Your toilet is not an overly complicated piece of equipment. But in order to work properly, it does require that all of its parts are in the right place and in good shape. Even if something small on your toilet is out of place, it can cause problems like constant dripping or running, improper flushing force or a sudden refilling of the bowl when no one has flushed the toilet.
These problems can sound serious, but many of them are quite easy to address if you know where to look. With most toilets, that place is the flapper valve. The flapper valve is a relatively small rubber plug that fits over an opening at the bottom of your toilet tank. When you press the handle to flush your toilet, the flapper valve lifts up and allows all of the water from the tank to go rushing into the bowl.
The force of this water pushes everything out of the bowl through the drain at the bottom, clearing the bowl and refilling it with fresh water all at once. As long as the flapper valve is able to maintain a tight seal, this process will go along smoothly without a hitch. But sometimes these valves become dirty or simply wear out.
When that happens, water can begin to leak down from the tank into the bowl on an almost constant basis. Depending on the severity of the leak, this may just cause the toilet to run constantly. Or it can even cause periodic “phantom flushes” were the toilet clears the bowl without anyone pressing the handle.
Phantom flushes occur because too much water has seeped down from the tank into the bowl. When the volume in the toilet bowl reaches a certain level, the water in the bowl is forced out, resulting in a flush. This wastes water and can also be pretty startling if you are not expecting it. Fortunately, though, you can usually fix this problem easily enough.
To do this, check your flapper valve to make sure it is keeping a tight seal with the bottom of the tank when not in use. If it is not, you may only need to clean it off to restore the integrity of the seal. In more serious situations, however, you may need to replace the flapper valve entirely. This is not difficult or expensive and can save you a lot of water in the long run.