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What Causes A Toilet To Run Every 5 Minutes?

Toilets run, sometimes for no reason. Mysterious running and flushing noises, known as “ghost flushes” are a natural phenomenon that can occur when parts of the toilet develop defects or begin to deteriorate. Luckily, ghost flushing can be fixed. Understanding the way your toilet works and what can lead to ghost flushing can help you fix your problem without calling a plumber.

Toilet Operation 101

The toilet tank is separated from the toilet bowl by a piece of rubber called the flapper. The flapper forms a seal over the flush valve and prevents the water in the tank from entering the bowl.
When your toilet flushes, the chain inside the tank lifts the flapper, allowing the water in the tank to rush down into the bowl. Gravity pulls the water down through the bowl and into the drain, flushing the contents of the toilet along with it.
When the water leaves the tank, the fill valve at the top fills the tank with water until the level reaches the float. When the float is pushed up by the surface of the water, the fill valve turns off and the flush is complete.

Common Causes of Ghost Flushes

Ghost flushing occurs when the water in the tank slowly leaks into the bowl, causing the level in the tank to drop. When the water level in the tank is low enough, the fill valve turns on, refilling the tank. This creates a noise similar to a flush. This noise is a ghost flush.
Toilet tank leaks can have multiple causes.
1.   Algae or mineral deposits on the flapper. Sometimes the flapper will develop a buildup of slimy algae or minerals along the edge that forms the seal with the toilet. This allows water to leak into the toilet bowl in tiny quantities over long periods of time.
2.   Deterioration of the flapper. When a flapper gets old enough, it may become brittle and cracked. This can cause a slow leak that can lead to ghost flushing.

Test for Toilet Tank Leaks

If you suspect that your toilet tank has a leak, one way to find out is to put 10 drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. After waiting about 15 minutes, come back and check on the toilet. If the bowl has colored water in it, this is an indication that your toilet tank has a leak.

Fix Your Leak

Fixing a toilet bowl leak is easy enough that most DIYers can handle it without a plumber.
1.    Turn off the water. Most of the time the water shut off will be located on the wall behind the toilet. If the water shutoff is not near the toilet, turn off the home’s main water source.
2.    Empty the toilet. Flush the toilet until the tank is empty.
3.    Lift the flapper and detach it from the toilet tank assembly, then inspect. Run your fingers along the edge of the flapper and feel for a buildup on its surface.
If the flapper has algae or mineral buildup on it, clean off the debris and put the flapper back in the tank. If the flapper seems to be clean, this is a sign that the flapper itself should be replaced. Take the flapper to the nearest home improvement center to buy another one.
Install the new flapper and turn back on the water. Your toilet should be working once again!

Need Help? Contact Your Local Plumber

If replacing the flapper doesn’t help, it’s possible your toilet has a more serious problem than a damaged flapper. At Candu Plumbing & Rooter, we provide plumbing assistance and advice to people of North Hollywood. If you’re in need of help with your toilet, we can help! Contact us today at 818-982-1299.
Jeremy Parker

Published by
Jeremy Parker

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