Why Won’t My Toilet Flush?

Last Updated On June 12, 2024

Updated on December 7, 2022



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why won't my toilet flush

If we’re thinking, “why won’t my toilet flush?” there might be a blockage in the toilet p-trap or farther down the sewer line.

Our toilets connect to a series of bathroom plumbing pipes underneath our home.

When we get a clog in the main sewer line, the first place we will probably notice the backup is in our toilet. With nowhere for the wastewater to go, it will rise after each flush.

Sometimes a plunger can make quick work out of a minor clogged toilet, but other times, it will require a plumbing snake

If the toilet doesn’t do anything when we push the handle, it might be a flushing mechanism problem.

There are a lot of components inside the toilet tank. These parts all work together to allow the toilet to flush when we push the tank lever down.

If any of these get worn, damaged, or disconnected, they won’t be able to work the way they should.

I have fixed these many times! Let’s talk about it.

What's In This Guide?

      5 Reasons Why Your Toilet Won’t Flush

      There are five reasons our toilet won’t flush. We want to prepare for anything. 

      1. A clogged sewer line is usually the main reason our toilet won’t flush, resulting in the water rising in the bowl instead of draining out. 

      The wastewater in the bowl can’t escape past the blockage while the flushing mechanism still allows the tank’s water to refill the bowl. 

      2. The second reason our toilet isn’t flushing is the chain getting disconnected from the handle to the flush valve flapper. 

      We can locate this chain by removing the lid of the tank. Connected directly to the handle, it hangs down to the bottom of the tank. 

      It connects to the flapper and covers the hole that drains into the toilet bowl. 

      When this chain is connected and set at the exact length, it causes the flapper to lift when we push the flushing handle down. 

      3. The third reason our toilets won’t flush is if the flapper doesn’t sit correctly over its designated hole. If any water can pass by the flapper at all, it will cause the entire system to keep running. 

      Our toilet’s tank also has a feature that prevents it from overflowing. This takes us to the fourth reason why a toilet won’t flush. 

      4. Our toilet’s overflow tube is made of rubber and can fall out of place and, in time, start to develop cracks

      When the water seeps through these cracks, it causes the system to run non-stop and can impact our water bill negatively. It should be fixed sooner rather than later. 

      5. The fifth cause of our toilets, not flushing is clogged inlet holes around the inside of our toilet bowl. 

      We can visually inspect these for any signs of blockage. Our bowl will fill very sluggishly and may not clear all of the waste when we push down the handle. 

      When everything on the toilet seems clear, clean, and works, but still won’t flush, it could be that our fill valve assembly is stuck or needs to be adjusted. 

      The fill valve allows us to adjust the height we want the water level in the tank to reach each time we flush. It consists of a float and shut-off valve,

      How To Fix A Toilet That Won’t Flush

      Going to the bathroom isn’t something we generally spend too much time contemplating. When we’ve got to go, we’ve got to go. 

      Only during a plumbing emergency do we realize that a flushing toilet is something we might take for granted. 

      If we push down the flushing mechanism and anything other than a typical flush happens, we can most likely always fix the problem ourselves. 

      From a higher water bill to hazardous living conditions, It’s important not to ignore a toilet that won’t flush.

      Here is a video with some great tips on how to fix a toilet that won’t flush.

      Common Toilet Flushing Troubleshooting

      How To Fix A Toilet That Won’t Flush All The Way

      When our toilet doesn’t flush, we can check if the toilet’s tank has the correct amount of water. 

      If the tank is filling up right, but the toilet won’t flush, there is a clog in the sewer line. 

      A toilet plunger can usually dislodge the most common block. The head of the plunger needs to be pressed firmly around the drainage pipe inside the toilet. 

      As we pump the plunger in and out, it creates a vacuum through the line, forcing the solids forward through the sewer. 

      Once the debris clears from its position, the excess water and waste will rush down the pipe as they should.

      How To Fix A Toilet Not Flushing At All

      If my toilet doesn’t do anything when I push the handle down, something might be wrong with my toilet’s inner workings. 

      These can be bought as entire valve assembly kits or as individual parts. If a plunger doesn’t work, small handheld snakes are perfect for a clogged toilet and p-traps. 

      These snakes are great but are limited in how far they can reach. The steel coil can scratch the porcelain if we’re not careful. 

      The ultimate way to clear a main sewer line beyond the toilet is to rent an electric plumbing snake. We need to remove the toilet to access the toilet drain on the floor.  

      We can now run a snake as far down the line as necessary.

      How To Fix Just The Toilet Handle That Won’t Flush

      Nobody wants to leave their waste inside the toilet bowl when complete with their duty. If we are anywhere other than home especially. 

      If absolutely nothing happens when we push down the flushing handle, there is a good chance we can fix the problem ourselves. 

      Inside the toilet tank is a chain that causes the toilet flapper to lift when we push the flush lever down. 

      This chain can come loose and clip back into place. It can disconnect from the flapper valve as well. We can feel in the water to check if everything is secure inside the tank.

      Did you know? Toilet tanks hold different amounts of water. We can adjust the fill level on every flush valve assembly to the perfect water level for our specific toilet.

      did you know why won't my toilet flush

      Tips On Specific Toilets Not Flushing

      We’ve gone over the many reasons a typical toilet won’t flush. We live in a generation of ever-changing styles and innovations. 

      What happens when we run into a toilet we’ve never seen before? Or worse, a complicated style we’ve never seen before. 

      We have listed a few of the most used atypical types of toilets, with confusing flushing mechanisms, installed in homes and commercial buildings today.

      How To Fix A Push-Button Toilet That Won’t Flush

      Some modern toilets have a push-button flushing assembly. The chrome buttons are usually positioned on the top and centered on the tank. 

      We will need to remove the tank from the toilet bowl to replace this setup.

      After turning off the water supply, we will carefully pull the lid off the tank, remove the refill tube and set it out of the way. Manually raise the flapper to flush the excess water from the tank. 

      After taking off the two nuts that secure the tank to the rest of the toilet, we can lift it out of place. 

      Remove a donut-shaped gasket and loosen the back nuts to the existing flushing mechanism.

      We can now install the new push-button flushing system with the old assembly out of our way. 

      Once the toilet is completely back together, we can return the water pressure and give it a test. 

      How To Fix A Dual Flush Toilet That Won’t Refill

      With the calcium and other debris in our public water, our flushing mechanisms can sometimes get stuck. What can we do if the problem is a dual flush toilet that won’t refill?

      If I push the button on my toilet, it flushes but doesn’t refill the tank, the fill valve is probably just getting stuck. 

      Removing the lid and tapping on the valve will usually free it up. Luckily dual flush toilet fill valves are somewhat inexpensive and easy to replace. 

      We won’t be required to replace the entire flushing assembly, so removing the tank won’t be necessary. 

      It’s as easy as shutting off the water supply and swapping out the old fill valve with the new one. We will need to make adjustments to get the perfect fit and chain length for our specific toilet tank.

      How To Fix A Low-Flow Toilet That Won’t Flush

      The most common way to fix a low-flow toilet that won’t flush is to do one of two things. 

      We can try adjusting the chain length from the handle to the flapper. If this doesn’t seem to fix our problem, then we know that it’s probably the float valve. 

      The float valve has a rod that allows for adjustments. Sliding the float up or down this rod will limit the amount of water it allows into the tank of the toilet. 

      Final Thoughts On Why Your Toilet Won’t Flush

      There are quite a few reasons why our toilet won’t flush. 

      We can handle most problems without calling an expensive plumber. From a clogged toilet to replacing the entire flushing assembly, most of the issues we run into are not plumbing emergencies. 

      With a plunger, a snake, and a few tools, we can solve almost any toilet flushing problem and plumbing emergency on our own. 

      FAQs: Toilet Not Flushing Completely

      Why won’t my toilet flush but isn’t clogged?

      Our toilet’s tank is full of intricate parts that work together causing it to flush when we push down the lever. There are many reasons, besides clogging, that can cause our toilet not to flush.

      Help, my toilet flushes slowly and incompletely!

      To fix a slow flushing toilet we can usually use a plunger. It is not uncommon for a small blockage to cause our toilets to flush slowly and incompletely.

      My toilet flushes but waste come back. Why?

      When we flush our toilet and waste overflows out of the bowl, we know our sewer line is blocked. We can try flushing, but the water has nowhere to go but back up.

      How to fix a Kohler toilet that won’t flush.

      There is a water fill line in the back of the Kohler toilet water tank. The water needs to be at this height to fill the bowl correctly. As always, we should check the slack and connection to the chain.

      How to fix a toilet that won’t flush because the handle has come away inside?

      There is a back nut on our toilet flushing lever that we can tighten. Replacing this is as easy as removing the chain and nut if it’s stripped.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

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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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