Clean River Partners: Fix your leaky toilet to save water and money

Leaking toilets are the largest source of water leaks in most homes. In a study in St. Paul, one in six toilets were leaking. That’s a lot of water “going down the drain”. What’s more, a leaking toilet can cost you $70 a month in higher water bills.

Luckily, finding out if you have a leaking toilet is easy, and fixing a leaking toilet usually just costs a new $5 rubber flapper and 15 minutes of your time.

Finding the leak

There are several ways to find a leaky toilet, starting with your water bill. If your monthly water bill goes up a lot, then, chances are, you have a water leak somewhere in the house or apartment. Toilets are a likely source of leaks.

Listen. If you hear water running long after the toilet is done flushing, then you probably have a leaking toilet tank.

Clean River Partners: Fix your leaky toilet to save water and money

Look. You can also use “leak detector” tablets (or food coloring) to determine if you have a leak. Simply follow the directions on the tablets, dropping them into the toilet tank. The water in the tank will turn blue. If the water in the toilet bowl turns blue as well, then you have a toilet tank leak. To get leak detector tablets, call your city water department.

If you don’t have the leak detector tablets handy, and if you have more than one toilet in your home, you could also just shut off the water to the toilet and not use it for a day. If the water level in the tank drops, then you have a leak.

Fixing the leak

Most toilet tank leaks can be fixed by replacing a $5 rubber flapper in the tank. Over time, these flappers get worn out and no longer make a good seal between the toilet tank and the toilet bowl. Turn off water going to the toilet. Very important. You don’t want the toilet tank refilling while you are replacing the flapper. Most toilets have a water turnoff valve on the wall near the toilet. Flush the toilet to empty the tank. If the water is off, the tank should not refill. Remove the old rubber flapper and throw it away. Replace it with the new rubber flapper. Turn on the water to fill the tank.Use another leak detector tablet to confirm that the tank no longer leaks. Then you’re done!

Whenever using leak detector tablets or food coloring to determine if you have a toilet leak, always flush the tank a few times to make sure all the coloring goes down the drain. While these colors aren’t designed to stain porcelain, it’s best to rinse them out of our toilet tank.

Next steps

If you still see higher than average water bills, you may have another leaky toilet or a leak elsewhere in your home. Call your city water department and city staff will schedule a time to come check your water softener and other appliances for leaks.

Want to learn more about saving water at home? Visit the Water Conservation display at the Northfield Public Library in December. You can also watch a video about fixing a toilet leak at