Toilet Swirls But Won’t Flush: Possible Causes & How to Fix


toilet swirls but wont flush

Toilets—we all have them, but we hardly ever talk about them until something goes wrong. To think that an average American flushes 5 times per day further reinforces how much we rely on them.

But sometimes, the toilets come with their barrage of problems and drive homeowners insane. A typical example is when they swirl but never flush—it can be such an annoying scenario.

If your toilet swirls but won’t flush, chances are your water level is too low in the toilet’s tank. Alternatively, it could happen if drainpipe is poorly designed. A third possibility is that the lift chain has too much slack. 

Despite their constant presence in our homes, so many people do not know how to fix minor issues with toilets. They even struggle to figure out when to draw the line and call in the professionals.

If you’re grappling with this right now, don’t wait until it becomes worse, act now! Here are 7 likely reasons why your toilet won’t flush and how to fix them.

A Low Water Level

For every “successful flush,” water must be delivered quickly to the toilet. But that may never happen if the water level is too low in the toilet tank. The toilet will lack the required water once you flush.

You may experience this problem when you go about adjusting the water level to save water. In other situations, some components may decide to be on their worst behaviors—restricting enough water from filling the tank.

Manufacturers indicate the optimal water level with a mark inside the tank. That line is about an inch under the top of the overflow tube. With water below that level, it’s always a struggle to get your waste out to the appropriate channel.

What you need to do is to check whether the water level is too low. The large rubber ball device is your float ball, and it will float upwards as the water level increases.

Make a slight upward bend in the arm of the float ball.

As the float ball continues to rise, it shuts off the water flowing into the tank. You can make a slight upward bend in the arm of the float ball. More water is allowed into the tank with the float ball at a higher position.

Turn the float adjustment screw clockwise.

The floating cup ballcock may take the place of the float ball in some toilets. It comes with a float adjustment screw on the fill valve, so you turn it clockwise to increase the float.

Problems With the Flapper

In case you don’t know what a flapper is or what it does, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. Your flapper is the small rubber seal covering the hole in the toilet tank. You will see it when you remove the tank lid.

The flapper’s job is to seal off the hole, so no water escapes the tank when the toilet is not in “flush mode.” But water can slowly leak out of the tank when the flapper is damaged or too old. This problem may persist if the chain isn’t set to an appropriate length.

And then you struggle to flush because of the decrease in water level. It’s easy to get cranky here, but relax, it can be fixed.

Re-hook to another hole closer or farther away.

You need to find a hole that is convenient from the flush lever and re-hook it. The chain should maintain ½ inch of slack as a rule of thumb.

Replace the flapper.

The flapper may be too old or damaged. The only option here is to replace it if the chain has an appropriate length and yet won’t flush. You can get flapper at any home improvement or hardware store.

When It Clogs

When you use too much toilet paper or flush a paper down the toilet, it can clog the pipe. That will make further flushing a big challenge. The usual culprits are sanitary napkins.

I know how it feels when it clogs, as it can be a messy sight. Sometimes, it could even get worse. Water will not flush fully down the toilet, and the frustration goes on. But there’s no need to lose your cool. The approaches below will suffice to resolve it.

Employ a DIY approach.

Try unclogging the toilet on your own. There are various online tips you can leverage to make this process as seamless as possible. You don’t need anything too complicated here

Call in a professional.

If the problem persists after your effort, then you may be grappling with a clog in the toilet flange or drain. You’ll require the service of a contractor that will not take too long to get the job done.

Clogged Inlet Holes

In case you don’t know where your inlet holes are, they are right under the lip in your toilet bowl. Water flows from these holes when you flush the toilet. With these holes clogged, you may lose the amount of water needed to flush.

If no water is streaming down the sides of the bowl, that’s a hint that your holes are clogged or blocked. Again, if the water tends to stream down diagonally, you may have a clogged hole staring you in the face. Examine the inlet holes with the aid of a mirror while holding it underneath the toilet seat. 

Heat 10-20 ounces white vinegar.

Take about 10-20 ounces of white vinegar and heat to at least 120 degrees. Pour the vinegar down the overflow tube and allow it to sit for an hour (without flushing). Use Allen wrench to clear the inlet holes.

 Invest in a water softener system.

The clogging could come from mineral deposits or bacteria. This problem is a common occurrence, so you need to watch the inlet holes periodically.

Poorly Designed Toilet Drainpipe

If the drainpipe is poorly designed or installed, then you’ll always experience a slow flush. Your toilet should have a downward slope to allow the wastewater flow with ease and quickly down the bowl. Without this proper arrangement in your drain, the pipe will get stuck because of the pool of water.

Bubbles in the water which sits in the toilet bowl could indicate that the drainpipe has an issue. You need to fix it, so it does not snowball into a bigger problem. The solution is within your grasp.

Contact a professional plumber. You may not be able to fix this by yourself. You need to call a professional plumber to inspect the drainpipe, which may lead to a redesign.

The Lift Chain Has Too Much Slack

The lift chain may have too much slack, and that makes it impossible for the handle to raise the flapper and flush the toilet. The lift chain attaches the flapper to the flushing handles. Here is what you need to do when you have a lift chain slack issue.

Shorten the length of the chain

You need to adjust the length of the chain to shorten it. By so doing, the chain will provide sufficient pull required to raise the flapper off the flush tube. Once the handle is pulled, water flows seamlessly.

What Did We Learn?

It’s not all doom and gloom; you can still restore your toilet flushing power. Whatever the issue preventing your flush, it can be fixed! You don’t have to figure it out by yourself—call on the professionals.

Isaac Atia

I am a home improvement enthusiast who enjoys sharing my tips and latest projects with other homeowners. When not working on the house, I enjoy playing soccer, hiking, traveling, and retail therapy!

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