* Toilet Swirls But Won’t Flush: What to Do

Toilets and indoor plumbing in general are simply awesome, but with that being said, they are not without their problems. One of the problems that you might experience with your toilet is that the water swirls, but it won’t actually flush.

If your toilet swirls when you pull the lever but the water doesn’t actually go down, then there are a few issues that could be the cause. Today we want to take a look at all the possible causes as well as all of the possible fixes.

So let’s jump right in.

Toilet Swirls But Won't Flush

#1: Issues with the Flapper

When you remove the lid on the toilet tank, you will see a rubber seal that covers the hole in the toilet tank, the hole where the water flows through down into the bowl. This is known as the flapper. When the toilet is not in the middle of flushing, the job of the flapper is to seal this hole so no water can leak down into the bowl.

However, if the flapper is damaged or old, water may leak out into the tank while the toilet is not actually flushing. This is also a problem that may occur if the chain attaching the floating ball to the flapper is not of the right length. The reason why the toilet, therefore, struggles to flush is that the water level has been decreased due to the constant leakage.

Toilet Flapper

The Fix

If the cause of the issue is that that flapper is just too old or damaged, then the only option you have is to simply replace it. You can go to any plumbing store or home improvement store to find an appropriate flapper for your toilet.

As mentioned above, the other possible cause of this issue is if the chain is too short. Therefore, the obvious solution here is to unhook the flapper from the chain and then find a hole further away that works better, a hole that allows the flapper to totally close. In other words, give the flapper a bit more slack.

#2: Low Water Level in the Tank

If your toilet swirls but doesn’t flush, it could be that the water level in the tank is just far too low. If there is not enough water in the tank, then the flush won’t be powerful enough to actually force water down the bowl and into the drain. A good flush requires some pretty serious power.

For one, some of the components in your toilet could just be broken or damaged. Second, the parts could just be malfunctioning or not working properly. Next, you may have tried to adjust your toilet so it does not use as much water, but have adjusted it too much, so that there is now not enough water flowing down into the bowl when you flush.

When the water level in your toilet tank is at the appropriate level, that black ball should float right near the top of the tank, right by the lid. If this ball cannot travel up far enough, it will also cause the water to stop filling into the tank.

The Fix

The easiest fix here is to turn the floating cup ballcock in a clockwise direction, which will help to increase the float level of the ball. In other words, by turning the ballcock, you will allow that black rubber ball to travel further upwards, thus allowing the toilet tank to take on more water.

If that first fix is not a possibility, then something else you can try doing is to put a small bend into the arm that holds the rubber ball in place. Put a small bend in the arm so that the ball can travel further upwards, therefore allowing more water to get into the tank. This is a bit risky though, because if you are rough with it, you may break it.

#3: The Chain Has Too Much Slack

Yet another possible cause of your toilet swirling, but not actually flushing, is that the lift chain that attaches the ball to the flapper has too much slack. If the chain has too much slack, then when the toilet flushes, it won’t actually pull that flapper up enough to force all of the water down into the bowl in one quick go.

The Fix

The simple solution to this problem is to just adjust the length of the chain so that it is a bit shorter. Just unhook it from either the ball or the flapper and tighten it up a bit before reattaching it.

#4: A Clogged Toilet

OK, so one of the most common causes why your toilet might swirl but not actually flush is because it is simply clogged. Toilets can get clogged because you used too much toilet paper, because somebody flushed hair, cigarettes, or something else they shouldn’t have, or due to a number of other reasons too.

Below we are going to go through a bit of a step-by-step process in terms of how to unclog your toilet. Start with the first step and if that doesn’t work, go to the next one, and so on and so forth.

The Fix

The first and simplest option at your disposal here is to use the plunger. Put that toilet plunger into the bowl, make sure that the front of it has a good seal with the bottom of the toilet, and then get to plunging. If there is not enough water in the bowl to cover the plunger, pour in a few cups of water until the plunger is covered. If after a couple of dozen plunges, the toilet is not yet unclogged, move onto the next option. Alternatively, read my article about how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

The next option at your disposal is to try using a toilet snake, also known as a toilet auger. These can be purchased for a relatively low price at any home improvement store. Use the toilet auger as directed on the packaging. If this does not work, then chances are that the clog is deeper down in the drain than then the drain auger can reach. Move on to the next fix.

Toilet Auger in Use

If both the plunger and the toilet snake did not work, then the next option at your disposal is to use the toilet-friendly drain unclogger. Just beware to choose the proper product because the vast majority of drain uncloggers are not toilet or septic safe so you do need to be sure to have the right one. Using the wrong product can end up causing serious damage.

Also, you can always choose to just unbolt the toilet from the floor, lift it up, and see if there is anything stuck down in the trap or in the pipes. If there is, then use those good old fingers of yours to pull it out. If you either just don’t want to do this, or if you can’t see anything once you remove the toilet from the floor, then your only other option is going to be the next one.

Lastly, if all else fails, you will need to call a plumber.

#5: A Bad Drainpipe

The issue here could be as simple as that your drain pipe is just not properly designed. Unfortunately, this is not something that you can determine or fix yourself, and if you suspect that this might be the problem, your only option is to call a plumber.

#6: Clogged Toilet Inlets

Inlet holes in your toilet are those little holes in the bowl where the water flows out. In other words, it’s where the water enters the bowl from the tank. If you see that there is not much water or any water flowing out of them, then they are clogged. The solutions here are actually quite simple.

The Fix

Just take a good cup full of vinegar heated up to a good temperature, and then pour the vinegar down the overflow tube and let it sit there for about half an hour. While it is sitting there, use something like an Allen wrench or something pointy to try and clear out those little inlet holes. After the vinegar sat in the overflow tube for about half an hour, try flushing the toilet. If this does not work, repeat the process a second time.

For more details, read this article.

On a side note, something else you should try doing is getting a water softener system for your home because the cause of clogged inlet pipes could be hard water buildup, or in other words, calcium and magnesium deposits clogging both holes. If you have hard water in your home, it will continue to cause problems in your toilet and for your other fixtures and water-based appliances as well. Having soft water is quite crucial to the health of your appliances and fixtures.

Disposable Toilet Cleaning System


We hope that we have managed to help you get your toilet swirling and flushing again. People, if nothing on this list worked, you will need to call a plumber!