If your toilet suddenly begins to get sluggish and doesn't flush completely, you probably reach for a plunger to remove the clog. You may be surprised to learn that clogs in the drain are only one of the reasons for problems with incomplete flushing. If your toilet is sluggish or fails to flush properly but doesn't respond to a good plunging, consider these other common causes for sluggish or incomplete flushing.
1. Water Level Too Low
Conserving water is an admirable goal, but your toilet depends on the force of the water as it enters the bowl to flush waste down the drain. Some make the mistake of adjusting the float or the intake valve to the toilet so that the water shuts off at a lower level. When the water level in your tank is low, there may not be enough pressure to whisk away waste when you flush the toilet. To save water and maintain the proper pressure for flushing your toilet, place a brick or stone in the bottom of your toilet's water tank. This saves water while maintaining a healthy water level in the tank. When the toilet is flushed, the height of the water in the tank provides the pressure your toilet needs to flush cleanly and efficiently.
2. Vent Pipe Blocked
Your toilet is connected to a vent pipe that extends outside your home. You may have thought the pipe was just for releasing sewer gases, but it plays a role in flushing the toilet too. In order to gain the force it needs to flush away the waste, you toilet needs air, too. Fresh air from the vent pipe follows the flow of water down the drain. Without a source of air, a vacuum forms behind the water, slowing down its movement through the drain. If you experience slow or sluggish toilets, check the air vent for clogs. Sometimes small rodents or birds find their way into the pipe and clog it. Your vent pipe is typically located on the roof or along the side of your home.
3. Septic Tank Full
If it has been a while since you had your septic tank emptied, an over-filled tank may be the problem. Because there is no place for the wastewater to go, your toilet may become increasingly sluggish as the septic tank becomes filled. You may notice that the toilet flushes normally sometimes and sometimes becomes sluggish. This occurs because wastewater enters the septic tank and solids sink to the bottom. The excess water filters out into the drain field, also called a leach field, where it is filtered through gravel before the water enters the groundwater, but it can only handle so much at once. You may also notice that the leach field becomes soggy after rain or emits a foul odor. These are signs it is time to empty your septic tank.
4. Inlet Holes Clogged
A series of small holes located on the underside of the seat rim allow water to enter the toilet bowl when you flush the toilet. These holes can clog from hard water deposits or other contaminants in the water. When cleaning the toilet bowl, always run the brush under the rim to keep the holes clean and free of debris. If the holes clog, use toilet bowl cleaner and a stiff brush to remove the clogs. You can also use an old toothbrush to get under the rim and clean the inlet holes.
The next time your toilet begins acting up and fails to flush efficiently, go ahead and try the plunger first. But, if that doesn't produce the results you desire, consider the other reasons your toilet may lack the force it needs to flush waste away. You may need the services of a plumber to check the vent pipe or troubleshoot other causes for your plumbing problems. You can go to this website to learn about plumbing services in your area.