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Plumbing solutions leave you flush with cash
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Wisner agrees that tablets are a problem. "That chemical has a way of eating away at the parts in the tank. Rubber is most vulnerable," he says.

Waite recommends Lime-A-Way. "Buy the big bottle," he says. "Once a year, dump it in the overflow tube, let it sit a day or overnight when no one's home and that will help remove the deposits.

"I have access to much stronger chemicals, but anything lime-eating or calcium-eating will work. You can buy Lime-A-Way in a supermarket or hardware store."

Let's talk toilet paper
"Test it," says Waite. "Put a handful in the toilet. Stir it up. It should break up, and if it doesn't break up right away, get rid of it."

Paper that won't dissolve easily can create problems, he says.

The toilet manufacturers do some testing, but they don't give further recommendations on toilet paper.

"I don't think we've ever given specific guidelines," says Simons. "Obviously, the quantity used will play a part. We wouldn't recommend paper towels or napkins in the toilets." The worst thing you can do, not surprisingly, is use way too much paper."

Wisner agrees. "If you have somebody who's using an inordinate amount of paper in addition to the waste, it's possible for it to get clogged up."

This is more important now that toilets are designed to use less water. "Older ones were designed to use 3.5 gallons, and before that, five gallons. So the whole tank emptied so you could flush the toilet," says Wisner.

With less water moving around in today's toilets, more toilet paper is a bigger hazard.

What can you do to make sure you have enough water?
First of all, says Wisner, figure out how much water you actually have in there, because that's the first step to understanding what "enough" is.

"It's pretty hard to say -- this is exactly how much you need to have in there," says Wisner. "In many tanks, there's a line that's built into the mold that's a water line."

Still, "many people don't know if they have a 1.6 gallon or not," Wisner says. "In some cases it's printed on the tank and sometimes it's not. The guidelines I would try to get people to look at is to cut back on the amount of water until you can't get an effective flush.

"Sometimes they have a lazy flush, little holes that get filled with calcium deposits -- a coat hanger can help with that. Sometimes the flapper isn't staying open the right amount. If it stays open longer than it needs to, you'll use more water than you need to," he says.

If you want to make sure you're using enough water to avoid problems, Waite has this advice: "Change the flapper," he says. "And set the water level high."

Wisner agrees. "If you don't have it set high enough, and you don't have the flapper arranged correctly, you won't get an effective flush. So then people end up holding the lever down or flushing twice."

That's a sign you need a new flapper.

"The flapper is the thing that deteriorates first," Wisner says. "Sometimes the condition of the water is that you'll see it bleached to an off-white. The cost of the flapper is much less than the cost of the water over the long run."

Next: "... the No. 1 clogger of commercial toilets is cell phones."
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