You’re lying in bed, it’s 12:30 at night. The witching hour. You’re about to drift off to sleep when suddenly you hear it: the toilet flushes in the empty bathroom down the hall. Is it a ghost flushing your toilet?
The most likely answer is no. Unless your house was built over a pet cemetery, you probably have a common leak.
To understand why your toilet flushes when no one has pushed the lever, you must first understand the way a toilet works. When you push the lever to flush your toilet, the water in the toilet tank rushes into the bowl. When the water level is low enough in the tank, the float activates the fill valve, which then refills the tank. Below we’ve posted a convenient YouTube video that explains the whole thing with a high-tech graphic representation of the process:
Ghost flushing happens when water leaks out of the toilet tank over a long period of time. When the water level is low enough, the float activates the fill valve and the tank refills, creating the sound of a short, mysterious flush. Usually this leak is caused by a deteriorated flapper, which is slowly allowing the water in the tank to leak into the bowl.
To test for a leak between your toilet tank and the toilet bowl, put a few drops of dye into your toilet tank and wait for about half an hour. If the water in the toilet tank is leaking into the bowl, you’ll see colored water in the toilet bowl after enough time has passed.
In most cases, a new flapper will fix the problem. Replacing the flapper in your toilet tank is a relatively straightforward DIY project that can take a few hours if you’re a slow driver or if you live really far away from the nearest home improvement center. First, you’ll need to remove the old flapper from your toilet. To do this, follow this procedure:
The flapper may have some gross algae-like stuff growing on it. Feel free to wipe it off before taking the part to the nearest home improvement center. At the home improvement center, use the old flapper to find a new flapper that matches the old part exactly. Once you’ve found the right part for your toilet, take it home and follow this procedure to install the new piece:
Voila! You’re done! You’ve fixed your toilet.
For more information, take a look at this 2 minute YouTube video that shows the whole process:
If ghost flushing continues, either your house is haunted or your toilet needs repair. Talk to a plumber, or a priest. Residents of the Pittsburgh area can contact Terry’s Plumbing for service or advice.