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6 Common Reasons Why is Your Toilet Bubbling


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A weird, bubbling sound in your toilet, whether it happens randomly or after you flush, may indicate an issue somewhere in your plumbing system. It can be difficult to determine just from that unsettling sound whether the situation is minor or will need major work. Read on for some of the most common causes of a bubbling sound in your toilet.

Your plumbing system needs to be in good working order for a toilet to function properly. That means that nothing should be blocking the lines. However, even well-maintained toilets can sometimes experience blockages. A blockage creates negative air pressure, so instead of air flowing through the lines, the air is forced back into the bowl and causes an unsettling bubbling or gurgling sound. Now that you’ve figured out why your toilet is bubbling, you need to pinpoint what’s causing the blockage so that you can determine the most suitable remedy. Here are some of the most common reasons why your toilet may be bubbling:

1. Toilet clogging

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Clogs are the most common type of blockage in toilets, and Fortunately, they are also the most manageable problem to deal with. Toilet clogs occur when you flush an object that ends up getting stuck and preventing airflow, resulting in air being pushed back up. In most cases, clogs are apparent. If you’re not sure if you’re dealing with a clog, check for plumbing issues in other parts of your house – if the toilet turns out to be the only fixture with an issue, then you’re most likely dealing with a clog.

Fix of the toilet clogging

  • Grab a plunger

To fix a clog, start by clearing everything floating on the water in the toilet bowl. You’ll also want to remove any items stuck in the toilet. If the culprits are further down, try unblocking the toilet with a plunger. For the best results, ensure that the plunger completely covers the drain hole and give it around 10-20 plunges to see if you can dislodge the clog. If possible, use a plunger that features an extension flange to help you achieve a better seal.

  • Use a garden hose

In some cases, running a garden hose down through the toilet bowl can help to dislodge a blockage. Just be careful not to flood the bathroom while trying this remedy.

  • Use a plumbing or toilet auger

You can also try using a toilet auger. You can find one at your local hardware store. A toilet auger consists of a flexible metal shaft that goes down through your toilet drain, and you control the shaft via a crank located at the opposite end.

Avoid using drain snakes (sometimes sewer snakes) as they are too small and are more suited for smaller drains like your kitchen sink or the one in your bathroom. If the solutions provided above don’t work, you might need to call a professional to help you out.

It’s worth noting that a toilet is specifically designed to carry away human waste and dissolvable toilet tissue. Paper towels, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, children’s toys, condoms – should never be disposed of in a toilet. This also includes “flushable wipes”. According to the manufacturer’s definition, flushable means that it won’t float back up into the bowl after being flushed. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t result in a blockage anywhere down the drainage line.

2. A blocked vent stack

If a clog isn’t causing the bubbling, you may want to check your vent stack. A vent stack is a vertical pipe that connects to various lines and leads to your roof. It’s the part of your plumbing system that comes out of your roof and closely resembles a chimney. The primary purpose of the vent stack is to control your plumbing’s air pressure. It also releases exhaust gas and prevents odor from accumulating in your home. 

A vent stack is meant to be an open channel at all times – not even water runs through it. However, a vent stack can become blocked like any other part of your plumbing system. A blockage can result in negative pressure, which leads to unsettling bubbling sounds. You may also notice a putrid, gassy sewer odor or some slow draining around the house. 

These plumbing vents can be blocked by animal nests, leaves, small animal carcasses, and other debris. 

The fix of the blocked vent stack

Whatever the cause of blockage is, you’ll need to clear it out as soon as possible. To do this, you’ll have to climb up on your roof. If you’re uncomfortable or unable to get up on the roof, consider calling in a professional. 

If you’re comfortable climbing up on your roof, you’ll need a thin flashlight, a ladder, a garden hose, and a thin rope. Tie the flashlight with the rope,  turn it on, lower it into the vent pipe, and carefully inspect for blockages. With any luck, there’s just an animal nest or debris near the top of the vent that you can easily clear out. However, if the blockage is further down, put the garden hose down the vent pipe and wash the blockage down the vent pipe and out through the sewer. Otherwise, you’re probably better off seeking the help of a professional as it will be too tricky and dangerous to handle on your own.

3. Sediment build-up

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Your toilet may be bubbling because of sediment buildup in the toilet tank. If the water coming into the toilet tank contains elements like calcium, iron, or magnesium, it’s likely to get calcified and cause clogging. As a result, you might bear some bubbling sounds as your tank is being refilled.

The fix of the sediment build-up

The most effective solution for this issue is to use a water softener that will remove the minerals leading to calcification in the water tank.

Related article: What To Do If You Find Mold In Your Apartment?

4. Mainline or drain line clogs

The drain lines are the lines in your home that various fixtures use to channel water to the mainline. On the other hand, the mainline leads all the wastewater from your home to the municipal main sewer drain pipe connection. 

To figure out a suitable solution for these types of clogs, you’ll need to be able to tell the difference between a blocked drain line and a mainline. When your drain line is clogged, only one area of your home will be affected, such as the bathroom fixture in one room. For example, if your upstairs bathroom is blocked, the downstairs one will be fine, and vice versa. Contrarily, mainline blockages typically affect your whole house. 

A drain line blockage is caused by the same things that lead to a clogged toilet. These clogs lead to negative air pressure, and you’ll notice the same toilet bubbles. However, this issue may be more difficult to deal with, especially if the blockage occurs further the drain line or mainline where consumer-style equipment and tools cannot reach it. 

Tree roots and debris can also often be pinpointed as the cause of a clogged mainline. Deep tree roots can seek out the moisture and warmth of a drainage system and creep through their loose joints or holes. As they feed on the nutrients in the system, the roots will grow and potentially cause a blockage in the mainline.

The fix of the drain line clogs

Use a plumbing auger to clear the blockage in your drain line if it’s close enough to the surface. If the blockage is further down, such as in the mainline, a plumber will need to send a camera down to see exactly where the blockage is. This may call for the removal of the toilet to handle the issue. It may even require digging up your backyard or front yard to access the faulty line and fix it.

Related article: How To Keep Your Apartment Smelling Fresh?

5. Municipal sewer line blockage

Another possible cause for a toilet bubbling is a municipal sewer line clog. A municipal sewer line leads wastewater away from your house; your mainline (as well as the lines coming from other homes in the area) dumps into this. 

The fix of the municipal sewer line blockage

If you think a clog of this type is the problem, ask your neighbors if they’re experiencing the same problems as you. If that’s the case, you’ll need to contact the sewer authority in your area to deal with the issue.

6. A faulty cistern

Inside the toilet cistern, you’ll find the flapper – the feature responsible for flushing and refilling the tank with clean water. If the flapper is defective, it can cause the toilet to bubble or gurgle. 

The fix of the faulty cistern

If your flapper is damaged or faulty, change it out for a new one to stop the bubbling. If the issue is the entire cistern mechanism, then you may need to have the whole cistern replaced.

Items that can be useful

Other common toilet problems and how to fix them

Having a bubbling toilet can be annoying, but it definitely isn’t the only toilet problem you might encounter. Here are some other toilet problems that you may experience: 

1. The toilet leaks

A leaking toilet is a dangerous problem for several reasons. For starters, when water from the toilet leaks onto the floor, it can create a slipping hazard. Furthermore, it can encourage bacteria to grow and cause serious health problems. To fix a leaking toilet, tighten the nut behind the valve about ⅛ of a turn. If this doesn’t fix the problem, check if the mounting bolts are loose or if the fill valve (the component that ensures the water tank gets refilled after a flush) is secured to the toilet tank. If you’re unsure of how to tackle the problem, call a professional to fix your toilet for you.

2. The bowl water level drops

If the water level in your toilet drop is too low, there are four possible reasons:

  • Damaged fill tube

A fill tube is a plastic hose connected to the overflow tube that sends water back into the toilet tank once flushed. Over time, it can unclip from the overflow tube due to wear and tear. If this happens, the toilet tank will fill up too quickly, causing the valve to shut off the water flow even before it fills adequately.

  • Cracked toilet bowl

It’s quite rare for toilet bowls to crack, but they still happen. If you constantly see water on the floor, you may want to check if you have a cracked bowl. If that’s the case, you’ll notice that the water level in the toilet bowl will be lower than usual. This problem can lead to serious structural damages and increased water bills. The only solution to this problem is to replace the entire toilet unit.

  • Damaged fill valve

A faulty or worn-out fill valve can cause many issues, including affecting the water level in your toilet bowl. Replace your fill valve to solve this problem.

  • Faulty vent

A clogged or faulty vent might cause low water levels in the toilet bowl. Use a plumbing snake to dislodge any debris that may interfere with the vent’s function.

3. The toilet tank refills on its own

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Sometimes your toilet might make refilling sounds even though you haven’t flushed it. This problem is sometimes known as “ghost flushing” because a refilling sound usually indicates that the toilet has lost water either externally or internally. You might notice this happening at different points of the day. If there’s no water on the floor or the toilet’s exterior, you might be dealing with an internal leak. To remedy this, check the flapper for damage. If it appears faulty, replace it with a new one. If this isn’t the issue, check if the refill tube has been installed correctly. If inserted too far into the overflow pipe, remove and reinstall it outside of the overflow pipe.

4. The toilet appears to sweat

If you live in a humid area, you’ll probably encounter this issue, especially if you don’t have an air conditioning unit or it’s not working properly. The “sweat” on your toilet tank is condensation, and if it goes unchecked, it could damage your floor over time. If high humidity is a common issue in your area, consider installing an insulated toilet tank to prevent condensation. You might also want to check that your air conditioner is working properly to regulate humidity.

Final thoughts

A bubbling toilet might not seem like a big deal, but it can be a sign that there’s an issue with your plumbing. It can become a much bigger problem if it’s not dealt with. In some cases, you can tackle a bubbling toilet on your own even with no plumbing experience. Your best bet is to call a professional to help out in other situations.

Last update on 2022-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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