Toilets are made of vitreous china, a type of clay with a smoothed, glazed surface. The surface is durable and stain-resistant but can be scratched with improper cleaning and use. In addition, the parts in the water tank need replacing throughout the life of the toilet. Continual maintenance will increase a toilet’s lifespan. Irregular maintenance can lead to higher water bills, clogs, smells, and damage to the bathroom floor.
The most common type of home toilet has a bowl and a water tank. Of these two parts, the water tank is the most complex. Inside the tank are multiple components, which work together to flush and fill the bowl with water. Most problems with a toilet occur here.
The float is one important component inside the water tank. Toilets typically have one of two common types of floats: a filler float or a ball float. A filler float rides up and down vertically. A ball float hangs at the end of a rod. Both types serve the same function. When you flush a toilet, water rushes out of the tank and into the bowl, causing the float to fall to the bottom of the tank. Falling causes the water to turn on and refill the tank. As water refills the tank, the float rises until it turns off the water.
The results of poor maintenance are really unpleasant. That fact alone keeps many of us on track with toilet maintenance.
Follow these maintenance suggestions for your home’s toilets.
- Clean the underside of the toilet seat, the top of the toilet seat, and the rim with a disinfectant cleaner. Follow the instructions on the cleaner.
- Clean the outside of the toilet, including the tank lid, the seat lid, and the base, with a disinfectant cleaner. Follow the instructions on the cleaner. Don’t use a strong abrasive to clean the outside of a toilet; it may scratch the finish.
- Clean the toilet bowl on a weekly basis. Apply a commercial cleaner made specifically for a toilet bowl, following the instructions on the cleaner. Don’t mix the cleaner or use it with household bleach or any other cleaning product. Use a toilet brush to clean the entire bowl, including the rim and water line. Afterward, flush the toilet to rinse away the grime and dirty water.
- Don’t clean the inside of the toilet tank. You risk damaging the interior parts.
Clean the holes located under the bowl rim. If they aren’t cleaned regularly, they can become clogged and cause the toilet to malfunction. Flush the toilet and watch to see if the water in the bowl swirls or comes straight down. If the water comes straight down, the holes are probably clogged and need to be cleaned. Never flush hair, grease, lint, diapers, rubbish, facial tissues, etc. down the toilet. These types of waste stop up the toilet and sanitary sewer lines.
Don’t use suspended chlorine-cleaning bars, chlorine tablets, or bluing pellets in your toilet; they can cause early deterioration of the rubber pieces located inside the toilet tank.
Adjusting the water level in the tank
Adjusting the water level in the toilet tank is relatively easy. How you do it will depend on whether your toilet has a filler float or a ball float inside the tank. There may be other subtle variations in the layout of your toilet’s water tank, so see the manufacturer’s instructions for the exact way to adjust the water level.
- Take off the toilet tank’s lid. Place the lid on top of a towel to prevent it from scratching other surfaces.
- If your toilet tank has a filler float, it will have either a clip or a water level adjustment screw. Sliding the clip or turning the screw accomplishes the same purpose. The level of the water is determined by the distance between the float and top of the float assembly. The shorter the distance, the higher the water level. The greater the distance, the lower the water level.
- If your toilet tank has a ball float, find the water level adjustment screw. The level of the water is determined by the position of the float in the tank. The lower the float, the lower the water level. The opposite is also true—the higher the float, the higher the water level. If this method fails, you can try to bend the metal arm; however, you should disconnect the arm before trying to bend it, in order to prevent accidental damage to other parts in the tank.
In some toilets, the water level line is marked on the back of the water tank.
To make a larger adjustment to the water level, the entire float assembly can be moved up or down. See the manufacturer’s instructions for more detail.
Toilet tank lids, which are also made of vitreous china, can be deceivingly heavy, so be careful when lifting one off the tank before performing maintenance.
Adjusting the tank fill time
Some toilets will allow you to adjust the amount of time it takes for the water tank to fill. If your toilet has this feature, find the flow rate adjustment screw on top of the float rod assembly. Turn the screw clockwise to decrease the flow rate (increase the fill time) or counter-clockwise to increase it (decrease the fill time). See the manufacturer’s instructions for more details.
Follow these suggestions to troubleshoot.
Depending on your skill level, some plumbing repairs are best left to a professional.
If the toilet doesn’t flush
Adjust the float, which maintains the water level in the tank, so that the tank can store enough water for flushing.
Replace the flapper. The rubber flapper can deteriorate over time. You can find a new flapper at any home care store. Follow the instructions on the package to replace it.
If water leaks into the bowl
Check the overflow tube. While holding the float, bend the rod closer to the bottom of the tank. Flush the toilet. If water continues to leak into the bowl, you might need to replace the washer on the inlet valve.
If water leaks into the bowl but isn’t coming through the overflow tube, it’s probably coming from the flush valve. Align the rods between the flush valve and the flushing handle so that the flush valve float drops straight down when the toilet is flushed.
If water leaks into the bowl from the tank, it could be caused by a warped flapper in the toilet tank. Check the flapper, and replace if necessary.
If the toilet clogs
If your toilet clogs, try to clear the obstruction blocking the toilet. Common ways to clear an obstruction include using a plunger or a plumber’s snake. If you’re unable to unclog the toilet, call a plumber.
Condensation may appear on the outside of a toilet’s water tank. This phenomenon is known as a “sweaty tank.” It may look similar to a leak. Although there are ways to prevent or minimize condensation, no repair is required.