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Ultrarunner2017 03-10-2010 01:12 PM

Toilet doesn't flush every time
Good afternoon;
For the past month or so, I have noticed that one of the toilets in our house is not flushing properly every time.
Sometimes, it appears that this problem could be caused by the jet of water in the bowl isn't strong enough. But other times, it appears that something may be stuck in the trap.
The other day, I needed to use the auger (we have a professional tool here) three times to get it to flush.

This problem is not always related to having too much paper in there. Sometimes it just doesn't want to flush even with nothing but water.

So, I am wondering if there is a tool to unclog the water passages that deliver water from the tank to the bowl. I had read that sometimes hard water (I don't believe our water is hard; it's a public, above ground treated system) can clog up the waterways in the toilet, causing a reduction in the force of the water that jets out into the bowl and causes it to flush.

Is there a tool specifically designed for this?
A plumber just suggested using a coat hanger to get the crud out of the holes. There has got to be a better tool than that.

If all else fails, I am afraid we are going to have to have the toilet replaced. It's not all that old; maybe 10 years of so? shouldn't it last longer than that?
Also, there is the possibility that we have a partially clogged vent pipe. I guess we would need someone to go up on the roof to check that out.

Thanks for your help


Grampa Bud 03-10-2010 02:40 PM

Go with the clogged vent first, especially if the toilet bubbles or gurgles when the trip lever is flipped. Also you didn't mention what kind of sewer you have; city or septic. If it is city you may have a partially clogged main line; if it is septic you may need the tank pumped. Beyond this there are a whole list of reasons for the toilet to flush intermittently. As for the water ports in the bowl being plugged, the chances of this causing your problem are very slim. Those ports are primarily for washing the bowl. The main 1 1/4" hole coming down from the tank would take hundreds of years to plug up enough to slow the flush. You could also look for cell phones, small toys, shampoo bottle caps, socks, a washcloth, etc. to be caught near the bottom outlet of the bowl or at the wax ring, but this last one would mean pulling the toilet, clearing the problem, and resetting it.

AllanJ 03-10-2010 04:39 PM

I suspect a partial blockage of the drain pipe under the toilet, sometimes a wad of solid matter hangs up there and other times most of it is flushed free.

If no water has been used in the house for awhile and the toilet does not flush on the first try, then you probably do not have a septic tank problem.

just a guy 03-10-2010 07:34 PM

blocked waterway inside the bowl can cause what your describing, toilet needs water to enter bowl at a set volume to create the syphion need to clear bowl. you can determine if this is a problem by pouring a bucket of water directly into the bowl, if it flushes properly it will tell you that the water is not getting from the tank to bowl properly. Your plumber was right, a coat hanger is the only tool for cleaning the washdown jets.

Ultrarunner2017 03-10-2010 08:19 PM

Thanks guys; You have given me something to work with.
A bit more info on the situation:

This is a city sewer system.
There is another toilet in the basement, and it is flushing fine. There has been no indication of a backup. The one time there was a clogged main line, the water came gushing up out of the basement drains, and this is not happening now.

I'm going to try flushing with a bucket. Use as little water as possible to see if there is any resistance there.

I'm thinking that it is quite possible there is a partial block in the pipe under the toilet, as when I used the auger, it seemed to run into something the first couple of times I used it, and finally cleared on the 3rd try.
I just hope that I didn't just push whatever was blocking further down into the pipe. If it gets stuck in the main trap, we're going to have a major problem.
Maybe I should use a professional drain cleaner (Clobber used to be my preference), but I think I would have to call a licensed plumber to get that done. They won't sell that stuff in the DIY stores, and I think any plumbing supply store would not be allowed to sell it to me, since I am not a licensed plumber.
I can check on that though. Can't hurt to ask.

Problem with that stuff is that you have to get all the water out of the trap before using it, or risk a severe reaction. And when you do use it, it smells up the house for a while.

I think that if I do determine there is anything stuck in the line, I will get a plumber. Removing the toilet is not something I would want to do myself.

Thanks for your help. I'll let you know what I find.


Alan 03-10-2010 09:07 PM

round flat objects like a skoal can will cause this problem. It acts like a flapper, and sometimes it goes horizontal and allows solids to flow past, and other times it goes vertical and blocks the opening completely causing a full on clog-o-rama.

We get this a lot at the high school. Could be something with a similar shape in there.

What kind of auger do you have? Might not be the right one for clearing a toilet trap?

Also, don't throw the toilet away just yet... sometimes you can take it out, turn it upside down out in the yard (on a piece of cardboard or something to protect it) and get whatever is clogged out that way.

Grampa Bud 03-11-2010 07:18 AM

Or if it is or does get damaged it can always be set out in the yard and used as a flower pot.

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