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edweather

Toilet swirls, but won't flush!!

Very frustrated. The toilet seems to be ok, it gets a good swirl going, and it swirls, and swirls, but then it just kind of stops swirling and doesn't flush. Some times it barely flushes with a couple of gulps, but that's it. The waste line seems clear. I've plunged the heck out of it. The toilet in the basement below it flushes ok. The toilet has basically been this way for 2+ years since we moved into the house, but now the problem seems to be getting worse. Any suggestions please? Thanks in advance for the help.

Comments (185)

  • icewilltim
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago


    Thank you so much for this info. I have had this swirling problem too long. Hubby planned to snake the system, but never got around to that. I read the comments and went to work on the rim holes with a screw, that did not help at all. I then took an old bottle opener and scraped the large hole across from the discharge hole. It was very, very clogged (Hard Water Deposit). I have flushed several times and it seems to be operating correctly. Thanks a million!!!!!!!

    PS: Not sure who first came up with this solution, but I do appreciate it.

  • not2 handy
    7 years ago

    I've had the same problem for over 6 months. I would flush and the water would swirl but not go down. It didn't matter if there was a lot or a little in the toilet, it wouldn't go down and I'd have to plunge every time.

    Lazypup and woodbutcher_ca were very helpful. I poured a bucket of water in the toilet and it went down, so according to those two the problem was with the water from the tank not entering the bowl fast enough. I used a drill bit to clear out the holes under the rim but they were fine. Then I used a drill bit on the jet. There was a substantial build-up of whatever on it, so I scratched and chipped away at it all for about half an hour. Now my toilet flushes again. The flush isn't as strong as it was originally, but at least it goes down now. I'll probably scrape at it some more and hopefully the flush will get stronger as I clean away more of the build-up.

    I opened an account here just to say "thank you" and hopefully this helps anyone else who may be experiencing the same problem.

  • Neil Smith
    7 years ago

    John Fajvan nailed it for me... 3/4" jet hole plugged with calcium!!

    I have a low flush (1.6gal), with a water saving toilet flapper (adjustable by where you put the float on the flapper pull chain). Toilet flushed fine by pouring water in, checked holes under bowl edge open. I spent hours trying every conceivable position for this 'flapper float' moving it up one chainbead at a time, convinced I had to get the swirl & flapper close timed perfectly or something. Toilet still unpredictable and mostly swirling. Figured there was no way something as large as the 3/4" jet hole in the bowl could be clogged, but it was! Almost completely with calcium buildup. Bizarre. We don't have any other evidence of calcium and toilet worked fine for 18 years and then started to act up over past 2 years. Cleaned calcium out (took me hours) and now it flushes perfectly every time!

  • John Fajvan
    7 years ago

    Well- I'm glad to be of assistance Neil. I have heavy calcium in my water. It clogs up my coffee maker every couple of months, even with filtered water. I clean out that jet hole every 6 months or so.

  • eml3
    7 years ago

    I'm having similar problems. For probably at least six months now my toilet will flush completely about every three or four flushes - that is, after about three partial flushes it finally does a complete flush as expected. The toilet is fairly new (a couple years old), After I snaked it with no results, I called a plumber. The plumber snaked it, checked the intake holes in the tank to make sure they weren't clogged, and (as an act of desperation, I believe) then removed the tank to be thoroughly sure there was nothing lodged in the curves of the tanks drainage pathway. He mentioned that it might be the vent, but it wasn't a good day to look into that, and I haven't called him back to do it. As I read above I'm not so sure that it's the vent and don't want incur another unnecessary expense. Any thoughts? Thanks~

  • Marc Roffman
    7 years ago

    Try the bucket test. Dump a bucket of water in that bowl and see if it flushes good. We'll take it from there

  • johnpatwalsh1
    7 years ago

    I found that if I flush certain things like egg yolks and old store bought salad dressing that has expired, the toilet will not flush properly, perhaps due to a change in surface tension. However, once I use the plunger on it, it will be good until the next time I flush egg yolks or salad dressing.


  • woodbutcher_ca
    7 years ago

    Hi, I had a problem like that. I found out that there wasn't enough water in the bowl. Make sure the hose in the tank goes in to the overflow ( some people pull it out to save water).If the hose is OK change the fill valve.

    Good Luck Woodbutcher

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    johnpatwalsh1 - Please tell me you are joking.

  • eml3
    7 years ago

    Bucket of water goes down fine.
    No kitchen stuff goes in this toilet.
    Looked in the tank - (excuse my ignorance re: proper names of things) - the hose the water comes out of was clipped on to the hollow plastic tube (overflow?) - I tried to find a picture, but couldn't - basically the clip is attached to the tube that the water comes out of and it clips onto the empty vertical plastic tube - so some of the water goes in the tube and some goes out side of it. I tried unclipping the water source and directing it entirely into the empty tube. The tank filled, but the empty tube remained empty.
    Does any of this make sense?

  • woodbutcher_ca
    7 years ago

    Hi, The bowl must be filled to the correct level to flush properly. The hose in the tank that goes into tube fills the bowl. When the tank stops filling there is no water left in the tube.

    You stated the toilet flushes good once then fails three times. I suggest you flush your toilet when you get a good flush stop. Get about a half a gallon of water GENTLY pour it in the bowl. That should fill the bowl to the correct level. Flush the toilet if it works you found the problem. When I found out the problem it took about two hours. I tried everything I could think of nothing worked, I changed the fill valve and cured the problem.

    Good Luck Woodbutcher

  • Marc Roffman
    7 years ago

    If the bucket goes down, watch the water come out from under the very front of the rim. Do you use cheap blue tabs to clean the tank? Sometimes the wrapper goes in. Still, try the nail or drill bit on the rim holes in the front see if it snags something. An eggshell? Lol.

  • eml3
    7 years ago

    I'm late getting to this - but I finally tried the suggestion of slowly pouring water in after a good flush and seeing if it flushes better. It did!! Three times in a row!! I can't remember the last time I didn't need a minimum of three flush efforts to get a thorough flush - so I'm thinking the extra water did the trick. When I called my plumber over the summer he took the tank off, etc. and talked about the clearing the vent on the roof. I was considering calling him back to do that - I'm glad I didn't, because that doesnt' seem to be the issue....
    I don't use the blue tabs - when I had this toilet (recently) installed I was told that if I used any of those kinds of products it would void the warranty.

    So... now my question is - how do I get the necessary water level in the bowl with out having to manually add water?


  • eml3
    7 years ago

    My plumber poked at the holes under the rim when he was here - but I'll do it again just for good measure. I heard someone mention a hole across from the flush hole - I'll check that out too....


  • eml3
    7 years ago

    Sending out major hugs and kisses to woodbutcher and whoever mentioned the hole across from the flush hole. Major build up in that little hole - I was getting pieces so big off of there that I was afraid they were pieces of the toilet. (but they weren't). Before the plumber came I had tried using vinegar and baking soda to clear the toilet. i thought it had helped, but also thought I must be crazy. Now I"m thinking it probably did help - may have helped remove some of that build up. I'm going to try a couple of rounds of that concoction to maybe clear things up a little better, but it is consistently flushing completely for the first time in at least a year. I'm trying to decide whether to call my plumber and tell him what the issue was, just as an fyi~
    Thanks again!!!!!!

  • Marc Roffman
    7 years ago

    Was that the hole under the rim in the very front, or do you have a hole down on the bottom, opposite the big hole everything goes down? Not all toilets have that hole.

  • eml3
    7 years ago

    It was at the bottom, opposite the 'exit' hole. I have little holes under the rim - the plumber poked at them when he was here, and I poked at them some last night just for good measure - but it was a hole maybe the size of a half dollar, across from the big hole. I had no idea it was there. But it definitely had buildup. My downstairs toilet was installed at the same time - no problems with that one. Not sure why this one was so calcified. But so glad I found it and cleared it. I've never gotten so much pleasure from flushing my toilet before, as I am getting now that it flushes properly!! lol

  • dfcox2014
    7 years ago

    I've read through and tried the bucket test, it flushes but not the best/fastest flush in the west. I've checked the holes under the rim and all seem clear. flapper is in good condition. Any suggestions on what I should try next to get a good flush every time ? thank you for your help.

  • Pattie Hartman
    7 years ago

    Ok, read the thread, haven't tried much yet, BECAUSE I want to ask how the shower and sink drains relate to the the toilet problems, or if they have any connection to what happens with the toilet??

    The reason is because I have a portable washing machine that I fill from the shower pipe (after removing shower head of course), and i drain it into the shower drain. I just washed a sweater that shed lint everywhere as it drained, and probably clogged the drain. THIS is when my toilet stopped emptying completely.

    Is THE SHOWER DRAIN the likely culprit for my slow and incomplete toilet flush? If so, I can skip the other solutions, and concentrate on the shower drain as the source of my problem. I have not seen any reference to other bathroom drains. Thanks!

  • klem1
    7 years ago

    As unlikly as it is,the evidence point's to sweater lint clogging main sewer line. If that is the case,you need a plumber. I do not reccomend untrained people operate machines capiable of clearing 4" drains.

  • usaford01
    7 years ago

    Hopefully someone can give me an idea as to what the solution to my problem is...

    I've lived in this house for over ten years and haven't had any issues with my sewer drain until recently. I replaced the toilet and main drain when I bought the house.

    Recently my bathroom sink started having a gurgling sound when the toilet was flushed or the water drained from the tub. I checked the drain line and can't find any clog or issue. I even pulled the toilet and ran a sewer snake from that point out as far as I can. I even put a garden hose down the line and water runs free through the drain line. No back up or gurgling at all. So I put a new wax ring on and reinstalled the toilet. Everything was fine for about three days and right back to the gurgling. Also noticed that water would run out of the vent pipe (which comes off the main line and out the back wall of the house but doesn't go up,just straight out). Again I ran a sewer snake and garden hose and can find no clog or blockage. Is my toilet the culprit or ?? Septic is not full. Thanks for any info!

  • klem1
    7 years ago

    "Also noticed that water would run out of the vent pipe (which comes off the main line and out the back wall of the house but doesn't go up,just straight out)."

    We might be able to help if we knew what you are talking about. Sound's like water is coming flowing from a clean-out. Brush up on your plumbing terms so at least you call things by their correct name,come back and tell us what "is actually happening".

  • Pattie Hartman
    7 years ago

    Just wanted everyone to know I solved my problem. Was it sweater lint? No. Was is serious? No. IACCIDENTALLY PUT MY HAND OVER THAT SMALL HOLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TOILET WHEN IT WAS FLUSHING, AND IT INCREASED THE SUCTION OR PRESSURE OR WHATEVER!!!!

    It never had a problem after that.... Why, oh why, was that so hard?? This has to be something that someone here must have known about!!

    I can't possibly be the smartest one on this thread!!!

    Why was that so easy? Why did it work? Why did no one ever suggest that??

  • richpepper
    7 years ago

    my toilet does not flush completely, I have tried most of the things recommended here and cleaning the holes on underside of bowl seemed to help a little, but still not a complete flush. I noticed that air bubbles come out of the flush valve when the flapper lifts. Is that normal, I looked at a second toilet in the house and didn't see bubbles.

  • Marc Roffman
    7 years ago

    Still something in the holes section. Try snaking a small wire from the rear to the front on both sides. Did you use a blue tab with a wrapper around it recently in the tank?

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Pattie - No one ever suggested covering the siphon jet because it would be a distinctly bad idea. I can assure you that that was not what solved problem. Perhaps you knocked some debris loose from the siphon jet while doing whatever you were doing with your hand that far in the toilet.

  • Pattie Hartman
    7 years ago

    No, no, I didn't stick my hand in that HOLE. Can't remember what I was doing, but my hand blocked the flow for a second (can't remember I that was intentional) and I'm pretty sure it was when it was flushing. So, you're saying it's not that simple, huh? Well, I musta got lucky then cuz it seemed to "reinvigorate" the pressure, and the flush finally continued till bowl was empty, which I couldn't get it to do before.

    Heres one other symptom it WAS doing, the water from that hole was low pressure and it always had small air bubbles when it pushed in the water. It didn't gurgle, I don't think.

    So, you think it just happened to unlodge something, even though that's not how it's supposed to fix it? Can't think of anything else I tried EXCEPT for that. I was amazed, thought it simply needed more SUCTION power or something.

  • Pattie Hartman
    7 years ago

    And you know, I had checked all the holes, and that one at the bottom too for deposits, cuz I live in the desert where that's so common, but nothing!

  • mdfjr57
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Having the swirling water problem for a long time.

    Ok so I'm halfway out the door to buy wax ring for my toilet. Figured something was jammed ( had this problem on another toilet) so I was going to remove and check toilet . Ahh, let me check google first, which brought me here. So to make a long story longer.......I read almost all these posts.,some said maybe there is a clog. So I try the dump water into bowl test, hey it went down.Nice.

    So next I check the vent hole across from the "dump" hole looks OK. Put my fingers in and to my surprise blocked like cement. And the waters cold too! Also some of the smaller rim holes also packed.

    Go get some nails , screws , hammer and stated chipping away. Ofcourse I emptied that cold water first!

    Surprise Surprise flushing like a champ...Wife will be happy

    Thank You net , Google , and especially who ever started this thread way back when and of course you guys that have the answers!!!

    Now onto the ( no hot water in the washing machine ) search! Any ideas?

  • smwidmer
    6 years ago

    Our toilet is about 45 years old. We have also had the issue of the water
    swirling but not emptying completely now for a few months. When we pour a bucket of water into the toilet,
    it flushes fine. The bolts that hold the toilet to the floor have rusted out,
    so it could be possible that the wax seal and flange may not have a tight
    seal. Could this be the cause of our toilet
    problem?

  • klem1
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    "Could this be the cause of our toilet problem?"

    Not a chance. Read this thread start to finish and I'll bet the answer is there.

  • Sally Smith
    5 years ago

    Had to create acct just to contribute and thank everyone who added great advice yet I am thinking everyone may be gone by now?


    Ive been working on this "swirling toilet" for 3 days now constantly. I've watched 20 u tube vids all on this matter but this forum gave me the most help. I've read every single comment and want to thank Marc and Jody, Alice in wonderland, John. You guys saved my sanity. I did the bucket test after 6 months of slow flushes. Last couple weeks I've had to plunge my poop down the drain. Yuk! I did learn two things on u tube that I didn't read here that I want to share. The vertical pipe in tank that lets water in. Get a funnel and heat up some vinegar and pour it down this tube or pipe. It will immediately take the vinegar to the rim track (I'm ashamed to admit that I never knew there are holes under rim where water comes out in the bowl)! Those little holes were SO clogged with calcium deposits. Thanks Marc for continuing to tell everyone to clean them out. So let that warm vinegar sit in rim for couple hours. Then take 16 or 18 gauge wire or use a brad nail and start reamimg out those little holes. Marc is right; the two in front are most important and were MOST clogged on my toilet. You can soak toilet paper in the vinegar and set it on the holes. It will stay there to help soften the hard mineral deposits. Keep at it. Use wire and keep at it. It's tedious but you'll have a break thru and be pleased. Then the small hole in bottom of bowl is another place the calcium collected. Forced all the water out of bowl with bucket of water then used a towel to sop up remaining water. I bought 3 gallons of white vinegar over 3 days time. Heat up several cups of vinegar and pour into empty bowl and let it sit to soften the calcium deposits inside the small hole in bottom of bowl and the other larger hole down there (not hotter than 120 degrees or you could crack the bowl). Both were SO calcified that I would have never known if not for this forum. Take a flat head screw driver and start chipping off the calcified gunk. I got serious chunks that came off and used my heavier wire (like 12 gauge or a wire hanger may work) for the small round hole. Stick your hand into these holes (disposable gloves on hands) and you will feel the sediment. It's rough and when it comes off its like a light brown color. Once it starts coming off then you won't stop because before that you're afraid you're going to break or scratch something. Seriously, when I finished and stuck my hand into both holes you can feel smooth porcelain vs the rough calcium. I flushed and all these pebbles of calcium flew upward and I knew the jet hole was finally opened up. Man, I cannot tell you guys what a relief and how long and tedious this has been!!!! Wanted to add my story in order to thank the previous commenters and encourage others to try and do it yourself. And like Alice, I do NOT wear a tiara waiting for a man to come along and help tho I do appreciate it when they offer. Thx everyone.

  • Michael Ballard
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sally we are still here. I worked in building maintenance in the nineties, and if we snaked /plunged and the toilet still wouldn't flush correctly we believed it was a foreign object in the bowl, so we replaced it. Obviously that wasn't the case every-time

  • Marc Roffman
    5 years ago

    Personally, I am pretty handy, so if I was sure the problem was that much calcium, I would replace the toilet. Some people would rather clean it out, and keep a vintage toilet though.

  • Sally Smith
    5 years ago

    Hey Guys, can't believe you're still here! This thread started in 2012 but it's the most helpful thing I came across so thank you!


    i did want to keep my toilet only because it matches the sink in design. No biggy as I was one day away from buying a new one. The date under the tank lid says 1994 so I guess it qualifies as "vintage"? LOL


    Do either of you have a special maintenece ingredient that you recommend to keep this from building up again? I'm thinking water softeners like borax or baking soda or maybe there is a toilet cleaner that keeps the sediment from reacurring? I'm also a little concerned about the rocks that went down the drain when I got that jet thing opened up? Man, they blew upward since there was hardly any water in bowl! Then they went down the drain. Hope they don't clog up the drain? It flushes like I can't even remember it ever flushing this strong. I'm just happy to have a functioning toilet again AND proud that I stayed on it and got it done myself. Learning experience. Holes under the rim? Seriously, never knew they were there.

  • klem1
    5 years ago

    "Holes under the rim? Seriously, never knew they were there."

    Not suprising,afterall who stick's their head in toilets? (:

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Do either of you have a special maintenance ingredient that you recommend to keep this from building up again? Yes - soft water. Adding chemical water softeners won't work unless your water is not very hard and you devise a feeder system to inject proportionally to water use.

  • Marc Roffman
    5 years ago

    Personally in New York City, I never had the calcium problem. Mine was the paper wrapped around the cheap blue tablets I put in the tank, went into the rim and clogged the two front holes. I think calcium may be a problem where you use well water or you live in the mountains? Who has calcium buildup, and where do you live, and do you use well water. We all get notified by email whenever there is a new comment on here.

  • Sally Smith
    5 years ago

    I live in Arizona. Water is very alkaline. City water, no well. When I bought this house there was a water softener system but it leaked and flooded out my closet so I had it removed. I was young and didn't think it through plus it always felt like the soap was never rinsing off when showering. I should probably re-consider my decision because I'm certain this hard water is affecting the pipes, faucets, shower heads, toilets (obviously) and who knows what else?


    Another thing I thought of, after the fact, was about a year or so ago I bought a new device for toilet cleaning. I tossed out my old cruddy brush and started using this handle with a snap on scouring pad (size of a silver dollar). I thought it would better clean the surface of the bowl not even realizing there were holes under the rim that the toilet brush likely got into when cleaning? Not sure if that made a difference but I tossed that scouring pad device out and have two new brushes. I'm determined to never let this sediment build up again. In fact, tomorrow I'm cleaning the toilets again. I'm going to make sure I run the brush up high where the rim holes are located. Ok. Enuff. I'm getting OCD just thinking about what I've been going thru this past week. But I'm grateful to have a fully functional toilet!!!

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Getting a new water softener installed might be the ticket. Everyone has water softeners around here. When we bought our house two years ago, the water softener wasn't functioning, and was broken. We needed to replace a shower valve, which was almost impossible due to our hard water seizing the valve to the pipe. Took almost 6 hours, and was a nightmare job. We promptly got a new water softener. Hard water can can really do a number on plumbing over time, and a softener is a great inexpensive investment.

  • PRO
    Handyman, Inc
    5 years ago

    Just fixed my toilet! Thank you all for the information. I love the internet!

  • Donald Shade
    3 years ago

    I chipped away the large hole across from the discharge hole. It was very, very clogged (Hard Water Deposit).Unfortunately, I used a screwdriver to chip away at it, used too much force and broke through the porcelain and had to buy a new toilet for $150. But that clogged hole was definitely the cause of the problem. Thanks to everyone who took the time to post regarding this problem. Could not have diagnosed it without you.

  • Kathleen Barlett
    3 years ago

    I’m guessing the hole in the front of the toilet bowl is a jet that forces water towards the drain hole. If it’s blocked with mineral deposits it won’t flush properly and water just swirls in the bowl and eventually drains.

  • Artandio Artando
    3 years ago

    That hole is called the siphon jet opening. If the toilet just swirls but won't flush properly, then something probably went through the siphon jet opening and is in that cavity. I flushed some freeze-dried salmon dog treats and this happened to me. One of them made it through that hole. You need to put on a latex glove and put your finger into that hole. You will probably feel a foreign object in there. You will need to coax the foreign object out of there with your finger while the toilet is flushing.

  • Dawn Wiggins
    2 years ago

    Ah, thank you, all! I also had a clogged hole across from the discharge hole. Used a coat hanger to chip away at the mineral deposits and shocked at what came out of there. Flushes like a champ now!

  • HU-685780115
    2 years ago

    Im glad to get such a useful information , but won if it wi help me . Its about tankless toilet in the building . When I press to flush nothing happens just noise , but no water coming . I sometimes have to press like 50 times and only than it flushes and sometimes even that does’t work . Its very frustrating and Im afraid to use toilet . Help please .

  • klem1
    2 years ago

    Well I can tell you that your problem has nothing in common with the one in this thread. The handle is inexpensive and simple to replace if you want to give that a try. The diaphram cost about $20 and the only problem you might have is getting the cap off to change the diahpram.

  • HU-685780115
    2 years ago

    Klem1 the handle works just fine .

  • klem1
    2 years ago

    In that case you are good to go. I was lead to believe the handle was hardly working at all.

  • PHILIP KLINEDINST
    2 years ago

    Thanks to all of you who commented on this thread. Your knowledge and expertise saved me from increased frustration in dealing with my American Standard commode. I was able to chip away at calcification (or whatever it was) in both the jet hole and the waste hole. I didn't realize it was there until I took your suggestion and felt around.

    I was about ready to junk the bowl and replace it with a Toto (which I have in another bathroom and have never had a problem with).

    thanks again