Nothing is more annoying than a leaky toilet. Not only are they disgusting and unhygienic, but they can also cause permanent damage to your home if the leak causes flooding. It is therefore important to learn some easy, do-it-yourself ways to stop your toilet from leaking.
Before delving into these DIY solutions, it may be worth reading up quickly on the main components of a toilet – e.g., the tank, inlet valve, float, ballcock, and flapper. What most of these are will likely become obvious as you read the tips below, but you may want to look up the terms quickly (with pictures for reference!) or read the manufacturer’s guide to your toilet.
1. Unclog Your Toilet If Necessary
The first thing you should do is check to see if your toilet is clogged, which would cause the bowl to overflow (gross!). A clog is usually easy to spot – you’ll notice that the water level in the bowl rises rather than falls right after you flush, often threatening to overflow. Note that as time passes after the last flush, a clogged toilet may drain most of the water from the bowl. If you notice either of these situations (an overflowing bowl, or an almost-empty one), your toilet is probably clogged. Luckily, most clogs can be resolved with a plunger. If you have trouble unclogging your toilet, make sure to call a professional plumber before you attempt to use harsh drain-dissolving chemicals, which can seriously damage your pipes and pose a danger to your health if used incorrectly.
2. Check Your Toilet’s Inlet Valve
If the issue is not a clog, take a peek inside your toilet tank. The float rises as the water level in the tank rises, which indicates to the inlet valve when to stop the flow of water. If you notice that the water has risen above the overflow tube, there is likely something wrong with your toilet’s float or the inlet valve. You can check that the inlet valve is functioning properly by simply flushing your toilet and then lifting the rod holding the float until the water stops. You will know that the inlet valve is working if the water stops; if it doesn’t, then there is something wrong with your float or ballcock.
3. Fix Your Toilet’s Float
If the previous step determines that the float may be the issue, you need to adjust the float or buy a new one. The top of the ballcock has a screw so that you can adjust the level of the float, thus reducing the level the water reaches in the tank. If your toilet is still leaking after this adjustment, you probably have a damaged float (e.g., it may be broken or have a hole in it). In this case, you should buy a new float and rod. Luckily, they are pretty cheap (likely $7-$10 at a local hardware store) and easy to install.
4. Check Your Flapper
If the water in the tank does not rise above the overflow tube, the flapper may be at fault for the leak. If you suspect this might be the case, try shutting off your toilet’s water supply. Wait fifteen minutes. If the water level in the tank has dropped considerably in this amount of time, you might be dealing with a leaky flapper. The best solution for a damaged flapper is to replace it. Buy a new one at a local hardware store. Then make sure you drain the tank by shutting off the water supply and flushing the toilet, holding it down until it drains completely. Then replace the flapper with the new model.
5. Check for a Broken Ballcock
If the water doesn’t stop when you check your toilet’s inlet valve and the problem is not the float, you are probably dealing with a broken ballcock. At this point, you should shut off the water and drain the tank by holding down the handle until most of the water is gone. Although you can replace a broken ballcock, it can be complicated and may not solve the leak.
The best option is usually to replace the entire assembly. Although replacing the assembly can be relatively simple and may require no tools other than slip-joint pliers to remove the ballcock from the tank, you may at this point want to call a professional plumber for advice. The good news is, you’ve identified the cause of your leaky toilet, and are on your way to a leak-free bathroom!