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Jan 24 2016

Do You Know How Your Toilet Works?

Toilets are an important part of residential and commercial plumbing system. Although you may not want to think about the function of the toilet in your home, understanding how a toilet works can help you troubleshoot small problems before they turn into expensive repairs. Toilet operation is controlled by three basic systems, the flush mechanism, the refill mechanism, and the bowl siphon. It’s important that each system is working well to make sure toilet operation isn’t interrupted, even during times of heavy usage.

Bowl Siphon

This is the pipe at the bottom of the bowl. The bowl siphon accepts the water and waste when the toilet is flushed providing a pathway to the sewage system. The bowl siphon’s S-shaped curve makes it easily identifiable, but it also service a more important purchase. The siphon’s S-shape keeps sewer gasses from seeping out of the sewer or septic system and into the home. Sewer gasses are extremely toxic and can cause illness or explosions. The secondary job of the siphon is to keep the toilet from overflowing. It does this by accepting excess water in the sewage pipe instead of pushing the water to the top of the bowl.

Flush Mechanism

The flush mechanism consists of three parts, the flush valve, the handle, and the tank. Each time the toilet is flushed, a chain is pulled inside the tank. The chain lifts the flush valve (the stopper) away from the drain hole so that clean water can flow back into the toilet bowl. Flush mechanisms that are working correctly will release the flush valve after a few seconds, covering the hole so that the water will not overfill the bowl.

Refill Mechanism

The refill mechanism and flush mechanism are buddies. They work closely together to make sure the toilet automatically refills. If the refill mechanism is damaged, the metal rod inside the tank connected to the filler valve may not function correctly. Water, which normally would have stopped rising inside the tank, would continue to rise and overflow from the tank. Correctly functioning refill mechanisms work with the filler mechanism so the tank water and bowl water fill simultaneously without overflowing.


Your home’s toilet(s) rely on gravity to work. When you press the flush handle, gravity pulls water down into and through the bowl siphon, but when the flush valve hits the bottom of the tank the water will stop flowing. The toilet is a relatively simple mechanism. But, when it clogs or stops working, it can cause quite a bit of panic and frustration. Toilets work best when they are properly maintained. Regular drain cleaning can keep large blockages from forming and paying close attention to what is flushed can prevent unexpected stoppages. If you do experience a clog, use a toilet plunger (one with a flange) to try and dislodge the clog. Do not use chemical drain cleaners. Although there are toilet cleaners on the market, the chemicals in these cleaners can cause damage to the toilet and the water pipes. Call a Rooter Hero Plumbing technician to help you resolve clogs that won’t respond to normal plunging.

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