|Plumbing solutions leave you flush
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
"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,
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
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
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."