Fix a Leak: Detecting and Fixing Toilet Leaks

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.