10 Tips to Fix a Leaky Toilet in your Bathroom

There’s nothing more annoying – and costly – in the bathroom than a leaky toilet. Every drop into the bowl represents a penny being absorbed that adds up to significant overages on your monthly bill. Another result of a leaky toilet is the bowl getting low and refilling itself in the middle of the night or every 25 minutes, making you think you have a ghost with a bad prostate as a roommate. Some people get used to the white noise of a toilet flushing after putting up with it for years but a better solution is to try these tips for fixing that freaky leak.

You can check the first item off your list on whether or not to fix a leaky toilet by first finding out if you have one. Place food coloring in the tank of the toilet and if the bowl starts filling up with colored water, congratulations you’ve got a leak to fix.

Watch the Toilet Flush

The best way to figure out what is causing the toilet to leak or function improperly is to get a bird’s eye view of the situation. Sure, you may not be very familiar with how the internal workings of a toilet are supposed to operate but taking off the back lid and just watching it operate will help cross off general malfunctions. You might notice that there is something lodged in the flapper or that the toilet chain is tangled or any other tell-tale signs which could be causing this irritating leak.

Make Sure the Water Line is Met

Checking out your toilet’s water line is much akin to the doctor putting the stethoscope on a patient’s heart. Water that is significantly below the fill line is a sure sign of a leak somewhere in the toilet mechanism. On the other hand, water that is beyond the line shows that there may be blockage somewhere preventing the tank from draining completely.

toilet water line

Examine the Refill Tube

There is a small tube with a clip on it that points to a pipe (overflow pipe) in the toilet. When you flush the toilet you’ll notice how this small refill tube shoots water into the pipe. The first thing you should inspect is if the refill tube has obvious leaks in it. Next make sure the alignment of the refill tube is just above the overflow pipe and not submerged. Finally make sure the refill tube has a natural flow to it, kind of like an up-facing arc so that water doesn’t get stuck in the tube.


toilet refill tube

Check the Flapper

Toilet flappers are the small valves that open and close to let water in and out. Over the years these devices will become worn and will thus let water out even when closed. In many cases replacing this flapper is the $3.00 fix a leaky toilet fix that has been jacking up your water bill for months.

Ballcock Inspection

Before buying and installing a new ball cock assembly, first try adjusting it to allow different water levels. This unit is the one with the noticeable floating ball that rises as the toilet fills with water and shuts off when it reaches a certain level. There are four different types of ballcock assembly types so you’ll have to investigate your specific unit. Most often there is a screw that turns to adjust the unit up and down. Experiment with the height with this screw and gently bend the float assembly upward or downward until water reaches the correct line and the leaks stop.

Inspect the Float

Another thing to investigate is the ball float itself. The device should be sitting fully on top of the water and if it is submerged in any way there could be a small hole in the ball. This is an easy and inexpensive fix as the ball simply screws off the arm.

Adjust the Chain

A chain runs from the flip lever to the flapper and serves as the bridge between the two objects. The chain pulls the flapper up to let water out when flushed and guides it back down during the refill. The chain can not be too tight or too lose or else the toilet won’t flush or refill properly. Inspect and/or adjust the chain so that there’s minimal slack when the flapper is closed.

Bent Lift Arm

The arm that runs from the fill valve to the ball float is known as the lift arm. Sometimes slight bending is required to get the water line to the correct level. If this device gets too bent up though it will inhibit the efficient flushing of the toilet. In some cases its best just to replace this device.

Other Slow Leak Causes

There are a number of rubber gaskets,washers and other small devices inside the toilet that could be the cause of a slow leak. These can deteriorate and crack letting water flow when it’s not supposed to. Inspecting and replacing these small components could be the key to stopping the water flow the way to finally find the success to fix a leaky toilet.

Most solutions to the problem of a leaky toilet are relatively inexpensive to purchase and viable DIY projects. Of course if you don’t feel comfortable messing with the plumbing and toilet components, a professional plumber can usually solve the problem in less than an hour. It may be excruciating to pay for a service call, but remember that a silent leak in a toilet could be using up to 7,000 gallons of water per month.

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