Toilet Not Flushing? Here's How to Fix a Toilet That Won't Flush

A toilet with out of order sign placed over the seat blocking its use.
Toilets are one of the most critically important fixtures in our homes. We simply can't live without them, which is why it's so aggravating when they don't work as intended. But when you run into a plumbing issue where your toilet won't flush, it's not just aggravating—it can also be embarrassing, unsanitary, and extremely disruptive to your entire household.

If you press your flush handle and no water appears in the toilet bowl, or it's a weak flush that isn't adequate to get the job done, don't panic! The good news is that you don't necessarily have to call your licensed plumber at Mr. Rooter Plumbing right away because your toilet won't flush. You may be able to solve this common issue on your own without too much hassle by following our steps on how to fix a toilet that won't flush.

Water Shut-Off Valve is Off

Your first step is checking to see if the most easily-solved problem is the culprit in your case because if it is, your whole problem can be dealt with quickly and you can get back to your life. There are water shut-off valves at the very back of toilets, a couple of inches off your floor, that control a flow of water from your main supply lines into your toilet fixture. Sometimes when a toilet won't flush, it's simply because its valve was accidentally nudged into a closed position while cleaning, or was turned by a small child or even a pet. It should be turned firmly to its left, so give it a counterclockwise twist to make sure it's fully open, and then give your fixture a couple of minutes before you try pressing its lever handle again. If it seems to be functioning normally, congratulations—problem solved!

Flapper is Damaged

The flush mechanism is controlled by a toilet flapper, which looks like a ball or disk at the bottom of your tank (they are often, but not always, red or blue to make them easier to see). When you press its lever, its flapper lifts out of the way to allow water to rush from tank to bowl—unless its flapper has suffered damage and your toilet won't flush. Flappers are typically made of rubber and, like anything else, can deteriorate over time until they need to be replaced. Open your tank lid and take a good look at your flapper, which is at the bottom of your tank—not to be confused with your float ball which is near the top of your tank if it's full of water. If it looks warped or otherwise damaged, you've found out why your toilet won't flush.

Lift Chain is Too Long

Inside your toilet tank, there's a lift chain is so-called because it connects your flapper to your lever handle and tightens when the lever is pressed, lifting your flapper up so water can move from tank to bowl. Open up your tank lid again and press your lever handle down, watching to see what happens. If its chain tightens and appears to lift your flapper, that's probably not the issue. But if you've got a loose chain that doesn't tighten enough to lift up its flapper all the way, that could be why a toilet won't flush or doesn't flush as strongly as it should. Or, it could be that its chain is broken and there's no connection at all between your lever and flapper anymore. In this case, the solution for how to fix a toilet that won't flush is to shorten its excess chain or replace it altogether if it's broken, so its flapper lifts all the way up when its lever is pressed.

Weak Flushing Toilet

It's irritating when your toilet won't flush, but it's almost just as bad when it has a weak flush that isn't really doing the job of moving waste and toilet paper into your drain lines. There are a couple of potential reasons why this might be happening, but the most likely cause is a maladjusted float ball. With your tank lid open, press the lever and watch what happens when the tank begins to fill up with water again. If a tank stops filling before its float ball reaches the fill line, adjust the position of the float ball on the "arm" that connects it with the fill tube so the water goes all the way up to the fill line when the tank refills.

Toilet is Clogged

If you've checked out all the steps listed above for how to fix a toilet that won't flush, but still your toilet won't flush, there's a possibility that the issue is related to a clogged toilet or drain line. Stubborn clogs are usually because of excessive amounts of toilet paper, or products that really shouldn't be flushed such as sanitary products and dental floss. If a clog is in a fixture, it can likely be resolved with a basic toilet plunger and some elbow grease, but it's important to make sure you have the right kind of plunger. Cup-shaped ones are for flat drains like the ones in a sink or bathtub, but effectively plunging a toilet requires a bell or ball-shaped plunger that can form a seal around its drain.

If You're Still Struggling Because Your Toilet Won't Flush, Call the Experts at Mr. Rooter

A plumber from Mr. Rooter plumbing inspecting the inside of a toilet tank.

You need your plumbing fixtures to work perfectly every time you need them, which is why it's so incredibly annoying when your toilet won't flush. When you've tried troubleshooting and it's still not clear why the problem is occurring, it's time to call in the experts at your local Mr. Rooter Plumbing for help. Our experienced plumbers have dealt with numerous toilet repair issues over the years such as sewer system backups and drain repairs, and we have the skill and training to get your plumbing fixtures back in perfect working order.