Can You Flush the Toilet When the Power Is Out?

Last Updated On May 26, 2022

Are you experiencing a power outage and need to know how it will affect your toilet?  

Most importantly, you probably want to know if you’ll still be able to flush your toilet with the power out. 

A flushing toilet is a modern plumbing luxury many of us don’t appreciate until it’s gone. If you can’t flush the toilet, it can lead to some uncomfortable situations while you wait for the power to be restored. 

There are a couple of factors to consider when it comes to flushing a conventional toilet when the power goes out. 

In this PlumbingNav guide, we cover:

  • How a toilet works related to power
  • Different types of toilets
  • How to flush the toilet when the power is out

What's In This Guide?

      Can You Flush the Toilet When the Power Is Out?

      Yes, you can flush the toilet when you experience a power outage as long as your indoor plumbing doesn’t rely on electricity to function. 

      Most people either rely upon city water or use a private well. The answer will vary based on these two scenarios. 

      City Water: Your toilet will flush if you are on city water because gravity will continue to deliver water that is held in storage in the city. If the power outage is prolonged, existing water supplies may diminish, restricting residents from normal water usage making toilet flushing more difficult. 

      Private Well: Your toilet will not flush beyond 1 or 2 flushes if you live on a private well and the power goes out. Why? Even though your toilet does not rely upon electricity, your well pump does. Toilet tanks need to be refilled by the well pump. If the power is out, you’ll only be able to flush using the existing water in your system. 

      Some special reasons your toilet won’t flush when the power goes out include:

      • You use a fancy toilet that runs on electricity (touch pad)
      • You live in an apartment that circulates water using an electric pump

      If you fall under any of these situations, plan ahead for toilet use during emergencies

      If you can’t flush the toilet and find yourself with a clog, refer to our guide on how to unclog a toilet once your power is back up and running. 

      Keep in mind that if you don’t have power, you also probably don’t have hot water unless you have a natural gas tankless water heater that doesn’t use an electric ignition.

      How a Toilet Works in General

      The main components of your standard gravity-fed toilet include:

      • Fill valve 
      • Toilet tank
      • Toilet bowl 
      • Handle
      • Flush valve
      • Flapper
      • Drain pipe

      Water fills your toilet tank and toilet bowl from the fill valve. By the way, a problem with the fill valve is a common issue behind why a toilet tank is not filling up with water properly.

      After you use the toilet, you will “push” to lift the handle to flush the contents. 

      When you lift the handle to flush, a chain opens the flush valve and flapper, allowing roughly 2 gallons of water from the water tank to enter the toilet bowl with each toilet flush. 

      Contents, including solid waste and toilet paper leave the toilet and travel through the drain pipe out the main sewer line using gravity. 

      The fill valve opens, restoring the water in the tank and the bowl to the appropriate water level before closing again. Many toilets include an overflow tube to prevent the toilet from overflowing in the case of a broken valve. 

      Septic Systems

      Some people utilize septic systems that clean wastewater on-site, reducing dependence on the city’s water treatment center and allowing for more control over the quality of your water (assuming proper septic system maintenance).  

      A septic system main uses a gravity-based drain field, but others require a powered pump to function.

      If your home uses a septic system with a pump you will be able to flush your toilet, but at some point you may experience a backup if the pump is unable to function. You won’t be able to use the toilet in the case of an extended outage. 

      Apartment Buildings 

      Many apartment buildings send water to the correct unit using a powered pump. If the power goes out to your apartment building that uses a powered pump, you won’t be able to flush your toilet. 

      Well 

      Some people prefer not to use city water and use a personal well as their main source of water. 

      Well have pumps that require power, and they won’t bring water into your home if you experience a power outage. The lack of water refilling the toilet will restrict your ability to flush beyond 1 or 2 times.

      did you know how to drain a toilet

      Different Types of Toilets

      Water Sense Toilet

      A Water Sense toilet uses 1.28 gallons of water per flush instead of the standard amount of almost 2 gallons. 

      The flush is not as powerful as other toilets, but you save money on your water bill and get a quiet flush. 

      Pressure Assisted Toilet

      Pressure assisted toilets use air to create greater water pressure and ensure high flushing power without using more water. 

      These toilets may cost more upfront and create noise, but they almost never require a second flush. 

      Upflush Toilet

      An upflush toilet provides a solution for places in your home that don’t have a drain pipe. 

      An upflush toilet contains a special system that consists of a macerator toilet unit and a pipe to move waste, including toilet paper, out to your sewer line. 

      Upflush toilets require electricity, and you can’t flush the toilet if the power goes out. 

      Tankless Toilet

      A tankless toilet doesn’t require a holding tank since the water from the supply line comes in with enough pressure to flush the tank without the need to store extra water in the tank. 

      Smart Toilet

      Smart toilets use technology that analyzes your waste to inform you about any alarming findings that may indicate a health concern. 

      How To Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out (3 Ideas)

      Again, If you use city water you can flush your toilet as you normally would. These steps are for those who are affected by special circumstances yet still need to flush. 

      Step 1: Make Your Last Flush Count

      You should get 1 to 2 flushes from each toilet even if your toilet is affected by the power outage. In this case, make your remaining flushes count. The old adage, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” applies here. Use the same water several times, and make your last flush(es) count. 

      Step 2: Obtain Water (Ahead of Time)

      You can mimic gravity on a toilet flush if you have access to a couple gallons of water. Gather water in a 3 to 5 gallon bucket to place it next to your toilet. You can pour this into the tank to refill it, but a popular method is to simply pour it into the bowl. 

      Pro Tip: If you know a storm is coming that might result in a power outage, fill up a bathtub. This will allow you water to use for toilet flushing, and it will also be located nearby.

      Don’t do this slowly, but all at once. This will force a flush. 

      Step 3: Find Alternative Bathroom Solutions

      If the toilets don’t flush properly, consider your nearby options outside of your home. You may want to ask a neighbor or a local business if you can use their facilities.

      Of course, most of us don’t want to intrude or have the option. Make a Target run, or visit a store that is likely using backup power due to having freezers such as a grocery store.

      FAQs For Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out

      How do you flush a toilet with no power?

      To flush a toilet with no power, pour water from a bucket into the toilet bowl to force the toilet to flush. 

      Do toilets work without power?

      Your toilet should work fine if you are on city water. As long as your plumbing system doesn’t have pumps that rely on electricity at any point, your toilet will work as normal in the case of a power outage. 

      However, if you have a septic tank or an upflush toilet, the toilet will not flush properly on its own. Your toilet also won’t work if you obtain your water from a well since wells require electricity to pump it. 

      Can you flush the toilet when the power is out on a well?

      You will not have the ability to flush your toilet if you obtain your water from a well since wells require electricity to pump. 

      Can you flush the toilet when the power is out in an apartment?

      Apartment buildings use a pump to supply water to different apartment units. If the power goes out, the pump won’t have the ability to supply your apartment with water, meaning you won’t be able to flush the toilet. 

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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