When you’re lying awake in bed at 2 a.m. and you suddenly hear your toilet flush, it’s not because you have a ghost. Rather, it’s a case of your toilet tank refilling due to loss of water through the flapper. Ghost flushing, also known as phantom flushing, occurs when the toilet tank flapper is no longer creating a watertight seal with the flush valve, causing water to unnecessarily leak into the toilet bowl. Over time, enough water can leak past the flapper that it will cause the float arm to drop to a level where the fill valve activates and replenishes the water in the toilet tank. The toilet is not actually flushing – it is just refilling.
The most common culprit of ghost flushing is a flapper that has deteriorated to the point that it can no longer create a watertight seal. Typically, chemical cleaners (including pucks and discs) shorten the lifespan of the flapper. An easy way to test your flapper is to place a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. If you see the color leaking into the bowl, then the flapper is ineffective and needs replacing. Replacing the flapper is a relatively easy job that just about any homeowner can perform. To do it, just follow these simple steps:
1. Turn off the water supply valve near the base of the toilet.
2. Flush the toilet and hold down handle until the water tank is empty.
3. Remove the flapper by detaching the chain from the toilet handle and separating from the two posts on the flush valve.
4. Attach the new flapper to the flush valve posts.
5. Connect the flapper chain (making sure the chain has a small amount of slack to allow the flapper to seat properly).
6. Turn the water supply valve back on and let the tank fill.
7. Flush the toilet to test. To confirm the flapper is sealing properly, add a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 20 minutes. The water in the bowl will not be tinted if you have achieved a watertight seal.