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What Makes My Toilet Work?

An absolutely essential part of any household plumbing system is the toilet. Toilets generally serve an unglamorous purpose in the home, but they are necessary to modern living. Learning what makes a toilet work can help homeowners recognize when issues arise and how they can prevent common plumbing problems before they occur. The key to understanding the operation of a toilet is learning about its three basic systems.

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The Three Main Toilet Systems

The modern toilet consists of three major systems, the bowl siphon, the flush mechanism and the refill mechanism. Each one serves a vital role in keeping the toilet operational, even under heavy use. The bowl siphon is the pipe at the bottom of the bowl.

When you flush the toilet, the water and waste flows through the bowl siphon and down into the sewage system. The bowl siphon also has a unique S-shaped curve that prevents gasses from the septic tank from seeping into the bathroom air. The siphon also serves to prevent the toilet bowl from overflowing, because excess water spills into the sewage pipe rather than rising to the top of the bowl.

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Another important system is the flush mechanism, which includes the tank, the flush valve and the handle. Every time you flush your toilet, you pull a chain on the inside of the tank, which raises a rubber stopper, the flush valve, up from the drain hole. This action releases the water in the tank so that it can flow into the bowl. Within a few seconds, the flush valve naturally sinks back on top of the drain hole, which stops the bowl from overfilling.

The refill mechanism works closely with the flush mechanism. After the flush valve settles on the bottom of the tank again, the tank automatically begins refilling. The filler valve, which is located at the top of the metal rod inside the tank, sends water into the tank to refill it.

A plastic or rubber cylinder that is situated on the rod floats to the top when the tank is full, which stops the filler valve from sending water into the tank. The additional water is diverted into the toilet bowl, which allows it and the bowl to refill at the same time.

How The Toilet Works

As a general rule, the toilet works on the principle of gravity. Gravity is involved when you press the flush handle down, when the water is pulled down through the bowl siphon and when the flush valve falls to the bottom of the tank to stop the water from flowing into the bowl. Despite its simple construction, the toilet still needs regular maintenance, such as drain cleaning, to keep it operating in good working order.


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