Flushing a Toilet When Water is Off

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A toilet that won't flush is a serious plumbing problem. Most of the time, a clogged toilet with poop is the number one reason why it stops flushing completely, but this can be resolved. However, when the water is turned off, it can be a real hassle to try and use the toilet. 

When your home's water supply is turned off due to a plumbing issue or the municipal supply has been temporarily shut off to end plumbing repairs, it can be embarrassing. This is bound to happen, especially if you're using the toilet without knowing there is no running water at the moment.

Ultimately, even if your home has no running water, there are a few ways you can get rid of the contents in your toilet. Here is everything you need to know about flushing your toilet when water is off.

How a Gravity Flush Toilets Works

Most best flushing toilets found in modern homes are gravity flush designs. This means that these toilets only use the force of gravity, with no mechanical or electrical assistance to flush the waste down the drain. When you push the handle, the water empties from the tank flows into the toilet bowl in a circular pattern and pushes contents through the toilet trap and down the sewer drain.

How a Gravity Flush Toilets Works
Image credit: https://www.thespruce.com/

How to Flush a Toilet When Water is Shut Off

Since the gravity flush toilet doesn't run on any type of outside assistance, you can still use it if there is a main break or the supply is off for a plumbing project. You only need water in the tank to initiate a flush. Here is how you can go about it:

Your tank needs to be full from refilling after the last flush prior to the water being shut off so that you get one easy flush.

After that, you can manually fill the toilet tank with water. The water should be clean, but it doesn't have to be drinkable water, given that it's going down the toilet. You can fill a bucket anywhere in your home, from an outside source like a stream or rain barrel.

You can also ask a neighbor if you could use the faucet to fill your bucket. Dump the water into the tank to the normal refill level, and you should be good to flush like normal.

Flush the Toilet Using Another Water Source

Grab a utility bucket. It doesn't have to be huge, but make sure it can hold up to two gallons of water. Fill it with water from another source, such as the faucet, pool, or rain. You can also use floodwater. Filling your bathtub is a good idea, especially if you have a warning that your water will be shut off.

Take off the lid to the toilet tank and be careful not to drop it as they're made of thick porcelain, which renders them a bit awkward and heavy.

Carefully pour the water you've collected in the utility bucket into your toilet tank. Stop filling when the water line hits the very top of the overflow tube. This is because interfering with the overflow may be why your toilet is not working. Make sure you don't pour too much, or you may have a mess to clean up.

Flushing Without Removing the Lid to the Tank

If you want to avoid lifting off the toilet tank's lid, you can also flush a toilet without it. You'll need to remove the tank lid and pour water in from there to do this.

Open the overflow tube and make sure that the chain attached to the handle is not caught or tangled in any way so that if you pull the handle, the toilet will flush. Lower the end of the chain down into a bucket or other container that you can use to pour water into the tank.

If you're unable to create a flush by pouring water into the bowl, try to lower the valve on the bottom of your toilet. This can be done by using a long handled screwdriver or other tools to turn and lower this valve. Once you have lowered it, you'll need to wait for the water to start flowing into the bowl before attempting to pull the handle again.

FAQs on Flushing a Toilet When Water is Shut Off

How does flushing a toilet work?

When you flush a toilet, the handle lifts a flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. This releases water from the tank into the bowl. The water in the bowl then carries the waste down the drain.

How clean is toilet water after flushing?

The water that is in the bowl after flushing is clean. However, the water in the tank may have bacteria and other contaminants.

How do you adjust the water level in the toilet bowl and tank if the water is shut off?

To adjust the water level in the toilet bowl and tank when water isn’t running, simply take your bucket and have something to measure exactly at what level you intend your water to get.

Final Thought on Flushing a Toilet When Water is Shut Off

Flushing your toilet while there is no running water isn't that difficult. If you need to, you can do it yourself, considering the above tips. If you encounter a serious plumbing issue that you can't handle, then it's best to call a licensed or experienced plumber. Doing it yourself can create bigger messes that can cost you more money in the long run.



Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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