues with shutoff valve or fill valve. Inspect valve, clean screens, replace worn parts of fill valve.

Slow to Refill – Fill valve not opening fully. Adjust float cup height, clean valve, replace fill valve if needed.

Drop in Level – Leak at tank fittings, flapper, or below floor. Inspect tank parts for deterioration. Check floor stability and wax ring seal.

Monitoring the water level and refill flow helps spot problems early before they worsen. Make any needed valve adjustments and part replacements.

Common Toilet Problems You Can Fix Yourself

Clogged Toilet

A clogged toilet is one of the most common toilet problems. Causes include:

  • Build up of waste, paper, and debris lodged in the drain pipe
  • Mineral deposits from hard water accumulating over time
  • Tree roots growing into exterior drainage pipes
  • A faulty inner flapper valve or flush valve preventing proper flushing

To unclog a toilet:

  • Use a plunger – form tight seal over drain and plunge vigorously to dislodge clog
  • Use a closet auger – feed metal cable down drain to hook and break up clog
  • For tough clogs – use a powered auger or hydrojetting machine

To prevent future clogs:

  • Only flush human waste and toilet paper
  • Use a monthly preventative drain cleaner
  • Install new high efficiency 1.28 gpf toilet
  • Put a drain screen in your toilet bowl

Leaking Toilet

A leaking toilet can waste hundreds of gallons of water monthly. Typical sources:

Tank – Cracks, loose fittings, damaged flapper causing water to leak down into bowl

Base – Loose floor bolts or damaged wax seal causes leaks at connection of bowl and floor

Supply Line – Corroded fill valve, loose connections, cracks in supply tube

To find the leak:

  • Add dye to tank to confirm leak site based on colored water
  • Listen for hissing sounds near components
  • Feel for moisture along exterior surfaces

To fix:

  • Replace specific faulty parts like flapper, tank gasket, fill valve
  • Tighten loose bolts
  • Reset bowl on new wax ring if seated improperly

Running Toilet

A continuously running toilet wastes large amounts of water from leaks. Potential causes:

  • Flapper – A flapper that isn’t sealing fully will allow water to continuously enter the bowl. Replace flapper.
  • Float – Adjust float to proper height or replace if worn out.
  • Fill valve – Dirty, worn out, or broken fill valve parts prevent it from fully shutting off. Replace fill valve assembly.

Also check for:

  • Tank water level set too high
  • Chain tangled preventing flapper from sealing

Shut off water, drain tank, and replace any faulty parts. Test to make sure it stops running once fixed.