Toilet Swirls but Won’t Flush: Here’s How to Fix It

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Watching the water swirl can be quite interesting due to its amazing dynamics. You should enjoy the scene whenever possible — unless the action takes place in your bathroom throne. 

So your toilet swirls but won’t flush?

It indicates that your toilet is not working properly, but the problem can be anything from a broken flapper to clogs in the rim jets. You can solve almost all issues single-handedly, but not before identifying the real cause.

In this article, we will analyze eight reasons why your toilet swirls without flushing. And don’t worry, you’ll learn the solutions as well!

Problem 1: You Have a Clogged Toilet

Clogs cause many problems in the toilet, including water that swirls without flushing. Clogging mainly occurs when you flush too much toilet paper and non-degradable items like baby wipes and Q tips

Clogging is often a long-term process, but the result is always the same — the toilet stops flushing, and you can’t use it anymore. Since your toilet probably won’t unclog itself, you better fix it as soon as possible.

Solution: Unclog the Toilet With a Plunger or an Auger

You can’t improve the flush system without breaking clogs in your toilet. The simple way to do it is to use tools like a plunger or a toilet auger. Plungers break smaller clogs in toilet traps, while augers dissolve blockages in the pipes.

It’s easy to use the toilet plunger — you only need to press it against the toilet bowl and pump it down and up. Once it creates enough pressure, the vacuum force will push out the clog or decompose it.

The toilet auger, AKA snake, is a long metal tool that you can push through the pipes by rotating a handle. It’s a sharp tool, which means it can break down clogs with ease — all it takes is to give it a little push down the drains.

When it reaches the clog, your auger will drill through the waste ball. You can pull it out after that, but remember to inspect the toilet by flushing it a couple of times. If the clog is gone, swirling will stop.

Problem 2: Low Water Level in the Toilet Tank

Every toilet needs enough water for a successful flush. In case of a low water level in the toilet, the system can’t remove urine, feces, and toilet paper. That’s why your toilet doesn’t flush as usual. 

This mainly occurs when the float ball in the toilet tank is too low. In this case, the float ball prevents your toilet from getting enough water. Another issue may be that the adjustment screw on the flush valve is too tight.

Solution: Increase the Water Level In the Toilet Tank

There are two ways to increase the water level in the tank, but remember to empty the tank before starting. Doing it is simple — close the water supply via the shutoff valve, and flush the toilet to remove water. Now the real work begins.

The first solution is to raise the float ball, an item that controls the water level. It’s a plastic ball that you can move manually above the black overflow tube — open the toilet tank top and lift the float ball slightly higher.

The second tip is to adjust the flush valve by turning the float adjustment screw. It’s a small screw in the middle of the tank, so you can twist it counterclockwise to let more water into the tank after flushing.

Problem 3: It’s a Low-Flow Toilet

Some toilets come with a low-flow flush system as it’s a good way to save water. However, low-flow toilets often experience flushing issues because there’s not enough water to clean the waste.

This is particularly the case with dual toilet flush mechanisms — if you only press one button, the toilet will use less water when flushing.

Solution: Improve the Toilet Flow

In theory, you can’t convert a low-flow toilet into a high-flow model, but you can improve its flush power. The trick is to raise the floating cup ballcock above the overflow tube and open the fill valve to the maximum.

Besides that, make sure to press both buttons when flushing — it will give your toilet strength to collect and remove hard debris like human feces.

Problem 4: Improper Pipe Width

If your bathroom has thin pipes, the toilet might be struggling with large amounts of water after flushing.

That’s not a common issue, but it’s worth checking out. Standard plumbing lines are 1.5 inches wide, but sometimes they can be thinner.  

Solution: Change the Pipes

Solving this issue is not easy because it demands a serious bathroom remodeling project. You should consult with a licensed plumber to test the pipes and determine the proper width.  

After that, you can choose how and when to replace the current toilet drains with wider pipes. Don’t forget that the project is costly and time-consuming, so you should plan it well in advance.

Problem 5: The Flapper Isn’t Working

A faulty flapper is one of the most common issues that cause swirling in the toilet. It is a small rubber or plastic cap at the bottom of the tank, right next to the overflow tube. 

The purpose of tank flappers is to open when you flush the toilet, allowing water to go down the drain pipe.

However, a malfunctioning flapper falls quickly and cuts the usual water flow. This is often the case with old and worn-out flappers.

Solution: Change the Flapper

Fixing the flapper is easy — you only need to replace it with a new one. Close the shutoff valve and flush the toilet to empty the tank. After that, open the toilet tank lid, and you’ll see the old flapper at the bottom.

Detach it with your hands, and you can install the new item — the flapper will snap right into its place. Close the tank after setting the new flapper, open the fill valve, and flush your toilet — it will flush without that strange swirling.

Problem 6: The Lift Chain Is Too Long

The problem doesn’t have to come from the flapper. On the contrary, it can also be the chain connecting the flapper to the flush lever. If the chain is longer than needed, it won’t lift the flapper enough to release the desired quantity of water.

Solution: Adjust the Flapper Chain

Once again, open the tank top to approach the flapper chain. Drain the water from the tank, and you can start working on the flapper chain.

You can solve problems by shortening the chain — remove a few links using pliers, so it can lift the flapper adequately. Another option is to reposition the chain by connecting it to the next hole on the flush handle.

That way, the chain will have to stretch more when you flush the toilet, so it will easily pull up the flapper. It’s a simple system, and you will recognize each item instantly — there’s no need to call a plumber for this one.

Problem 7: Clogged Rim Jets

Rim jets are small inlet holes under the toilet bowl ring. A jet hole releases water in the toilet after flushing, clearing the waste, and taking it further down the toilet drains. But rim jets get dirty over time and may form small clogs.

Mineral deposits, waste, and poop can start obstructing the usual water flow. If so, inlet holes can’t perform their primary function — cover the toilet bowl with enough water force to clean everything.

Solution: Unclog the Rim Jets

Unclogging rim jets is much easier than breaking clogs in the plumbing line. You’ll only need a toilet bowl brush to scrub the rim jet opening — it should be enough to break small clogs.

Alternatively, you can take a wire coat hanger and stretch it to make a mini toilet auger. Put the wire into the toilet bowl holes, and it will break down clogs with ease. After that, flush the toilet to test inlet holes — we’re sure it will work as new.

Problem 8: Fault Toilet Location

Finally, the swirling problem may be the consequence of the fault toilet location. It mostly happens in residential buildings with many stores because there’s not enough water pressure for proper flushing.

If your home is high up, perhaps the toilet lacks water to function normally.

Solution: Install the Water Pump

You can solve the problem with a water pump. It boosts the water pressure so your toilet can flush properly, regardless of its location or height. The downside of the pump is that it needs electricity, but it’s a small price to pay for good flushing.

The Bottom Line

If your toilet swirls but won’t flush, you can solve the problem in a few minutes. The usual suspects are the flapper and the flush handle chain, but the tank water level and clogs can also be the cause.

We showed you how to deal with these issues, but do you think you can handle them? Let us know in the comments!


Why does a toilet spin but not flush?

The toilet water can spin without flushing for many reasons. The most common problems include broken flappers, clogs, and low—flow flush systems.

Why is my toilet water swirling?

The toilet water is swirling because something prevents its usual flow. Sometimes you’ll see clogged inlet holes, but there are other causes like toilet clogs and low-flow flush systems. 

You should discover the real cause before trying to fix the toilet.

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