We had an issue where a toilet that worked fine since we moved in 6 years ago recently would not flush. I took a plunger to it and snaked from the roof and it helped in that the toilet would slowly drain out (15 seconds) but never give that typical "glug glug glug" one gets from a full flush. I called in a plumber and a week after we last tried, it fully flushed when he tried it. It was a weak flush but it was a full flush. I asked him to snake it anyway since I was already on the hook for a service call and he opted for a 6ft augur. This further increased the flush but it's not as strong as what we are used to.

He told me that best way to fix it is to install a new toilet. He mentioned that as toilets age, the trap "gets full of stuff" "that is like cement". I had a spare toilet we ended up getting stuck with after a renovation that was never used but had been sitting outside and asked (since I had him for an hour anyway) if he could use that but said that because it had been outside, there was too much "stuff" in the trap and it could be worse than the one already in the bathroom.

I'm no plumber but I get the sense that there is nothing from normal use with a city water supply and sewage that should cause a toilet's trap to "age" to the point where it can't be cleaned out to be good as new... especially if it is not yet installed and you can access it from both ends. Should I trust this plumber's opinion?

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    You said "I am no plumber" well neither is that guy. He is a thief operating in the guise of a plumber. Call another plumber until you find one that you feel is actually trying to help you.
    – ArchonOSX
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:18
  • Toilet not always flushing fully, what could be wrong?diy.stackexchange.com/questions/11115/… Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 13:49
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    If you live in an area with hard water and don't have a water softener, it's possible that you could be getting a mineral build up in the toilet that's causing it to clog and flush slowly, but that seems extremely unlikely.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 16:11
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    Hard water might clog up the water channels that flood the bowel when you pull the flush handle. And this could be difficult to clear. But I think you're complaining about slow drainage, not a weak flush? I think you have a blockage further down the drain.
    – Laurence
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 11:55

6 Answers 6


WHAT?!!! I guess I was just "lucky" with all the 100, 80, 70, 60 & 50 year old toilets I've ever used. That wasn't any plumber, that was a hack liar fraud swindler!

The trap is the water you see in the bottom of the toilet! "I'm sorry sir, your toilet is full of CLEAN, it's a total disaster, the only thing I can do is replace it...do you mind paying $500 for a $100 toilet."

Sorry um, NO. A Real Plumber would know to pull the toilet out & to scrape out the pipe opening to full diameter, vacuum out the bend, clean off the wax seal, ream out the entire toilet's drain line using a snake like a flexible file (not that there would be any encrusted build-up anyway) & pop in a new wax or no-wax seal to get you back to better than new.

And, for $50 more (parts upcharge cost) would re-do the wall valve, supply line & replace everything in & under the tank. Total time, 1-hour & worth every penny.

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    Man... I wish I had good plumbers nearby...
    – Zerjack
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 18:08
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    Actually. I've had usually good luck with Roto Rooter when I didn't have time to mix a bigger item into my schedule. I only fired 2 of their guys ever & the rest were literally top notch. Otherwise, if you have Horizon around, they did a perfect basement job out to the street for me & threw-in a new supply line at no cost & they were the cheapest of my quotes.
    – Iggy
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 3:10
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    But what's the cost of the labor of this approach? Many people will say something can't be fixed when they really mean that fixing it would cost more than replacing it. Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 22:52
  • There are a few variables, so I really don't know & everyone's area will have a different range of labor cost. Typically the Show-up or Service Charge usually includes the first hour of labor. If you have someone honest, that enjoys their work, takes pride in every job regardless of size & is capable & reasonably stocked in these mostly universal parts. Then, it would just take the hour & initial charge. Any 2nd hour overage could be $75 to $200 for a Handyman or Journeyman Plumber, no written warranty. A Plumber or HVAC Tech could be $150 to $300 & give up to a 1-year warranty...My guesses.
    – Iggy
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 0:29
  • I can answer the original question. NOOOOO!
    – d.george
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 11:13

I had this happen on a toilet and here's what my research uncovered. The swirl-flush is caused by water-jets underneath the rim of the bowl, dumping water at a certain velocity and angle. Those can accumulate deposits, and as the passages narrow, it hits a breakover point where it is no longer able to create enough swirl. How much/fast this happens depends on your town's water, and your plumber knows all about that.

Porcelain doesn't handle mechanical stress very well, and the passages are curved and deep, so mechanical cleaning isn't likely to work. But you can "boil the deposits out". Just take the toilet tank off, then take the bowl off the wax ring, clean up all the human excrement (so you don't waste acid strength on it), stick your head in there to inspect the starting condition, set the works in a huge rubbermaid bin, put several gallons of the right kind and strength of acid (strong enough to remove deposits, not strong enough to etch the porcelain), have a pump recirculate acid through the flush passages for a few days, pull it out and wash it out and inspect progress, repeat until you think it's good, reassemble the toilet and test, repeat as needed, neutralize the remaining acid, clean up, reinstall. And that's... why people replace toilets in this situation.

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    I like this answer but.... "put several gallons of the right kind and strength of acid..." ??? What is the right kind and strength?
    – DrewJordan
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 12:56
  • I don't firmly recall, but muriatic and oxalic came up. (Oxalic is also used by insulator collectors to do the same thing.) Safety first, let time do the work. Mineral deposits vary, so the water company might have suggestions. Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:06
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    As an acid I found that vinegar helped break the deposits down.
    – xer0x
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:17
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    You would probably want to use citric acid -- it's what's used for descaling kettles, and it's pretty cheap to buy as powder.
    – slim
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 18:50
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    Acetic acid (vinegar) is what chemists call a buffered solution. In an unbuffered solution like muriatic acid, which is another name for hydrochloric acid, all of the hydrogen ions dissociate (HCl splits into H+ and Cl- ions). So it starts out dangerously strong and gets weaker as it's consumed by reacting with the glug in your pipe. In a buffered solution, when a certain acidity is reached the hydrogen ions stop dissociating. As the ions are consumed the acidity drops so more of them come into service and the acidity remains constant without you having to add vinegar.
    – Peter Wone
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 23:57

Be aware that probably it is not your toilet giving the problem but - depending on your situation - it could be the drain pipe that connects your toilet to the large waste water pipe leaving your house. Typical indication: you clean everything, test it 2 times ... works ... 10 minutes later your sweethart tells you "Dear it's blocked again"

To exclude the toilet as a root cause, remove it, pour out the water from the U-bend and inspect the U-bend with a small mirror from both sides. This will tell you if you can exclude the toilet as a troublemaker.

Then you may need to concentrate on the tubing leaving your rest room ... there you can well apply some mechanical tools - ideally a rotating tube cleaner.


Your plumber was no crook. Yes, I am a plumber. Consider these realities:

  1. Spending time diagnosing problem
  2. Obtaining customer authorization and payment for "attempt" to remedy (more time and mood and drama)...
  3. Yes, this is an "attempt" to repair. No guarantee of success. I want my money up-front; too many people think my attempt and time and diagnosis cost me nothing because their toilet or waste piping is too far gone and did not lead to an acceptable remedy because they chose the cheaper, lower % chance of success option and not my recommendation. They don't trust me. There is already hostility and they are defensive. They think my recommended (yet, more expensive) options are me just trying to rip them off. I must also be a psychologist and communication skills expert to quickly read them and bring them around to reasonable thinking. This is not a hobby for me, it's a business. I get bills handed to me in exchange for doing this for you. Never, not ONCE have I ever EVER put money grabbing in front of my desire to help the customer.
  4. If I AM successful in repairing it; at an industry average - my cost of doing business (being there for you) is between $260 - $385 / Hr. - How much did you spend and you STILL have a 60 year old toilet?
  5. The best repair is replacement and it guarantees success and happiness.
  6. How much liability and insurance risk is involved in one man lifting a used toilet and tank and walking it down your stairs, across your carpeting - remember this plumber's back!
  7. No, sometimes, plumbing is NOT rocket science to the untrained eye. That diagnosis was. I've had a customer with this same problem. I asked him what medications he takes, as some can harden the stool like rock - sure enough; the closet auger failed, new toilet. Mystery! Well, flipped toilet upside down; it was a 2 1/2 foot long Godzilla turd lodged in the trap-way of the toilet's china. Sometimes a bird or similar critter nest in the vent pipe on the roof can cause this! Sometimes lazy roofers put shingles in it!

A qualified, licensed plumber invests his life passionately and with pride into being best-able to help you in the most economical way possible. If your plumber asks for $900 - $2,300 for a simple toilet replacement; remember - you will be using this thing for at least a generation or two. There are some really great toilets out there to choose from now. Keeping the old one in an old house may be a better choice sometimes. If the closet arm horizontal run is long and is 4" dia. - newer, lower flush volume toilets may not be able to push waste and paper all the way, allowing hardened dam building up. 3" pipes are sometimes needed for newer toilets. Trust a good plumber to fully diagnose and educate him or her self with your situation and symptoms THEN get a few recommendations from them. They can't give an uneducated guesstimate over the phone and help anybody.


Try to feel how strong is the jet stream, it could be a mineral buildup or even something bigger inside blocking it. Cleaning with CLR should help if thats the problem. Pour it in the tank under the Flapper and try then with your finger to feel in as far as possible.


To check whether it's a drain issue or an incoming-water issue--with a normal toilet you can get a "glug glug" flush by quickly dumping a couple of gallons in the toilet bowl from a bucket, bypassing the usual fill mechanisms. Might be a useful diagnostic tool. (The flush magic is just suction from water rapidly leaving the bowl through a narrow passage.)

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