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Toilet Not Flushing Right? Check These 3 Things Before You Call the Plumber

 A modern bathroom with white fixtures and a dark gray wall.
New Africa/Shutterstock

It’s incredibly frustrating to go to the bathroom, push the handle on the toilet, and have nothing happen. Before you call a plumber, check these three things—you might be able to fix the issue with little cost.

Check the Handle 

Is the handle working properly? If it feels loose, isn’t causing the toilet to flush, or isn’t moving at all, the entire issue could be that you need a new handle. For most toilets, this is an easy fix.

Before wasting too much time fussing with the handle though, lift the lid off the back of the tank and take a look inside. Is the chain still attached? A loose, tight, or broken chain will make it appear your handle is the issue. Fix the chain, fix the problem.

If it’s not the chain, focus on the handle. While sometimes the issue is the handle is overly tight, overly loose, or the mechanism is bound up with hard water deposits (in which case adjust it with a wrench or soaking it with vinegar or a commercial descaler will help), oftentimes you’ll have to replace the handle. Don’t worry though, it’s easy to do, and replacement kits are cheap. While you can order kits specifically for your brand, color, or style of tank, there are plenty of “universal” kits that allow you to select the handle orientation and work with most toilets.

Check the Water Coming into the Tank 

If your handle works fine and it’s your tank that’s not filling with water, there are a couple of things you’ll need to check. The first is to make sure water is coming into the tank (and with sufficient pressure).

To check this, you’ll need to shut off the water valve on your toilet (look behind the toilet for the turn knob on the pipe coming up from the floor). Once the water is off, flush the toilet, then unhook the hose from the back of your toilet. Put it into a bucket to keep your floor from getting wet. Turn the water to the toilet back on. If the water flow is fine, head to the next section. If it isn’t, call the plumber.

Check the Fill Valve in the Toilet Tank 

If the problem isn’t in the water coming from the supply line, then it’s likely in the fill valve. Most of the time, you’ll see the leaks in the fill valve, but it could be broken or have something clogging it. While certain parts of your toilet never wear out (like the tank itself), the moving parts, seals, and valves do degrade over time and fail.

With the water off to your toilet, remove the fill valve, and check for anything clogging it. If there’s no visible issue, invest in a new fill valve and install the replacement. While you can buy specific replacement valves for your particular toilet brand, most people just buy an inexpensive universal fill valve from a company like Fluidmaster.


When in doubt you can always call a plumber, but most basic issues with a toilet are fairly easy to locate, diagnose, and repair.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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