Why Your Toilet Flushes Every Other Time and How to Solve It

by Jessica Sawyer | Toilets

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If your toilet flushes every other time, then you’re probably wondering what’s going on. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but what does it mean? Is it really just a minor inconvenience? Or is it a sign of a major plumbing issue?

Well, there’s some good news here: an inconsistent flush is often a simple problem that you may be able to fix at home. But there is also the chance that it could be something bigger, so it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible to avoid any major plumbing catastrophes down the road.

So, in this article, we’re going to explore some of the most common reasons why your toilet flushes every other time. We’ll also give you some tips on fixing the problem, and preventing it from happening again in the future.

Understanding the Problem

If we’re going to get to the root of an inconsistent flushing problem, it’s important to know how a toilet works. A typical toilet flush operates on a siphoning action. See, when you flush, water rushes into the bowl, creating a vacuum in the trapway (the S-shaped tube underneath the bowl). This vacuum forcefully pulls the contents of the bowl down the drain.

So, when a toilet flushes every other time, the issue is often that there isn’t enough water to initiate this siphoning effect. This could be for several reasons:

1. The Flapper Is Old

The flapper is a rubber valve in the bottom of the tank that lifts to release water into the bowl. An old or deteriorating flapper may not seal properly, and prevent enough water from flowing into the bowl for a successful flush.

2. The Flapper Closes Too Soon

If the flapper falls back into place before enough water has left the tank, then the flush won’t be strong enough to drain the bowl properly. This premature closing can be due to an improperly adjusted flapper chain or a flapper that’s not sized correctly for the toilet.

3. Low Flush Toilet Problems

Low flush toilets are great in that they’re designed to use less water per flush. But if you’re not maintaining them properly, they may not generate enough water flow to effectively clear the bowl, resulting in incomplete flushes.

4. Partial Clog

Since your toilet is still technically flushing, you may not think that a clog could be part of the problem. But here’s the thing: a clog doesn’t have to completely block the drain to affect your toilet’s flushing ability. 

Partial clogs can disrupt water flow enough to prevent a complete flush. And this isn’t necessarily because there’s something in your toilet that shouldn’t be. In addition to non-dissolvable items, these clogs often consist of excessive toilet paper or built-up waste.

5. Hard Water Buildup

In areas with hard water, mineral deposits can accumulate in the jets around the toilet bowl and in the siphon tube. These build-ups can significantly restrict water flow, weakening the siphon effect necessary for a flush.

The DIY Approach to Fixing a Toilet That Flushes Every Other Time

If you’re willing to try and tackle this problem on your own, here’s a step-by-step guide to diagnose and remedy each potential issue with basic tools.

Troubleshooting the Flapper

1. Inspect the Flapper: Remove the toilet tank lid and inspect the flapper. Signs of wear or decay suggest it’s time for a replacement.

    2. Replace the Flapper: Fortunately, flappers are usually inexpensive and widely available at hardware stores. Be sure to bring the old one to match size and type.

      3. Adjust the Flapper Chain: Ensure the chain has about 1/2 inch of slack when the flapper is closed. Adjust as necessary for optimal performance.

        Addressing Low Flush Toilets

        1. Check for Obstructions: Inspect the rim feed and the jet holes for any blockages. It can help to use a small mirror to get a better view under the rim. If you find any debris, try to clear it with a wire.

        2. Adjust the Water Level: Ensure the water level in the tank is set to the optimal line marked inside the tank. Adjust the float higher to increase water level, if needed.

          Clearing Partial Clogs

          1. Use a Plunger: Of course, a forceful plunge may be enough to dislodge a partial clog. Just make sure you’re getting a good seal around the plunger for best results.

          2. Try a Toilet Auger: For more stubborn blockages, a toilet auger can reach deeper and apply more force than a plunger. You can use a plumbing snake here too, but the auger will better protect your toilet bowl from any damage.

            Removing Hard Water Buildup

            1. Clean Jets and Siphon Tube: Heat up about a cup of vinegar, and pour it into the overflow tube in the tank. Allow it to sit and dissolve the buildup for half an hour, then clean out the jets using a wire or even an Allen wrench. For tougher deposits, use a specialized toilet cleaner designed to remove mineral deposits.

              When to Call the Experts for a Toilet Flushing Every Other Time

              If you’re still experiencing issues after these DIY fixes, then you may be dealing with a more complex problem, such as structural issues in the plumbing system. In such cases, your best bet is to call a professional plumber. 

              It’s particularly important to involve experts if you’re also noticing leaks, experiencing persistent clogs, or if your toilet is older and may need more than a simple repair.

              How to Prevent Flushing Issues

              Regular maintenance can prevent many flushing issues before they start. Here are some tips:

              • Regularly clean the toilet, focusing on the jets and siphon tube.
              • Inspect the flapper and internal components at least once a year for signs of wear.
              • Avoid flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper.
              • Consider installing a water softener to address any hard water-related problems.

              Final Thoughts

              Since a toilet that flushes every other time can be more than a minor inconvenience; it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible. Fortunately, by understanding how a toilet works and knowing the common causes of flushing issues, you can often tackle the problem yourself and get your toilet flushing properly again in no time.

              But whether you fix it yourself or call in a pro, timely repairs are crucial for keeping your home’s plumbing in top shape. After all, your toilet is an essential part of your home, and keeping it in top working order saves you time and money in the long run.

              Having flushing issues? If so, we’d be happy to help! Click here to schedule a Water Pros Plumber online, or call (480) 459-4424 today.

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