Toilet Talk

The Low Flow Toilet

Under Ontario Law (OBC, 1997,, toilets installed in new homes can use a MAXIMUM of six litres of water per flush. These toilets became mandatory in new homes in 1996, and are also known as “low-flow” toilets. Here’s an evolution of the flush.

Pre 1950’s – 26 litres per flush
1960’s 20 litres per flush
1980’s 13 litres per flush
1990’s 6 litres per flush

Complaints against low flush toilets include sluggish or incomplete flushing; a small “water spot,” as the area of the toilet-bowl water surface is called; staining; and the need to double-flush or triple-flush. Critics say that if a toilet is flushed more than twice, it’s defeating the purpose. Whether or not this be the case – they’re here to stay and here are some suggestions on living with it

The Right Way to Plunge a Toilet

Everybody with a low flush toilet has a plunger. According to Terry Love, there’s a right and a wrong way to use a plunger, and most people require some brushing up on their plunging skills.

Put the plunger in with water in bowl, and after a series of short, quick strokes, pull up until everything sucks down. Usually people do big strokes up and down. Using that method, some blockages won’t move.

What’s it all for?

Although plumbers and the public complain about the way new toilets flush, plumbing regulators say that the latest generation of low flush toilets work just fine. These toilets are here to stay, so we’d better get used to them- -Patrick Higgins is a licensed plumber and chairman of the ASME/ ANSI Plumbing Fixture Committee. Higgins claims it’s a matter of getting used to the product and not using the toilet as a waste basket. What the public needs isn’t more water but more education, they say. We have to learn that toilets are only for No. 1 liquid waste, and No. 2, faecal waste.

Unfixable Problems

  • A toilet bowl that has an object (comb, toothbrush, toy, etc.) stuck in the passageway that can’t be reached or dislodged from inside the bowl or from the bottom of the toilet will have to be replaced.
  • When the passageway in a toilet bowl becomes encrusted with scale, it restricts the flow. It’s almost impossible to completely remove the scale, and it’s time for a new toilet.
  • A cracked toilet tank can’t be fixed and should be replaced as soon as it is noticed whether or not it is leaking.

How long should the parts inside a toilet tank last?

The answer is, “It depends.” The replaceable parts such as flappers and the washers or seals inside a refill valve in some toilets may last several years. If your water is chemically treated, if you use a bowl cleaner in the tank, if you have high water pressure,the parts are likely to disintegrate sooner. If you touch the flapper and get black on your hands, that’s a sure sign the parts need replacing.

The “Vacation Syndrome”

People would leave on vacation and return to find that their toilets were leaking, because the rubber gaskets and washers had disintegrated. The problem turned out to be caused by some of the toilet tank additives that worked fine as long as the toilet was used regularly. But when allowed to sit unused for long periods of time, the chlorine concentration would keep getting stronger and stronger.

There is a warning on a popular replacement refill valve stating that the manufacturer will not be held responsible for any failure of, or damage to plumbing products caused by its use in toilet tanks containing high concentrations of chlorine or chlorine related products. Likewise, We are not responsible or liable for any failure of, or damage to, plumbing products as a result of this.

When away for extended periods, you should have someone periodically run your plumbing for toilets and faucets.

What To Do When Water Starts to Rise

Watching water rise to the top edge of a toilet bowl is disconcerting to say the least. But in most cases the water will stop running before overflowing. Many toilet bowls are designed in such a way that they will usually hold the entire contents of the tank without overflowing. But that’s only IF the water level in the bowl was at its normal height before the toilet was flushed.

Unfortunately, when a toilet bowl is clogged and the water level rises and doesn’t flush the contents away, some people are too hasty and will flush the toilet again hoping the additional water will push the contents of the bowl down. This only causes a toilet bowl to overflow. SO, warn all members of your household, that when the water level in a toilet bowl is higher than normal – DO NOT FLUSH IT AGAIN. You must wait until the water level drops to normal. If it doesn’t drop to normal, then you need to find out what is blocking the bowl. But under no circumstances should you flush again.

When confronted with a bowl that is overflowing, quickly turn the water off under the tank prior to plunging. (This assumes the problem is a clog in the toilet.)

If you’re unsuccessful with the above, you may decide to call a plumber. Keep in mind that if the damage is a result of the homeowner, you will be liable for any charges incurred.

Obvious signs of a leaking toilet:

  • If you have to jiggle the handle to make a toilet stop running.
  • Any sounds coming from a toilet that is not being used are sure signs of leaks.
  • If you see water running over the top of the overflow, you definitely have a leaking refill valve.
  • If water drips out of the refill tube into
    the overflow pipe.

Preventative Toilet Maintenance

  • Treat your toilet tanks and bowls like the “china bowls” that they are; they can and will crack if abused.
  • BE CAREFUL with tools around a toilet, don’t compound the problem when making a repair. You can’t fix a cracked toilet bowl or tank.
  • Never use a toilet for a ladder. Don’t stand or sit on a toilet tank lid. And don’t put a lot of pressure against a tank by leaning back.
  • Throw the toilet bowl cleaning brush away as soon as the bristles wear down and metal is showing. Once the bowl is scratched, it’s impossible keep clean, and you won’t be able to repair the scratches. A plastic brush is less likely to scratch the china.
  • Don’t treat your toilets as a universal garbage disposal. Just because a product is called disposable doesn’t mean it should be flushed down the toilet. Keep a waste paper basket in the bathroom for such things as facial tissues, gum, all sanitary products, bandages and paper towels.
  • Don’t store small items or heavy items on the lid of the toilet tank to minimize the risk of a something falling in, such as toys, brushes, combs, etc. A tooth brush that gets stuck in the interior passageway of a toilet bowl that can’t be dislodged means replacing the toilet. A very heavy item that hits the china bowl could also chip or crack the bowl.
  • Never pour hot water into a toilet bowl or tank, the bowl or tank may crack, and never mix toilet cleaning products.

What Makes a Toilet Bowl Flush?

  • After flushing the toilet, water enters the bowl by way of the rim holes and jet. Water rises in the bowl and flows over the dam, but no siphon or flushing action has yet started.
  • As more water enters the bowl, the volume and velocity of water flowing over the dam also increases, creating a curtain of water through the passageway, creating a partial vacuum — the start of siphonic action. The curtain of water also prevents air from entering the passageway through the outlet.
  • As incoming water continues to accelerate, more of the air in the down leg of the passageway is displaced.
  • When the passageway is filled, a good flush or siphon action is created.
  • As soon as the level of the water in the bowl drops to the level where air is again introduced into the passageway, the siphon is broken.
  • When deep seal of water is not restored with refill water, sewer gas will enter.

Source: &


Know how to turn off your water supply. The MAIN SHUT-OFF turns off all the water to your entire home; MAKE SURE IT WORKS. You will need it in an emergency AND/OR when you don’t have an individual shut-off under fixtures. When you have used one of the small shut-off valves under a toilet remember to turn it back on.

Keep in mind that the shut-off valves tend to become stiff since they are seldom used, and left in the same position for long periods of time.

Anatomy of a Toilet