How to Flush a Toilet Without Running Water?

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Sometimes a crisis can occur that will cause your water to either shut off completely, or force you to shut it off manually. 

More often than not, this is due to an unexpected issue with a home remodel or issues with your home’s sewer line. 

In either event, you may find yourself with a toilet that needs to be flushed. If you do ever find yourself in this situation, wondering how to flush a toilet without running water, this article is just for you.

What Happens if You Flush a Toilet When the Water Is Off?

In most cases, you can flush a toilet at least once when the water is shut off, because the tank will already be filled with water from the previous use. 

However, afterwards, the toilet tank and bowl will no longer fill up with water due to the water supply being cut off. This means that to flush the toilet, you’ll now need to do so manually. 

If you want to momentarily turn the water supply back on, you can do so by simply turning the shut-off valve with an adjustable wrench. This valve is located near the back of the toilet, typically on the left-hand side. 

To shut it back off, turn the valve clockwise about a quarter of an inch. However, if the water has been shut off because of sewer line issues, it’s easier to just flush the toilet manually.

Ways to Flush a Toilet Without Running Water

If you can’t flush your toilet due to the water being shut off, don’t fret. You can always flush the toilet manually using one of two methods.

Pour Water Into the Toilet Tank

For most modern toilets, you can simply pour water into the toilet tank to flush it. 

But where do I get the water from if my water is shut off, you ask? Good question. It really depends on whatever resources you have available near your home. 

If you’re able to go over to a neighbor’s house to fill a bucket of water quickly, do that. 

If you don’t have any nearby neighbors, consider rounding up any drinking water containers in your home or going to a nearby natural water resource — such as a lake or stream — to find the water. 

  1. Once you gather enough water, remove the toilet tank lid and set it to the side.
  2. Next, take a 2 to 5 gallon bucket (or any other large, water-safe vessel) and fill it up with cold water. If it’s a 5-gallon, fill it up only about halfway.
  3. Pour the water into the tank until it reaches about half an inch beneath the overflow tube.
  4. Then, press the lever to flush the toilet. Or, if you have a dual flush, set the lid on top of the tank and press the flush button. 

Keep in mind that if you have any issues with your flapper valve, you’ll need to manually lift it to flush the toilet before pouring the water into the tank.

Pour Water Into the Toilet Bowl

You also have the option of putting the water directly inside the toilet bowl. However, many people prefer to pour the water into the tank to prevent any splashing that might happen from the contents of the toilet bowl.

For this method, you’ll also need a 2 to 5 gallon bucket (or another vessel) filled with cold water. However, if you have a few “friends” hanging out in the toilet and you’re worried about a potential clog, you may want to use hot water instead. 

Be sure to keep your plunger or toilet snake nearby as well.

  1. Start by lifting the toilet seat to avoid splashing waste onto it.
  2. Next, take the bucket and slowly and carefully pour about a fourth of the water inside the bowl. You’ll want to use a bit of caution initially, as it’ll be fairly easy to cause a splash when the added water first hits the toilet water. 

After you’ve poured a fourth of the water into the bowl, you can pour the remaining water in more quickly. Doing so will create enough water pressure inside of the bowl to initiate the flush mechanism. 

Watch the toilet as it flushes to ensure that there’s no clog. And, of course, keep your plunger handy in the event that there is.

How Much Water Does It Take to Flush a Toilet?

Most toilets today only require about a gallon and a half of water to flush completely. 

However, back in the day — say, 70 or so years ago — toilets required a few gallons at least just to flush. Can you imagine what those water bills were like? 

Can You Flush a Toilet Without Electricity?

This is a great question. And the answer is, in most cases, yes. 

The reason is that it depends on the type of toilet tank that you have. Most toilets operate without the use of electricity, and just need water to flush. 

However, if you have a pressure-assisted or tankless toilet, you will need functioning electricity for these toilets to work. 

The inner tank components of these toilets (mostly the water pump) require an established electrical connection, and without it they won’t flush a thing. 

However, some brands and models may have workarounds in case of power outages. Before attempting to flush the toilet manually, it’s best to read your instruction manual to see what options might be available. 


Unfortunately, water issues and power outages are a part of life. Typically, you’ll still be able to flush your toilet manually if your water isn’t working. 

However, if you have a tankless or pressure-assisted toilet, you may want to check your user’s manual or consult with a plumber before attempting to flush the toilet. 

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