Dear Home-Ec 101,
The toilet, in my bathroom is constantly making noise. It sounds like water is always running. Is there any way to turn that off?
For the Love of Pete, Someone Jiggle the Handle Already!
There are a few things that can go wrong inside the tank of a toilet that would cause it to leak and need to fill more often than it should.
Take a peek under and behind the toilet, if no water is present, the leak probably is occurring inside the tank. If there is water present, you may need to replace the plastic washers on the bolts securing the tank.
The inner workings of your toilet may need to be fixed or replaced. Don’t worry, this is a straightforward job. If you can put together Ikea shelves, you can handle this plumbing task. Before you go to the hardware store, see if you can turn off water at the inlet valve. Unfortunately some contractors are skipping this handy mechanism to save a few bucks and it may not exist in all homes. Look for a valve on the woven or copper pipe that connects to the bottom of the toilet tank. Turning this off prevents the tank from filling. If you don’t have an inlet valve between the water line and the tank, you may have to shut off the water at the main to fix the toilet. It’s kind of a pain, but better than making a huge mess.
If there is no water present, take the lid off of the tank and take a peek inside.
If your float has cracked
Older toilets have what looks like a metal or plastic balloon that rests on top of the water. Sometimes these floats can develop cracks or leaks that allow water to seep inside. When this happens the float no longer sits above the water, causing the mechanism to fill the tank higher than it should. If the float is resting too low in the water, the toilet can overfill high enough to leak into the overflow tube creating a vicious cycle of filling and draining. I say vicious because it’s murder on the water bill.
Sometimes the metal rod or arm of the float just needs to be bent slightly to get the float to sit properly on the water. Do this carefully, if the rod snaps, the water will need to be shut off.
If you have a newer toilet, the float rides up and down a plastic tube, like a little balloon elevator. Sometimes the float gets stuck on grit or debris and just needs to be moved manually a few times to get things working again. If the elevator style float has developed a leak, it will need to be replaced.
If the float is not the problem
It could be the chain attached to the handle. If the chain is too long, it may become trapped under the flap allowing water to slowly leak. If the chain is too short, it won’t allow the flap to seal properly. Shorten or replace the chain as necessary.
The flap may also be leaking.
If you look on the inside of the tank there is often a warning to not use products with bleach. Over time these drop-in cleaners degrade the plastic, causing it to become brittle and crack. If this has happened, the flap will need to be replaced.
The internet is full of *ahem* helpful advice that may actually create problems.
If you live in the USA and your toilet is newer than 1994 it only uses 1.6 gallons per flush. The toilet needs all 1.6 gallons to flush properly, please do not add a brick or bottle to reduce the capacity of the tank. Without enough water to flush waste, the toilet is more likely to clog. In older toilets the addition of a brick to the tank may introduce additional sediment to the trap. If you need to reduce the tank capacity, use a plastic bottle full of water and replace it on occasion as the plastic becomes brittle.