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The Phantom Flusher: What To Do When Your Toilet "Flushes" On Its Own

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Does your toilet tank mysteriously seem to turn on and refill itself at random intervals, even when it has been a long while since you've used it? Don't call in the ghost hunters just yet. It's not a ghost or goblin causing this phantom flushing – it's a leak in your toilet tank. Here's a closer look at what this problem entails and how to fix it.

How does a leaky tank lead to phantom flushing?

Your toilet's tank is set up so that when the water level falls below a certain height, as happens after the toilet flushes, it automatically refills. If water leaks out of the tank and into the bowl, then the water level in the tank will drop, simulating a flush, and the tank will be triggered to refill.

Usually, a part known as the "flapper" is to blame for this leaking. The flapper is a rubber or plastic piece that sits over the pipe that leads from the toilet tank to the toilet bowl and is opened when you flush the toilet. When a flapper gets old, eroded, or chipped, it may not fit into the pipe very tightly, letting water through.

How can you fix the tank and stop the phantom flushing from occurring?

Luckily, replacing the flapper is a pretty easy task that you don't even need any tools to complete. Turn off the water supply to the toilet. Then, take off the lid of the toilet tank, and look for the round metal piece that's sitting inside the mouth of the pipe at the base of the tank. It should be attached to a chain. Unhook the chain, and take the flapper with you to the hardware store, so you can find one that's the same size. Most flappers are one-size-fits-all, but on the off chance that you have an unusual toilet, it's best to have the flapper with you just in case.

Hook the new flapper into the chain, and set it in place at the top of the pipe. Your phantom flushing should be over. If, per chance, your toilet tank does still refill periodically without you having flushed it, then it's time to call a plumber. There could be some corrosion in the actual pipe that leads from the toilet tank to the bowl, and this is a more complicated fix that may even warrant replacing your entire toilet. 

To learn more, contact a company like Drain-A-Way Inc