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Fix a Leak: Detecting and Fixing Toilet Leaks

2009 March 17
About the author: Ed Del Grande is host of “Ed the Plumber” on the DIY Network*, and regularly appears on as the plumbing expert. He writes a nationally syndicated column, “Ask the Plumber,” which appears in newspapers across the United States. Del Grande is a native of Rhode Island.

image of author, Ed Del Grande, kneeling next to a toiletHow do you know when a toilet is leaking? Faucets and showerheads will drip, which is a dead giveaway for a leak. But what about toilets?

Have you ever experienced your toilet “running” for a long time after a flush, or had to wiggle the handle to make it stop, or does it ever randomly “run” at night, even when nobody flushed it? A “running toilet” is a leaky toilet.

If you’re toilet is leaking, most likely it’s a bad flapper. If you look inside the tank, you’ll notice a ‘rubber stop’ at the bottom of the tank. This device is no longer creating a water-tight seal, and your toilet is leaking. To confirm, you can drop a couple drops of food coloring in the tank. If you see any food coloring leak into the bowl, your toilet is leaking.

You can purchase replacement parts for your toilet at any hardware store or home improvement center. This should stop the problem. And, these replacement kits are pretty easy to install.

However, if you’re taking the time to make this fix, you should check to see how many gallons your toilet uses with each flush. The federal mandate is 1.6 gpf, but if your house is old, or you haven’t remodeled in quite some time, chances are you have a toilet that uses 3.5 gpf or more. And that’s a waste of water – a waste of 2 gallons of fresh drinking water with every flush. If you have an old toilet, consider replacing it with a new, WaterSense labeled toilet. These new toilets don’t sacrifice design or performance.

To get some great information on new toilets, and what to look for, check out

* EPA does not endorse any contractor, commercial service, or enterprise.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. Kerry permalink
    March 17, 2009

    I fixed two toilet leaks in my home about two minths ago. The result was about 12000 gals of water and $30 saved per month.

  2. der permalink
    March 19, 2009

    of fresh drinking water with every flush. If you have an old toilet, consider replacing it with a new, WaterSense labeled toilet. These new toilets don’t sacrifice design or

  3. Jasmine Stellar permalink
    March 25, 2009

    I found a nice free book about fixing leaky faucets and saving fresh water on the free book quest. I am glad more people are talking about this. It can be a big saver.

  4. George permalink
    May 27, 2009

    I always fing it amazing when they say water used in sewage treatment is wasted or lost. Where does it go? The loss is in the extra energy used to operate the sewage system as well as the energy used to pump the water to the home, the water is reused in one way or another.

  5. Frank Groll permalink
    August 25, 2009

    Great article. The average home wastes roughly 14% of their water usage on leaks in the home. With the government predicting water shortages in 46 states over the next five years. Detecting and repairing water leaks is something everyone needs to do. On a more positive note the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute reports that 22% of the toilets in the US are now low flow toilets and plumbers are reporting greater demand for low flow products.

  6. Luke Spencer permalink
    February 6, 2010

    This is a great article. I wrote a small article similar to this with a quick how to video…I think it would go well with your already good information. I have found that I saved $10 – $15 per month just fixing toilet flappers (I have replaced several).

    Again thank you for the good post
    Luke Spencer

  7. Tim permalink
    December 25, 2010

    A toilet that flushes with no one flushing it may misinterpreted to ghosts living in the comfort room..well, that’s Anyway, I had contacted a company that offers great quality services

  8. Anonymous permalink
    October 13, 2011

    Water continues to come into the bowl from under the rim between flushes.

  9. water leaks permalink
    March 1, 2012

    i love this post,please keep shearing.

  10. June 12, 2012

    Leaking toilet is the mostly facing problem and its necessary to know and get the ideas how to solve this problem rather than avoiding it. your post is really helpful for us.

  11. Perth Wedding Photography permalink
    September 26, 2012

    Very helpful site guys. Thank you. I heard that most toilet issues in plumbing are from lady products. Great to know how to see a leak also.

  12. Sheena permalink
    August 22, 2013

    Nice! Your site brought insights to the people who had trouble in their toilet. Usually, that’s the problem of toilet tanks. I even encountered such. Our home remedy, was to off the Great post! Hope you will continue sharing thoughts about plumbing.

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