Toilet Maintenance and Inspection

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toilet maintenance and cleaningToilets are very robust devices that can last a long time in your home with proper maintenance. The process for flushing a toilet is simple. The water tank fills up with water from a supply hose coming out of the wall. As soon as the tank reaches the proper level the floating ballcock shuts off the water. If the water level gets too high, the extra fluid drops down the overflow tube into the bowl. To flush the toilet the handle on the tank is pulled down, which opens a rubber flapper to release all the water. The water flows down into the rim and out siphon jets into the bowl. Differences in water height create the flushing action.

Preventing Problems

Rarely does a toilet clog without reason. Avoid flushing any material down the toilet that isn’t intended for use to prevent a clog. Objects that commonly cause problems are feminine products, sanitary napkins, and paper towels. If you do need to fix a clog, use a plunger to dislodge the blockage. The next line of action would be to use a wire hanger to poke at the clog and follow up with the plunger.

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Tyler is the founder of Home Maintenance Tracker and a writer for HomeSpot HQ, an easy to use tool for managing maintence and projects for every house.

Latest posts by Tyler Golberg (see all)


  1. says

    Great tool to use to clean out the toilet holes under the rim—-a bicycle spoke. The end is threaded to make cleaning much easier, you can bend it into any shape that helps, and it’s CHEAP and lasts forever. New spoke at a bike shop–about a buck, or use one out an old wheel if you have one.

    Works really well!

  2. eliza says

    I have heard a lot of suggestions about cleaning the toilet. If it is really dirty I have found that dropping 2 lysol tablets into the tank and leaving it for about a hour. Flush and your toilet will be self cleaning every time you flush.

  3. joan says

    My plumber told us that dental floss is also a major cause of plugs in the toilet line. It wraps around “stuff” and rough edges and can cause clogs.

  4. Zanne says

    A note on replacing the flapper: I highly recommend taking note of which link on the chain your lever attaches to before removing the old flapper and replacing it. Which link the lever hooks to affects how long or short of a flush you will get in dual-flush models. You want to make sure you have the “sweet spot” on the chain to get the right amount of flush. If you don’t have it right you might have to hold the lever down longer and it might not flush properly.

    Another thing to check inside the tank is the flush assembly valve. If your tank keeps refilling over and over and you have already ruled out the flapper, look to the flush assembly. You might not need to go out and buy a new one if your old one can be dismantled and cleaned. I managed to save some $ by taking apart mine and cleaning it out thoroughly (I have hard water and sediment was clogging it up and interfering).
    A final tip: Every plumber I have spoken with in recent years has advised against using any corrosive substances in the toilet tank. Those blue cleaners and such tend to destroy the plastic and rubber of the flush valves and flappers. It is safer to use in-bowl cleaners instead.

    Now a question: Is it possible to remove deep hard water stains from porcelain with septic tank safe materials? I’ve tried baking soda, vinegar, CLR, Hydrogen Peroxide, toothpaste, and all manner of septic safe cleaning supplies to try to get the hard water stains out of my toilet to no avail.
    I even used non-septic tank safe ones just before my old septic tank was replaced and it still didn’t work.

    • says

      Zanne, thanks for all the feedback! Sounds like you have a really tough hard water stain. Vinegar would be my weapon of choice but instead of scrubbing, I’d let it soak for a couple days on the dirty area.

    • Dragon says

      Pour a bottle of cola into the bowl insuring that you coat all area with the liquid. Let soak for a couple of hours and wipe off. Not sure if it works on hard water stains but it removed the unidentified stains from my toilet bowl.

    • W L Liliedahl says

      Keep a bottle of red nail polish in your tool bag and use it for marking stuff, like the link on the commode chain now…will save time later. Other uses for red nail polish: put a dot beside the electrical sockets where ground side of the socket is since electricians can’t seem to get them all on the same side which should be standard. I also put a dot on the ground side on the plugs. This avoids fumbling behind and away from light sources. There are tons of other places one can use a marker, thus, red nail polish.

  5. Carol D says

    Lemon juice or citric acid will remove rust stains. powdered citric acid is a food preservative, also used in water systems.

  6. vicki says

    The inside of my toilet bowl is kinda grey looking and seems to be getting worse. I clean and scrub but it is like the “finish” is gone? Where it is grey, it tends to get mold in just a couple days. Is it possible that there was a sealant that has eroded away?

    • Cheryl says

      Tubs, sinks, and toilets have a glaze on the porcelain. Over time it does wear away. I owned a home where the tub was exactly as you described. You are stuck with lots of continuos cleaning or replacing the toilet. (Or professional deglazing) sorry no encouraging news.

    • Kim says

      If you are using a toilet brush with metal in it , it will scratch . Use a cleanser such as Comet on a rag and scrub it softly. It will amaze you.

    • andrea hughes says

      You might have lime build up from your water if you have hard water. Lime is hard to see cause it is white like the toilet. Some lime away and a pumice stone should take it off but be sure to use rubber gloves cause the lime away will burn your hands. Also don’t mix bleach and lime away together as it makes very toxic fumes that will burn your eyes and nose and throat and lungs.

  7. shirley says

    Get denture cleaner from the Dollar and drop two tablets in the toilet bowl and tank, let soak over night, or as long as possible, scrub and flush. I do this once a week. Keeping the tank clean seems to help.

  8. says

    I noticed a while back that there is continuing running water sounds in old tiolet in bath I rarely use, can’t see anything leaking plumbers are so expensive is this something i can fix myself?

    • says

      Karen, in all likelihood there is a leak around the edge of the flapper at the bottom of the water tank. It is an easy fix you can do yourself and should only cost a couple bucks.

  9. Paul Bade says

    I’ve found that leaky flush flappers can sometimes by restored by cleaning with hot, soapy water. A bacteria film builds up on the sealing surface and allows water to seep through. That’s why some manufacturers now offer anti-bacterial flappers.

  10. Carol Jessee says

    I have really tough hard water. The kind that can turn the water orange. Even with an efficient filtration system, hard water always builds up.
    My solution…a pumice stone!! One can find them in most any store cleaning department, near the mops and brooms!!!

  11. sallie says

    Sometimes if your toilet keeps running water but it is full can also be just a kinked chain. Lift off the lid and look at the chain and straighten it if it got twisted. If your chain is broken you can fix it with a twist tie sometimes as long as it lets the flapper go down ok.

  12. Theresa says

    In the last year or so, when I flush my toilet, it splashes toilet water onto the seat and surrounding area. I have to lift the seat to flush and disinfect the surrounding floor/area. Why is this happening all of a sudden?

      • Theresa says

        Tyler, thanks for the quick response. I tried to observe my toilet again. It seems like when I flush, the water rushes out so quickly from under the rim that it hits the lip of the rim and shoots up, and the stream is so strong that it hits the pool of water in the bowl and splashes up. I haven’t had a blockage problem–not even when my 6 year old uses too much toilet paper, but do you still think it is a blockage issue? It seems like when I flush it’s a like a river gushing out from under the rims. Should I use a plunger anyway? Will that help?

        • says

          It doesn’t hurt to try a plunger. If you feel the water flow is too much, you could try adding a Tupperware container filled with water (so it sinks) to displace some of the water being flushed.

  13. Barbara says

    When going on vacation, put a cup of vinegar in each toilet to prevent ring buildup from all the minerals in the water. I had to leave my home for 3 months for medical treatment a few years ago, and returned to clean, sparkling toilet bowls. Also good for just overnight treatment for ring preventative.

  14. says

    Great Post! Thanks for sharing. Yes, it’s very true that toilets are very robust devices that can last a long time in your home with proper maintenance.

  15. Jane says

    I might try the duct tape/vinegar cleanse. Reading the directions, You mention the duct tape might not stick tightly enough to withstand the vinegar flush. I think it would be good to seal the holes with duct tape and first try flushing with just water to be sure the duct tape will adhere to your toilet. Otherwise, you have just wasted a gallon of vinegar. Thoughts?

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