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My Toilet Won't Flush

What to do if your toilet won't flush

Posted 08:44 September 25, 2017
Last Updated 08:25 November 17, 2017

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It has happened to us all. Suddenly your toilet won't flush. Do you need to call a plumber? Maybe. But maybe you can easily fix it yourself. A toilet is a fairly simple machine. In this article we will review the parts of the toilet and how to diagnose and fix a toilet that will not flush.

How Toilet Flushing Works

Toilets have two main components: the tank and the bowl. The tank holds all the moving parts and stores around 2 gallons of water for flushing. At the base of the bowl is a siphon tube. The siphon tube curves up and down. Nothing will happen if you put a cup or two of water into the bowl. A cup or two of water won't create enough force for the water in the bowl to move over the upward curve in the siphon tube. But if the water in the tank (around 2 gallons) dumps into the bowl, everything in the bowl flushes out, clears the curves in the siphon tube, and empties into your sewer lines.

How To Figure Out Why Your Toilet Won't Flush

There are only two primary components of a toilet's flushing mechanism. The flapper in the tank, which opens and closes and releases water into the bowl, and the bowl's siphon tube. Determining which is the source of your problem is easy. If you press the flush handle and nothing happens, the problem is inside the water holding tank. If you flush the toilet, it doesn't drain, and the bowl overflows, the problem is in your toilet's siphon tube. There is a blockage somewhere that needs to be cleared.

Most of the problems you will encounter with toilet flushing revolve around the tank flapper system. Blockages are less common, unless you have small children in the home who enjoy stuffing all kinds of things down your toilets.

Fixing Problems In The Water Holding Tank

If your toilet handle is loose and nothing happens when you press it, you may have a simple linkage problem inside the tank. Remove the toilet tank lid and examine what happens when you press the handle. The handle attaches to a flapper chain, which in turn opens the flapper at the base of the tank. If that linkage is broken that is what needs to be fixed. Sometimes you can simply reattach the chain. Sometimes the chain is broken and you can use a bread twist tie to reattach the handle to the flapper chain. In a worst case scenario, you can buy a new chain at your local hardware store.

If you can't get the flapper chain reattached to the handle right away, and you need to flush the toilet right now, reach inside the tank and manually open the flapper at the bottom of the tank. This will release water into the bowl and flush the toilet.

Fixing Toilet Drainage Problems

If your toilet is flushing but not draining, you have a blockage somewhere after the toilet bowl. A simple blockage inside the siphon tube can usually be cleared with a plunger. Blockages a few feet beyond the siphon tube can also be cleared with a plunger. However, if your problem is much farther down the sewer line you may need to contact a profession plumber. If you're a diehard do-it-yourself type, you can remove the toilet from the floor, make sure the siphon tube is clear (run a coat hanger through it), then use a snake to try and clear remaining blockages in the sewer line. If you still can't clear the blockage, we at All Trades are hydrojetting specialists. We can clear any blockages you have in your sewer lines.


Toilets that won't flush are usually pretty easy to fix yourself. In extreme cases you may need to contact a professional. All Trades in Las Vegas, Nevada can fix any plumbing problem you have. We have highly training technicians and offer fast same-day service. Our service area includes Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, and most parts of Clark County Nevada.

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