Toilet swirls, but won't flush!!

edweatherJanuary 11, 2012

Very frustrated. The toilet seems to be ok, it gets a good swirl going, and it swirls, and swirls, but then it just kind of stops swirling and doesn't flush. Some times it barely flushes with a couple of gulps, but that's it. The waste line seems clear. I've plunged the heck out of it. The toilet in the basement below it flushes ok. The toilet has basically been this way for 2+ years since we moved into the house, but now the problem seems to be getting worse. Any suggestions please? Thanks in advance for the help.

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aliceinwonderland_id

There is most likely a hard obstruction, probably in the toilet. In order to locate and remove it, you will need to remove the toilet and look from underneath. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself, hire a plumber - it is a relatively quick job. You would be surprised what can be stuck in there. My parents pulled a ceramic frog (from the previous owner) out of a toilet when I was a kid.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:45PM
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lazypup

Before you lift the toilet to snake the line test the toilet itself.

Swirling in the bowl is a primary indication that the water from the tank is not entering the bowl fast enough.

Begin by putting about 1-1/2gal of water in a bucket, then quickly pour that into the bowl. If it flushes ok the lines under the toilet are ok.

Next, use a small mirror to look up under the inside top lip of the bowl and you will see the small holes where the water enters the bowl. As the toilets age those holes become either partially or completely obstructed by debris or mineral scale. It has been said that mineral scale can be reduced by pouring water containing CLR down the standpipe in the tank, but having never tried that, I am very skeptical as to whether it really works. A much better solution is to get a small drill bit just slightly smaller than the hole diameter and use that to clean out the hole by hand. (Do not use a drill motor to drive the bit). Once you have all the holes cleaned out it should flush okay.

In the trade we lift the bowl and immerse it in a tank containing muriatic acid, but I would strongly caution the homeowner not to try that at home. It is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by trained personel with the appropriate handling and safety equipment.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 1:42AM
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edweather

Thanks for the 2 excellent replies. I poured 1.5 gallon down the bowl and it flushed ok, not great. Generally the "stuff" flushes, but the water doesn't. Once in a while it DOES actually flush, not great, but the water actually empties out of the bowl.

I checked the holes under the rim and they were a little clogged. I cleaned them but it didn't make much difference. The toilet might be 20 years old, and have a lot of build up inside of it. Might be best to just get a new toilet, and check the waste line at the same time. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 7:49PM
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brickeyee

"...check the waste line at the same time."

Check the vent line also.
Clogged vents often cause bad flushing.
The air in the drain line has no place to go.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 9:43AM
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lazypup

A clogged vent or waste line will cause a sluggish flush,,but it will not cause the water to swirl in the bowl.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 10:42AM
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lazypup

Actually my previous statement was not correct. A clogged vent will not cause a sluggish flush. A clogged vent will make a toilet flush better,

Vents prevent the water in a trap from being siphoned out, but siphoning is exactly how a toilet lifts the water and effluent up and out through the trap and while under teh IRC a 3" line may only run 12 from trap to vent if a watercloset is the only fixture served by that 3" line it may run an indefinite length from vent to trap, and making it longer from vent to trap makes it flush better.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 10:50AM
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woodbutcher_ca

Hello,
There are a couple of reasons for the problem you are having.
Pour a bucket of water into the toilet bowl. Does it flush? If no plunge it or get a bowl auger to clear it. If it flushes the problem may be a lime build up in the bowl. Clear all the holes under the rim and the jet in the bottom of the toilet bowl. You can use a wire or small screw driver.
I use muratic acid because it can get where a wire can�t. I use about a quart and pour it into the overflow tube in the tank I let it set for about a half hour then flush.
Muratic acid is used in swimming pools to balance the PH.
I get it at Home Depot.

Good Luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 7:30PM
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brickeyee

"A clogged vent will make a toilet flush better, "

Not always.

If the air cannot move out of the way it can slow down the suction action used to help clear the bowl and trap.

At least initially the air above the water in the trap in the drain side needs to move.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 10:08AM
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vgkg

This has been enlightening, about the toilet flow process -
I'm going to put a new toilet into a recent first floor addition to the house. The main house vent is midway between the addition's toilet (a straight shot 15' down the line). There is no vent in the addition for the new toilet and I was considering a mini air inlet vent in the crawl space under/near it. It sounds as if this isn't necessary? That right?
Thanks Edweather for letting me hijack a bit :)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 4:24PM
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1coolwhip

Mine is also swirling, but doesn't seem to have the pressure to completely flush. If I pour water down as it flushes, it goes down fine. It never backs up, and no amount of plunging changes things, so I doubt it is a clogged line. The basement toilet is directly underneath and works just fine. I tried replacing the kit, snaking the toilet, using chemicals for toilet clogs....nothing is working. I just bought the house, and it was vacant for a couple of years. It worked just fine for a couple months, then just stopped. Any ideas??

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:01PM
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lazypup

Once again for the skeptics in the novice corner....

"A clogged vent WILL make a toilet flush better", in fact, a toilet is the one fixture that proves the rule as to why we may not install S-traps.

Quote,"If the air cannot move out of the way it can slow down the suction action used to help clear the bowl and trap"

In fact, nearly all low flow toilets actually have a flow restrictor on the discharge end of the trapway, which is intended to slow the flow. In addition, while the toilet is attached to a 3" line the ASTM standard for the trapway diameter is 2-1/4" to 2-3/4" and 2-5/8" is the most common size.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:20PM
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bus_driver

coolwhip, the problem with your toilet is that the water is not moving from the tank to the bowl fast enough. Do some online research about that. I have found cases where people deliberately put stuff through the flush valve to clog the holes in the bowl. I hope no disgruntled tenants are reading this.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Scooter_sst

The posting by lazypup was very helpful. After checking the holes under the rim & making sure they were clear (I used a small drill bit, as lazypup directed), I also did the same thing to the larger hole at the bottom of the toilet. This one had a lot of build up, and using a small drill bit again, I was able to clear quite a bit of build up. The toilet flushed properly each time it was tried. Nice! We had been living with the problem for many months. Nice to have it resolved.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 7:44PM
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brickeyee

"nearly all low flow toilets"

With no indication of the actual age of the toilet there is no way of judging if it is a "low flow" type.

And even in the diagrams, the air ob the output side of the trap has to be able to move for the water exit.
See picture 1? All the4 air needs a place to go for the water to start flowing as in picture 2

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 4:26PM
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nancylee_ky

I also have the problem whenever I flush, the contents of the bowl just swirl around, not going anywhere unless I hold the flush handle down. When I do that, everything flushes fine. Of course that means I have to stand there holding the handle down until the bowl is clear. Anyone have an idea what I need to do to correct this problem?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 12:41PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Quoted directly from lazypup, 3rd post on this thread. When you have EXACTLY the same question, why not read the thread so see if it answers your question?

"Swirling in the bowl is a primary indication that the water from the tank is not entering the bowl fast enough.

Begin by putting about 1-1/2gal of water in a bucket, then quickly pour that into the bowl. If it flushes ok the lines under the toilet are ok.

Next, use a small mirror to look up under the inside top lip of the bowl and you will see the small holes where the water enters the bowl. As the toilets age those holes become either partially or completely obstructed by debris or mineral scale. It has been said that mineral scale can be reduced by pouring water containing CLR down the standpipe in the tank, but having never tried that, I am very skeptical as to whether it really works. A much better solution is to get a small drill bit just slightly smaller than the hole diameter and use that to clean out the hole by hand. (Do not use a drill motor to drive the bit). Once you have all the holes cleaned out it should flush okay.

In the trade we lift the bowl and immerse it in a tank containing muriatic acid, but I would strongly caution the homeowner not to try that at home. It is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by trained personel with the appropriate handling and safety equipment."

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 1:30PM
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nancylee_ky

Wow, I guess you put me in my place!!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 3:01PM
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cebury

alice: I have the same petpeeve.

Looking at that diagram that lazypup posted, the apparent simplistic design of a toilet harnesses the laws of physics (fluid dynamics) perfectly.

Beautiful. And much nicer than pooping directly into the hole in the ground.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 2:32PM
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homebound

I have experienced toilets where swirling in the bowl resulted from a hard object stuck in the base of the toilet. I have removed toys, disposable razors, etc. Pull the toilet, turn it on it's side, and have a pair of needle-nose pliers handy to pull it out in parts.

On the other hand, I have meant to try this method, but haven't had the chance: fill bowl to get the trapway full of water, then use a wet-vac and maybe you will get lucky and suck out the object with the water. Might take a couple tries, but what do you have to lose? (Make sure vac is set-up for liquids- sponge filter only.)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 5:24PM
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PeterBrooks

I am having a similar issue at a rental condo that I own. The condo is the highest elevation of the development. The original two 1960's toilets would not flush, they would just spin around. I bought two brand new toilets and this never seemed to make it any better. The association checked all the lines and said I had bought defective toilets. The tenants lived with this for 4 years. I recently replaced one of them and while it was off I took a pee and the other one worked fine. When the new toilet was in place the older one didn't work again. Question from all that was said above: Is a 3" vent too large for a low flow toilet? The new 250 dollar power flush Kohler seems to be working ok, not as strong as the one in my own house, but the american standard for 150 wouldn't work. If two toilets are back to back and the drains are at the same level like a tee can this also make them not flush right? I'm afraid to buy another 250 dollar toilet and then they both don't flush again because of a balancing issue with them sharing the same vent.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:36PM
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bus_driver

Functionally, an oversized vent of itself cannot possibly cause a toilet to flush poorly.
Pour a bucket of water into the bowl quickly. If it flushes properly with that, the problem is that the water in the tank is insufficient or is coming into the bowl too slowly. If it does not flush properly, the problem is in the (integral) toilet trap or in the drain beyond.
Simple as that.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:59PM
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kr0w

Oh, wow! I can even post an image! The potential =)

I have the same issue, but what if it flushes fine sometimes but not all the time? I get it if it were clogged, I get it if it were mineral build up... But I don't get why it does this on and off if either of those problems are the case. Mineral build up doesn't get better unless you clean it and it's either clogged or it's not clogged. When I drop a bomb, it can clear a room, and anything in it's path, so I'm confident to say if that goes down, we're good there. Could it be one of the parts? The float? Flange? The tube?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 4:02PM
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newbie934

I see that this is a VERY old thread, but I had the same issue. I tried the drill bit thing and it worked beautifully. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2015 at 8:07AM
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bubbahyde

I rent from someone who refuses to repair things so i am having to deal with a toilet that won't drain. I snaked the toilet, removed the toilet and snaked the drain. My snake is 15 feet long. All other drains work fine and sewage does not come up in them, There is a 2.5 to 3 inch drain looking thing outside that water comes out of when i plunge the toilet. The toilet will drain with effort from a plunger. Please help! I am tired of plunging the toilet for ten minutes after sitting on it>

    Bookmark   February 25, 2015 at 9:19PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

You need a plumber (and a different landlord).

    Bookmark   February 26, 2015 at 3:38AM
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bubbahyde

Right! But I cannot afford to move right now

    Bookmark   last Friday at 12:24PM
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