What You Need to Know About Phantom Toilet Flushes

What You Need to Know About Phantom Toilet Flushes
crawfordmech March 16, 2018

There’s a phenomenon known as “ghost flushing” that occasionally happens to home toilets — they start making flushing sounds all on their own! This can be surprising and a little annoying when it happens in the middle of the night or starts happening once or twice a day. In addition to wasting water, it’s also indicating a problem with your toilet. Here’s what is going on, and how you can stop these ghost flushes in their tracks.

What’s Going On

First, don’t be alarmed. Nothing is alive in your tank, or climbing up and pulling the handle. This flushing is entirely an internal problem. Inside the average house toilet, the tank is closed off from its water source with a valve that’s covered by a round flapper. This flapper is pulled open whenever you flush by moving the handle so that the toilet tank can refill for next time. It’s a simple system, but it works! Usually.

Sometimes, the flapper or the chain that connects it to the handle experiences problems, especially problems with sealing the valve properly. In this case, the flapper can suddenly pop open and let a leak escape. This drains water from the toilet over time, which then refills due to movement of the float, and ultimately, it sounds like your toilet is trying to flush itself.

How It’s Happening

Flappers get old. It happens. When their seal breaks down, all it takes is a small leak for the tank full of water to push the flapper open and drain out all the water and flush itself. This tends to happen at least several hours after a toilet was last used, which is why it often happens in the middle of the night. Since a flapper is made of rubber and plastic, these materials have probably worn out.

How You Can Test for It

There’s a really simple test you can do to see if your flapper is having leaking problems. First, get some food dye and put a little into the tank – just enough to color the water. Then, leave the toilet alone for at least six to eight hours. Now, check the water in the toilet bowl. If your flapper is leaking, then it is allowing colorful water to escape into the bowl, and your bowl water will also be dyed.

How to Fix Phantom Toilet Flushes

First, check your flapper and handle for any obvious problem, like a tangled connection or something wedged into the flapper valve. These are easy fixes for your toilet’s ghost flushes. If the flapper appears to be fine, it is probably worn out and needs to be replaced. Make sure you get the same model of flapper at the store if you want to do this fix yourself!

If these simple fixes don’t solve your ghost flushing problems, then call us at Crawford Mechanical Services. We can help with all your plumbing needs. Contact us today to get started.

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