Simple fixes to try before calling a plumber

Do you have a less than cooperative toilet? Don’t call a plumber just yet: there are some simple maintenance tips that might solve the problem.

Take a wad of 6 feet or so of toilet paper, and see how well it flushes.

If it doesn’t all go down in one flush, you have a problem.

There are only three reasons a toilet will be will not perform properly, and the fixes are usually pretty straightforward; not enough water in the tank, poorly operating flapper or a clog in the pipe.

A few minutes looking in the tank will tell you how to how to increase the amount of water in the tank. Look for a mark on the tank itself, about an inch long and about an inch from the top of the overflow tube. That is your water level mark. I can tell you how to bring the water up to that mark. There is usually a float on a rod that moves up and down. To increase the water in the tank, bend the rod so that the float is lower. That way the valve stays open a little longer and more water gets into the tank. Not too much! You want to fill to the fill line, but not higher.

The flapper is the rubber thing that gets lifted up when the handle is turned. If the chain is too long, the flapper won’t open enough for all of the water to go into the toilet. Fiddle around for a bit and see if shortening the chain helps. If the flapper has worn out, no worries; they are extremely easy to replace.

A plugged or partially plugged line is a bit more interesting, and not in a good way. You do know what NOT to flush, right? Grease, paint, feminine products, dental floss, wipes (even “flushable” ones), Kleenex. Even 2 and 3-ply toilet paper can cause problems, especially in old systems.

I case of slow or stopped drains, try plunging for 15 minutes or so and flushing again. Try pouring hot (not boiling) water down the drain. If those don’t do the trick, it’s time to invest in a snake. They are not expensive, and actually kind of fun to use. Be aware that a snake can only go so far; if the clog cannot be cleared with a snake, it’s time to call a plumber.