Bathrooms are in the first places of the list of most visited spaces of a house. It’s a space not just for the family’s use, but also for visitors, so people usually try to keep them in good condition. The shower, sink, bath, and toilet are the main devices on almost all bathrooms, sizes and styles depend on the preferences and budget of every family.
Sometimes we may take toilets for granted, using them every day of our lives makes us think they’re such a normal thing to have and we might believe they have always existed, but they haven’t. The first toilet appeared just around 500 hundred years ago, and it was very rudimental, nothing compared to the fancy and comfortable ones we have nowadays.
Before that, people used to use buckets as toilets, sometimes placing them inside the house and sometimes out of it, or little places called outhouse. Bathrooms were a luxury for some people just a couple of hundred years ago, fortunately now for us, it is just a basic room, an essential part of our house.
We put a lot of effort into making bathrooms nice and comfy, there are hundreds of different styles and fittings to customize and improve the quality of all the devices we use. Toilets are one of those devices people don’t mind spending lots of money on it, we can find them of different sizes, shapes, and materials, and the budget will define the quality of it.
Unfortunately, not even the most expensive toilet can stay away from getting blocked or clogged. We all have had to go through this unpleasant situation and the first thing that comes to our mind is to call a plumber, but sometimes the problem might not be that hard and it could be easily fixed by ourselves.
Let’s have a deeper look at toilets, how they’re built, how do they work and how can we fix them when they get blocked. For all of your toilet unblocking needs, see the headings below.
- Toilet Components
- How do Toilets Work?
- How to Unblock (or unclog) a Toilet
- Other Toilet Problems
- How to Avoid Toilet Problems
- Why Keep Your Toilet Maintained
Toilets look very simple on the outside but when you open the tank probably you won’t understand what’s going on, it’s a very simple system though. We’ve collated all the useful parts that you’ll need to know about to help you with all of your toilet plumbing and repair needs!
On the outside toilets look like one whole thing but they have two main parts: the tank (top part) and the bowl (bottom part), each one of those has a few components that we’ll explain in detail now.
Tank (or Cistern) Parts
- Tank cover or lit: It’s the top part of the tank, it’s a heavy cover that prevents the water from coming out of the tank, and also protects the flushing system.
- Float ball: A round device that regulates the water level in the tank. It senses when the water has reached the required level for flushing and then it shuts off the water supply valve.
- Flush valve: Usually a plastic part placed at the bottom of the tank, it seals the joint between the bowl and the tank, and it’s linked to the overflow tube. The flush valve is where the water goes through from the tank to the bowl when the toilet is flushed.
- Overflow tube: Directly connected to the flush valve, it avoids the water to overflow and spilling out of the tank. Water will spill over the top of the tube and will go down into the bowl.
- Handle: It’s on the outside top part of the tank and it’s the little device used to actívate the flushing mechanism. It’s attached to a horizontal rod that connects to the chain.
- Chain: Chain or lift chain, it connects the lever to the flapper. The chain goes vertically from the top to the end of the tank and opens the water flush down into the toilet bowl.
- Flapper: Also called a tank ball or flapper valve, it’s on the base of the tank. It operates when the handle and chain lift it, and it opens to let the water from the tank goes down the bowl.
- Fill or water supply valve: also called ballcock. It refills the tank with water after each flush, it closes automatically when the water has reached the right level.
- Seat: Located on the top of the bowl, it’s designed to provide comfort while people sitting in the toilet.
- Lid: Used for covering the bowl and avoid objects to fall into the toilet, and to reduce unpleasant smells.
- Rim: It’s the upper part of the toilet’s bowl, it prevents splashes and overflows.
- Flange: It connects the bowl to the drain pipe and maintains the bowl sealed to the floor.
- Wax Ring: It seals the bottom of the toilet to the flange. It can’t be seen from the outside.
Now, let’s see how each one of these parts operates in harmony to make the toilet magic happens.
How do Toilets Work?
Lots of people have at least once lifted the tank cover to see how the system works and it looks pretty simple because it is. Let’s see in detail how these pieces together operate the flushing system.
- Everything starts with the handle, once the handle is pushed down (or pulled, depending on the toilet’s design) it pulls the chain, and this one lifts the flapper and opens the flush valve for the water to go down from the tank to the bowl.
- The bowl is filled by the water coming from the tank and due to its force, it continues in direction to the drain hole. Water and waste are drained out and the toilet stays ready to repeat the process again and again,
- The tank is empty now and the flapper falls back or closes, and then is when the float ball falls inside, the water supply valve opens and fills the tank with clean water, and also a little amount of water is sent to the bowls through the overflow tube.
- When the tank has reached the proper water level for the next flush, the water supply is being shut off by the float ball.
Here Are Some Additional Things That You Should Know About the Flushing of a Toilet
- The amount of clean water storage in the tank and that allows a toilet to flush completely is between 3-6 litres. Some toilets use special mechanisms for using less water when being flushes, these are very environmentally safe and it’s recommended to get this kind of device.
- If your toilet has been damaged, for example, the handle is broken or not working, you can still flush hit by throwing a similar amount of water than the capacity of the tank. It will flush without the need for the whole system.
- The mechanism for the inner workings of a toilet is very simple but can get damaged easily. The way to fix them is easy and in most of the cases it won’t require an expert, but anyone can do it with the right knowledge. Let’s talk about a few ways to unblock a toilet.
How to Unblock (or Unclog) a Toilet
Unclogging a toilet is one of the most common problems toilets go through, and also the quickest and easy to fix. There are a few ways to solve this, depending on the level of the block, or in fact, depending on the type of object that is blocking the drain. So, let’s see how to do it.
Using a Plunger
- Usually, the first thing to try, plungers are very easy to get and also cheap. It’s a very simple device consisting of a rubber suction cup with a plastic or wood stick attached to it.
- Make sure you cover the floor with some cloths or old newspaper, to make it easier to clean the water in case it spreads out of the toilet during the process.
- The first thing to do is to shut off the toilet supply water, this is the valve that allows the water coming from the pipe on the wall behind the toilet, closing this will avoid bigger problems and flooding.
- Put the plunger inside the bowl and push it to the bottom of the draining hole, then pull it up to create a vacuum. This is the basic move you’ll have to repeat a few times until the object obstructing the tubes comes out. Sometimes you have to repeat this quickly to get better results. Usually, the blockage can come out to the toilet’s surface or also it can be flushed to the drains, so be prepared for any of those.
- Always bear in mind that the bowl must contain water when you do this. If it doesn’t have any, you could add some using a bucket or a hose.
Using a Wire Coat Hanger
Yes, this homemade tool will help you more than what you think. Straighten a wire coat hanger until it has a long curve shape and wrap the end of it with a rag or cloth, seal it with some tape.
- Place the hanger inside the bowl and push to the bottom to try to move the obstructing object. Make several moves, push and pull to try to remove it from the way.
- Don’t forget to use gloves for this and you might have to touch the bowl or get splashed while moving the wire. Try circular moves to, while pushing and pulling the wire, and repeat as many times as needed.
Using a Plumbing Snake
- Also known as an auger, it’s the professional versión of the coat hanger. This is a special tool made for unclogging toilets. It’s much better though as it’s longer and can reach objects that have gone very deep on the drains.
- Place the auger into the bowl and push it into the drain, twist and push several times until you feel the object obstructing the ways, hopefully, you’ll be able to break it in pieces.
- Some cases you’ll have to dismount the toilet and use the plumbing snake in reverse, which means with the bowl upside down and entering the ager through the toilet’s bottom hole, this is in case you confirm the blocking object is certainly there in the middle.
Using a Plastic Bottle
Well, what sounds crazy but sometimes it works, and why not give it a try, right! If you don’t mind getting a bit wet and dirty, then this is your option. Remember to use rubber gloves though, and trashy clothes.
- Remember you need to bail some water out of the toilet. To do this, use a small plastic container for this. Now, take a plastic bottle and cut the bottom of it, leave the lit on or seal it with your finger or something else, the point is to make it work as a plunger, so it’ll need to make the vacuum move.
- Push the bottle (with the cut bottom to the hole) and push it in and out, the whole bottle should remain into the water –probably your hand too-. Repeat the move a few times, it might get the obstacle out after a few trials.
Using Baking Soda and Vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar are usually used for cooking, but these two products can help you to unblock your toilet as well.
- The first step is to pour some baking soda into the toilet’s bowl, maybe half a cup will be enough (it’s a very cheap product). Then, boil some water and while it’s still hot –but not boiling as it can crack the toilet’s porcelain – add some vinegar. Now, pour this mix on the toilet and wait for a chemical reaction to happen.
- the bowl’s lit and leave the mix for 30 minutes or more, if possible, and then flush the toilet. The mix should dissolve the object blocking the drain.
Using a Wet/Dry Vacuum
Read this carefully, don’t use a normal vacuum but only one that can deal with water!
- The first thing to do is draining all the water out of the bowl using the vacuum, the bowl must be empty.
- Use a cloth or towel around the hose so when you enter it to the bowl it creates a seal around the drain. Now, enter vacuum hose into the bowl until you reach the drain and turn it on, and wait for a few minutes until the vacuum has sucked the object clogging the toilet. This is a very effective mechanism.
Using Washing Liquid
Yes, the detergent you use for washing your clothes or the dishes! You can try this if none of the other options have worked.
- Use half a mug of washing liquid and pour it into the toilet, leave it for as long as you can –overnight if possible- and then pour a hot water bucket into the toilet. This hot water-detergent mix might dissolve the clog.
- Be mindful that this might not work on the first trial, so be prepared for doing this a couple of times more. The first time the clog may have been half-removed, so if you flush the toilet it might seem to work but not totally, so repeat the process until the flush is clean.
If you’re having one of these hard cloggings you may need to try a few different options until the toilet goes back to normal operation.
- Start by drying the bowl’s surface using a towel, then put some clingfilm around the whole piece, make sure you cover it all, and the whole porcelain is blocked with the plastic.
- Following this, flush the toilet and when you do this (and if your toilet has hight water pressure) it will cause the plastic to stretch and create like a balloon upwards the bowl.
- Press down the plastic to reverse the suction, this will cause the block down to ease and go down the drain.
Other Toilet Problems
Cloggings or blockings are not the only problems toilets can go through, there are a few other annoying things they can get. Here we mention a few of those and the way to fix them.
- Filling slowly: Usually, when this happens it’s caused due to the water supply is not fully open, so make sure to open it all and wait to see if it works better.
- The handle is loose: Clean debris around the handle mounting nut. Sometimes it can be the opposite and handle can be stuck, in this case, you should tighten the mounting nut, being careful of not breaking it. This piece is constantly moving so that’s why is very vulnerable to suffer damages.
- Running non-stop: If your toilet doesn’t stop running, meaning the water from the tank keeps running, you can do a few things. First, check the flapper, if it doesn’t fill properly it might be due to it’s not in good shape and it might need to be replaced. It also can be a problem with the filling valve, it may need to be replaced as well.
- The base is leaking: Normally the problem might come from the wax ring, as this piece is hidden inside the toilet probably you will need to dismount it to have access to that part. Make sure you know how to dismount a toilet first, and also to be able to install it later. If you don’t feel confident to do it yourself, you can always ask for a plumber’s help.
- Water dripping from the tank: Maybe there’s a crack at one of the tank’s sides, check if there is one. If that is the case there’s not much that can be done, you will probably need to replace the whole tank or even the toilet. Another thing causing the dripping can be condensation, this can be caused by cold water entering through the filling valve, you can try solving this by turning the exhaust fan or if you don’t have one you might need to install one.
- Water spills into the overflow tube: Sometimes this is caused due to debris inside the fill valve, it doesn’t let the system work properly. You might have to clean the fill valve or even replace it.
How to Avoid Toilet Problems
Here are a few things you can do to avoid having cloggings and other toilet’s problems. It doesn’t mean you will never have them but at least you can try.
- Keep the lid down: Especially if you have kids or pets in your home, toys and other objects are the most common stuff to get stuck on toilet drains. By keeping the lid closed you’ll be a step ahead of avoiding bathroom accidents.
- Make some Toilet Bombs now and then: Basically, this is a mix you do at home with a few products that then you’ll pour into the toilet, to clean it and prevent from blocking. The mix contains baking soda (300g), citric acid (70g), essential oils, water, and an ice cube tray. Mix all the ingredients and pour them into the ice tray, leave on the fridge overnight and pour it on the toilet the next day. repeat the process every two weeks or every month.
- Keep your toilet clean: By cleaning your toilet regularly, you’ll be able to prevent any unnecessary build-up of germs and/or mess. This can eventually lead to there being a blockage which could occur further down the pipes, making it even more difficult to tackle.
- Teach your children: If you have young children in the house, teach them the proper use of a toilet and what they need to do. Once they’re at that age where they can use the toilet themselves, they’ll want to do this without help. It’s important to make sure they know just how to use the toilet to prevent any mistakes or problems occurring.
Remember to never throw sanitary pads or wet wipes, they don’t dissolve and these are one of the more common things causing toilet cloggings.
- Avoid throwing compounds down the toilet: Such as drywall compound, caulk, wax products, and any other potential blocking product.
- Don’t pour chemicals: There are lots of products in the market that promise unblocks or clean toilets, be very careful with these products as lots of them contain corrosive components that can make your toilet’s problems bigger.
- Use toilet cleaning products, not just any cleaning chemicals: Although there are lots of cleaning chemicals out there, it’s important to only use the ones that are guaranteed to work on a toilet. Make sure it’s a reputable brand and that it’s tried and tested (you’ll be able to find reviews online that can help with this) to make sure there’s no risk to your toilet when using them.
- Flush the toilet regularly: If you’re just blown your nose, you may wish to put the tissue into the toilet to dispose of it. Flushing the toilet for just one tissue isn’t justified, but if you put a lot of tissues in the loo during the day this could cause clogging when you come to flush the toilet at the end of the day.
- Deep clean your toilet when you deep clean your bathroom: Your toilet needs a deep clean when you clean your bathroom, so get some gloves on and get stuck in! This helps to make sure that your toilet is in full working condition and nothing is weighing it down, helping you to keep your toilet in full working condition for longer.
Always remember to frequent cleaning and maintenance to your toilet, it’s the most simple but better and cheaper way to keep it in good conditions.
Why Keep Your Toilet Maintained
Your toilet naturally looks after a lot of waste and mess that needs to be properly disposed of. By keeping your toilet clean and tidy, this will help to make sure that you minimise any problems that may occur in the future. We’ve collated some useful reasons why you need to keep your toilet maintained below:
A properly functional toilet will help to keep away any bacteria and germs that may reside within it. If it’s in full working condition, it helps to lower the risk of any illnesses being transmitted through poor sanitisation.
It’ll Save You Money
A properly functioning toilet will save you plenty of money in water bills. If your toilet isn’t quite working as it should be, it can cause excess water to be used when it doesn’t need to be which can raise your monthly water bill. Keep your toilet in full working order to prevent any unnecessary costs.
Your toilet is a part of your home that needs to be kept in full working order. There’s nothing that can substitute the use of a toilet within your home, which is why when it goes wrong it can cause major disruptions to your home.
Keeping your toilet fully maintained and working correctly is the perfect way of preventing any unnecessary disruptions to your household.
It Makes Your Home Look Nicer
If you’re having guests round, seeing a nice toilet will make them feel at home. We’ve all been there where we’ve been in public and had to use a dirty loo, and it’s never been a pleasant experience. Keeping yours looking nice and in full working condition is an excellent way to keep guests happy.
In summary, it’s vital to keep your toilet in full working condition. This not only looks good and works well in your home, but it also prevents the risk of illnesses being introduced into your home, as well as being a risk of an unexpected bill at the end.
Toilets are one of the main parts of every bathroom. The importance of them is not only for them making lives more comfortable but they have evolved during the time and become essential for every family. They help prevent contagious viruses and illnesses.
As toilets are used every day they can easily get damaged, especially blocked. We talked about a few ways to solve this situation and other unpleasant situations that can happen in bathrooms. It’s important to know the toilet’s components and how do they operate, before trying to make any fixings.
An easy way to understand how they’re built is by dividing it into two parts: the tank (top part) and the bowl (bottom part) both connected through the flushing mechanism. Tank cover or lit, float valve, flush valve, overflow tube, handle, chain, flapper, fill supply valve, seat, lid, rim, flange, and wax ring, are the parts of a toilet. They can vary in shape or size depending on the model, brand, or style, but in general, they’re all the same.
The flushing system is very simple and it operates with gravity and human action. Once the handle is pushed or pulled, it lifts the flapper and opens the flush valve for the water to go down from the tank to the bowl. the bowl receives the water from the tank and pushes the wastes and water through the drain hole. Then the tank gets refilled again by the filling valve working together with the float valve, chain, and flapper.
There are lots of different ways to unblock or unclog a toilet. A few of them are: by using a plunger, a wire coat hanger, a plumbing snake, a plastic bottle, baking soda and vinegar, a wet/dry vacuum, washing liquid, and clingfilm. All these measures can work, depending on the type of blocking on the toilet.
There are other toilet problems like leaks, water runnings, problems with the handle, or slow filling. All these problems have easy ways to fix them, anyone can solve them with the proper tools and knowledge, and there’s always the option of calling a professional for help.
Make sure you do frequent maintenance to your toilet and keep it clean and in good shape, to avoid unpleasant problems.