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It’s safe to say there are a lot of people who are afraid to mess with household plumbing – and we understand that. Plumbing can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing, and nobody wants to be responsible for their house flooding, the toilet spewing sewage all over the bathroom, or pretty much anything else that involves large quantities of water or human waste being anywhere that it doesn’t belong. However, knowledge is power, and as a general rule, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The very best thing you can do for your home’s plumbing is also the easiest: maintain it.

We know we write about them a lot, but toilets are often the most used fixture in a home. And your toilet definitely has the potential to be one of the messiest, most expensive, biggest hassles you’ll ever encounter if it isn’t properly used and maintained. You don’t need to start digging a latrine in the backyard just yet, though – thankfully, most problems can be avoided by following a few simple tips.

Ten Tips for Preventing Toilet Troubles
1. DO clean your toilet regularly with a mild cleaner. Vinegar, baking soda, or a mild soap are all great for regular porcelain cleaning. Not only does cleaning your toilet help you keep a more hygienic, better smelling bathroom, it also gives you the opportunity to spot a leak or a problem with your bathroom’s plumbing fairly quickly. If you never really clean up around the toilet area, how will you know if that water on the floor is from your shower, your toilet, or the sleepwalking male members of your household?
2. DON’T use chemical drain cleaners to unclog your toilet. While some plumbers say ‘yea’ and others say ‘nay’ when it comes to using these products, we say it’s just not worth the risk. Not only are these products harmful to your health if accidentally splattered on your skin, consumed, or even inhaled too much, they can damage older fixtures and pipes, and really aren’t something anyone wants in our water systems. They can also cause a lot of trouble for homes with septic systems if they kill off the good bacteria in there.
3. DO inspect your toilet’s inner workings about every 6 months to make sure the components are still in good shape and functioning properly. Take the tank lid off and flush the toilet. Watch the components work, making sure the flapper is sealing well and the fill valve stops running at an appropriate water level.
4. DO fix a running or leaking toilet right away. Toilet leaks are typically “silent”, in that you won’t necessarily find a puddle of water on the floor since the water is usually leaking out from the tank into the bowl (and down the drain). This makes it fairly easy to overlook the leak, or to keep putting off fixing it. Toilet leaks are generally slow leaks too, so you might not even notice a small increase in your bills each month until you look back and realize you’re paying $100 more for water this month than you did at the same time last year.
5. DON’T use a brick to save water in your tank. Unless your toilet is older than the mid-90’s, you’re using 1.6 gallons per flush (or less), and most sewage systems really do need that much water to effectively move the waste. If your toilet is older and you want to save water, we recommend filling a water bottle with sand or small rocks and using that to displace some of the water. Bricks can break down and clog your pipes.
6. DO teach children about the proper way to care for a toilet. While this is easiest during potty training, you can still teach older children what can and cannot be flushed, how to monitor their toilet paper usage to help prevent clogs, and the proper way to clean a toilet. These are life skills that will definitely come in handy when they move into their own apartments or homes one day.
7. DON’T flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Please. Just don’t. We cannot say this enough.
8. DO consider what kind of toilet paper you’re using. Not all toilet paper is created equal, and although you may love the super soft ultra deluxe cushy toilet paper you’re using, chances are your sewage or septic system doesn’t (especially your septic system, as it already has enough to break down without adding indestructible toilet paper). While this isn’t as much of a problem for those on a municipal sewage line, using too much toilet paper or toilet paper that doesn’t break down easily can clog the sewage pipes inside your home and cause backups in the lateral line that connects your home to the municipal line.
9. DO buy a flange plunger and learn how to use it properly. A lot of toilet clogs are simple to remove with a bucket full of hot water and a good plunger. If you can’t remove the clog with a plunger, an auger or snake is a good backup. However…
10. DON’T be afraid to call a plumber when you need to. Some jobs are just too big or too complicated for even experienced DIY’ers to handle on their own. If your toilet is continually clogging or you get brown water backing up into your shower or sink when you flush, those are symptoms of a more serious problem that you’ll need professional help with.

With good maintenance, your toilet should last you for a very long time. We know people who have toilets from the 1940’s still working! Remember, though, that toilets are porcelain and while it is easy enough to repair the internal components, any damage to the bowl or the tank itself means it’s time to get a new toilet.

On a related note, we’d also like to remind you to practice toilet safety: never stand on your toilet. Porcelain is sturdy, but it is not designed to hold a person’s weight without proper distribution and you could cause a hairline crack in the bowl without realizing it (until it completely collapses into a pile of glass shards). You risk serious injury to yourself or your loved ones if the bowl breaks.

9 Comments

  1. Matt

    woww … awesome tips for the prevention of toilet troubles, these are really useful for every person. Thanks for sharing with us, I really appreciate your work. Thanks

    Regards,
    Matt from ShopToilet

    Reply
  2. Sarah Smith

    My toilet just backed up and I’m trying to get it fixed. Thanks for the advice about not pouring chemical drain cleaner down your toilet. I’ll have to make sure to get some equipment so that I can take care of my toilet and have a plumber on hand just in case I can’t do anything.

    Reply
  3. Dwain W. Bowens

    Will your toilet work without a flange?

    Reply
    • Anthony

      We wouldn’t risk it! Flanges are required by code. If you post your question over at http://plbg.com , the plumbers there can probably give you a rundown of why!

      Reply
  4. emily bennette

    The plumbing in my home is rather old and I have been having a few issues with the toilets. So, I like that in tip number ten you talked about not being afraid to call a plumber. It does seem like it would be a good for me to do that if I keep having issues.

    Reply
  5. Jordan A.

    Great Tips! Preventative maintenance is key with toilets like it is in anything else out there. #4 is a great point and happens all too often, at least it seems like that’s where most of my running toilet troubles are. I highlighted that myself here in order to go through the basics of fixing a runner (toilet, that is)! http://toiletops.com/best-toilet-fill-valve/

    BRB, need to get my brick out of the toilet. 😛

    Reply
  6. Jemmy

    Is there any tank joint with toilet and do you have any plan to write something about washing machine like washingmachineinside.com

    Reply
  7. Yilliang Peng

    Thank you for the great plumbing advice and tips on how to prevent any kind of toilet issues. I never knew that you should not use a brick if your toilet is newer than the mid 90’s. My wife and I have always used the brick; however, this most recent time we have used it, it has not made much of a difference. Thanks for the information again!

    Reply
  8. Pat

    I can’t get my 95,yr old mom to put the paper in the waste basket, so I turned the water off, and remove the paper before flushing , she flooded the bathroom,3 times, and I am up stairs, that is a big problem ,I also remove a wash cloth, she has Alzheimer’s Lord help me .

    Reply

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