"My toilet flushes slow"
Column #902 06/16/12
On The Level
Q. I have a toilet that is not flushing properly anymore. When you flush, the water comes in slow and half the time it does not make a complete flush. I have done the test of pouring a 5-gallon bucket of water in the bowl and it results in a strong complete flush. So there is no blockage in the lines, it is the toilet itself. Is there a product that will clean deposit buildup in the channels the water flows through. I have tried to clean the water channel openings around the rim with a brush, with only slight improvement, because I can not get to more than just the openings. Any suggestions?
A. I get questions like yours frequently and they fall into a pattern. Iím going to guess that the toilet in question is an older pre-1994 model. Ď94 was the year that the government required that all toilets made and sold in the U.S. used 1.6 gallons or less to flush. Also, what you describe leads to me think you might be on well water. Municipal water around here tends not to be hard or full of minerals that tend to clog things up over time but we won't rule that out completely.
You have performed the correct testing procedure to rule out a sewer line clog when you dumped the bucket of water down into the flush tube and the toilet performed what is known as a syphonic flush where the weight of the water already having passed the trap pulls the remaining water and bowl contents down clearing the bowl. That can only take place when the flush water arrives somewhat rapidly, which you demonstrated.
The lines you suspect being blocked are called the rim jets located up under the wide rim of the bowl itself. If you're not having problems anywhere else in the house and the toilet flushes with the bucket of water, it's the clogged jets. Take a look at www.toiletology.com/cleantoilets. They have a toilet cleaning plan thatís intense.
The partially blocked rim jets can be clogged with a combination of bacterial growth and minerals, slowing down the water delivery from the tank to the bowl enough to prevent the flush action to get going well enough to get the job done. Take a hand mirror and a flashlight and take a close look. It wonít be pretty.
I recommend using old-fashion pipe cleaners that pipe smokers use to clean their pipe stems. They are still available at tobacco shops and even though we donít smoke like we used to the materials are still available and not expensive.
You asked if there is some sort of a cleaner you could pour into the tank the clear the lines. Plumbers will counsel against using something like that because the chemicals can attack the rubber portions of the flush valve and other parts that sit submerged in the tank waiting to be used but I have a plan you can try.
Take a cup of laundry bleach and put it in a gallon of warm to hot water. Remove the top of the toilet tank and locating the overflow tube-- thatís the tube that sticks up to the water level that has the little rubber or plastic tube running into it. Thatís a direct line to the rim jets. Slowly pour the water/bleach solution down into it. Give the bleach some time to work-- an hour or so-- then flush the toilet and see if itís doing any better.
If through using pipe cleaners and closely examining the opening of a rim jet you determine itís minerals, primarily calcium, thatís doing the clogging try using a similar solution of warm to hot water but this time add vinegar to the water at about the same ratio and wait the same length of time and test the toilet again.nbsp;
If you decide to abandon this old soldier and buy a new one I have good news to report on the toilet front. The newer ones are performing better than the original 1.6 gallon per flush models that were out in the mid nineties. You can buy a basic toilet for less than $100. but what you really want starts in the mid $200s and up. I recommend elongated bowls and bowl heights referred to as ďhandicapped accessĒ that are 17 inches off the floor, or about the height of the seat of a standard dining room chair. ;
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