Don’t try this at home!
Except that people have used these unusual techniques — and more — to fix a leaky toilet until they could call a plumber or run to the hardware store for a replacement part.
Hey, you can manage without a kitchen sink for a day — there’s always takeout — or a shower, but the toilet? It’s the one plumbing fixture you can’t do without, especially if there’s only one in the house or apartment. There are no alternatives.
An old flapper that no longer seals, a broken or twisted flapper chain, or a malfunctioning float can cause untold misery for our good friend John, so here are just a few of the imaginative, funny, and sometimes crazy things people have done to keep him in the game.
1. Garbage bag twist ties to replace the toilet flapper chain
A twisted, too-short, or just plain botched chain between the toilet flapper and the float can be a plumbing headache. Such a simple thing! Yet, it may not allow the flapper to lower and seal the tank.
So if the chain is damaged beyond repair with no replacement part in sight, an easy temporary fix is to fashion a chain out of garbage bag twist ties (preferably the one with wires). It’s a DIY repair more durable and reliable than string, and who doesn’t have a few twist ties lying about?
Garbage tie chains are flexible, unlike heavier wire, and easy to adjust.
2. A styrofoam float support to stop the flow
A malfunctioning float can make a toilet leak. Floats measure how much water is in the tank and act as a shut-off valve once the tank is full.
If the float needs adjusting but won’t move, some DIY plumbing creatives report that placing a foam cup around the float arm helps push it up enough for the water to shut off.
It’s obviously not a long-term solution, but it will keep a toilet in action until someone can repair or replace the float mechanism.
Some newer toilets have a float that moves on a vertical metal or plastic rod rather than on the arm.
It can be challenging to adjust, and the toilet will keep running if it sits too high.
A piece of styrofoam placed on the rod just below the lever pushes the lever up to stop the water flow.
3. Fixing the toilet flapper with Vaseline to seal against leaks
Your toilet’s flapper opens and closes. It opens to let water out and closes to seal the tank. It’s a thankless job, and the flapper does it without complaint until it suffers the pains of age. Sound familiar?
Flappers are made of flexible, rubberized material, which becomes brittle and cracks over the years. Cracks are the enemy of a tight seal.
Some cleaning products or toilet tank stick-on cleaners accelerate the process, sending the flapper to ruin that much sooner.
But there’s hope for our poor little flapper in the form of Vaseline, which can partially restore its youth and suppleness for a while.
- Drain the toilet tank.
- Dry off the toilet flapper. Rub Vaseline on the flapper and its connecting washer until they soften.
- Fill the toilet tank and check the seal.
You’ll have to retire the flapper at some point, but the Vaseline treatment may be enough to seal your toilet tank until you do.
4. The fish tank reservoir solution
One ingenious homeowner with a cracked toilet tank fashioned an alternate reservoir from an old fish tank filter system. He attached it to the overflow pipe on top of the toilet tank, then connected it to the toilet’s water supply line.
It worked like a charm until he got his replacement part — now that’s resourcefulness! Nothing fishy about it!
No matter the plumbing emergency, a creative solution may be waiting for you to try it. We hope these ideas put a smile on your face and help you find your unique fix for Sir John’s plight. Just remember to leave it to the pros for the tougher jobs! Good luck!
Orange Coast Plumbing is a family-owned, trusted company serving Orange County, CA. For service or information, please call us at 714-953-1111.