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Have a Leaking Toilet? Here are the Signs to Tell for Sure

Indoor plumbing has existed since 2500 BC, and since that time, humans are still trouble shooting leaky faucets and clogged drains. Perhaps the most dreaded indoor plumbing problem is the leaking or clogged toilet. Toilets use up to a third of your household’s total water usage and can waste up to 90 gallons of water daily if they aren’t draining correctly. It’s fairly obvious when you have a clogged toilet or clogged drain, but toilet leaks are harder to detect. Here are three signs that your toilet may have a leak, and when you’ll know that it’s time to call a plumber.

Food Coloring

Perhaps the most well-known trick to test for toilet leaks is through a food coloring or dye test. According to the EPA, you should put a drop of food coloring in your toilet bowl and walk away for 10-15 minutes. If there’s color in the bowl when you come back, you’ll know you have a leak.


If you’ve noticed any leaking at the base of your toilet, there could be an issue with your closet bolt, closet flange, or wax ring. The wax ring, closet bolts, and closet flange compose the mechanism that connects the bowl to the floor. It’s common to need to replace the wax ring and the closet flange if you notice that water is escaping, but beware screwing in your closet bolts too tightly, as these can crack the bowl.

Unexpected Trickling

If you notice periodic trickling in the toilet tank, it can also be a sign of a leak in the toilet flapper. The flapper is the mechanism that creates a seal between the rim of the flush valve. You’ll also know you have a flapper leak if your bowl refills periodically, meaning that the flush valve has failed.

While there are plenty of DIY guides online to explain toilet repair and indoor plumbing, repairing leaks can be a challenge even for experienced plumbers. Testing for leaks and making small repairs on your own is always possible, but if you aren’t sure or suspect there’s a larger issue with your drainage system, you should contact a professional plumbing service straight away. Making repairs now, even if you’re not sure there’s a problem, will save money and time in the long run.

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