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Toilet Water Rises Then Slowly Drains: Causes and Repairs

A toilet bowl should drain and fill again within a few seconds. If your toilet is working slowly, you can try a few things to fix it.

If toilet water rises then slowly drains, a clog is the most likely reason. There are different methods you can try to unclog your toilet before calling a pro. You should also check the tank and flushing mechanism.

Toilet Water Rises Then Slowly Drains

Unclogging Your Toilet

A clogged toilet is the most likely reason for toilet water that rises then slowly drains. In fact, 20% of homeowners deal with clogged toilets regularly.

A clog can result from using too much toilet paper, passing stools, or flushing objects like wipes, Q-tips, or feminine hygiene products. You’ll have to call a professional to clear stubborn clogs, but there are a few things you can try yourself.

Keep Flushing

You can wait for the water level to go down in the bowl and flush again. Older toilets can flush as much as seven gallons simultaneously while newer models only use 1.6 gallons.

As more water goes through the drain, it might eventually dislodge the clog.

Hot Water

Flushing some warm water can help dissolve stools or toilet paper clogging the toilet. Wait for the bowl to drain completely, and use a cup to fill it with some hot water from a tap. Flush, and wait a few minutes for the hot water to start working. Flush again and add more hot water if needed.

Don’t use boiling water! It can damage PVC pipes and seals.

Liquid Soap

Pouring some dish soap or liquid soap down your toilet can help objects move along the pipes. If you’re in a pinch, you can use some shampoo.

All you have to do is wait for the bowl to drain, add a few drops of soap, and flush. If it doesn’t work, add more soap and hot water. Wait ten to fifteen minutes to let the soap and hot water work on the clog.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Did you ever make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar? This popular science fair project works thanks to the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar.

These two ingredients react and create carbon dioxide gas. You’ll also get sodium acetate, a common cleaning agent.

Carbon dioxide gas is dangerous to breathe, but this reaction can help clear a clog. When carbon dioxide gas forms, the reaction creates bubbles and pressure. The pressure isn’t sufficient to damage your plumbing, but it can be enough to get a clog to move.

Here’s how you can use baking soda and vinegar if your toilet water rises then slowly drains:

  • Wait for the bowl to drain.
  • Pour a cup of baking soda down the toilet and flush.
  • Mix two cups of white vinegar with a cup of hot water.
  • Pour this mixture down your toilet and flush.
  • Wait ten minutes for the mixture to work, and try flushing again.
Baking Soda and Vinegar


Plunging your toilet is one of the best ways to get rid of a clog. A plunger works by creating a seal over the flange opening. When you pull the plunger, the seal creates pressure and sucks water in. When you push on the plunger, the seal pushes the water down the pipe. Rocking back and forth should create enough movement to get the clog to move.

Here are a few tips to plunge more effectively:

  • Leave enough water to have the plunger completely immersed.
  • Create a tight seal by choosing a plunger that fits the drain opening.
  • Plunging can take a while. You might have to plunge for a few minutes before clearing the clog.
  • You can alternate plunging and flushing.
  • Plunging can get messy. Wear some rubber gloves and protect the floor around your toilet with an old towel.


Drain snakes are a convenient tool for cleaning clogged pipes. A snake is a long metal cable that you can insert in a toilet or sink drain. As the drain snake goes further in the pipe, it will push the clog, but you can also use the snake to hook a solid object and pull it out.

  • There are a few things to keep in mind before using a toilet snake:
  • Choose a model with a rubber coating. A metal snake can damage your toilet bowl.
  • You’ll have to angle the drain snake to get past the P-trap.
  • Don’t push if you feel resistance. Instead, try hooking the object clogging the line.


For homeowners with hard water, calcium deposits can become a recurring plumbing issue. Hard water is the result of high levels of calcium and magnesium in your drinking water.

It’s a common issue for homes with wells, but it can also happen if you live in an area where the soil is rich in minerals.

These minerals react with soap and cleaning agents to form soap scum. These hard deposits can coat the inside of your plumbing pipes and appliances. Deposits aren’t common in toilets since your toilet water typically doesn’t come in contact with soap. However, some cleaning products can cause these hard deposits to form.

If you have hard water and suspect calcium deposits are restricting the water flow of your toilet, your best option is to use a descaling solution.

You can pour a descaling solution into the tank and bowl and let it sit for a few hours. You can also add a descaling cartridge to the tank. A plumber can use more effective chemicals to descale your pipes.

Possible Plumbing Issues

A clogged toilet is by far the most likely reason if toilet water rises then slowly drains. However, these plumbing problems can cause slow flushing.

Fix the Flushing Mechanism

An old flushing mechanism can limit how much water your tank gets. If the tank water level is low, the toilet will not get enough water to flush.

Open the tank by lifting the cover. If you have a dual-flush toilet, pop the flushing button and remove the screw that holds the cover down.

Look at the tank fill up. How high does the water get?

  • Here’s how you can check the mechanism:
  • Test the handle. Does it cause the flap to lift?
  • Is the float rising when the water level goes up?
  • Does the float cause the intake valve to open and close as it should?
  • Watch this video to learn more about the mechanism.

You might have to replace the valve and float if they are old. Sometimes, reconnecting the float to the valve can fix the problem.

You should also look at the flap. The flap connects the tank to the bowl. A leaking flap can cause a low water level in the tank. If the flap looks old, replace it with a new one to create a tight seal.

Fix the Flushing Mechanism

Check the Tank and Water Intake Line

A slow toilet can result from a low water level in the tank. Open the tank and look on the side. You’ll see a fill valve that controls the flow of water.

Check the fill valve for clogs or signs of damage. If the flow seems slow, the water intake line might have a clog in it.

You can fix the line with a few simple tools:

  • Shut off the water with the valve next to the toilet. This video will show you how.
  • Use pliers to remove the nut connecting the nut to the toilet
  • Use a wrench to disconnect the bolt between the line and the water valve.
  • Let the water intake line soak in some hot water to remove debris that could clog it.
  • Reinstall the intake line or replace it with a new one.

This method works on new toilets. Older homes often have galvanized or copper lines. You can remove a clog by cutting these lines, but it’s best to call a professional.

Blocked Vent

Did you know your toilet has a vent? Many people don’t because you can’t see this vent.

A clogged plumbing vent can cause slow drainage due to negative pressure. It’s difficult to check this vent yourself, but you might hear some unusual sounds coming from the pipe. The vent is typically attached to the after-the-closet elbow that connects your toilet flange to the drain line.

You can try clearing the vent with a snake, but it’s best to have a plumber inspect the vent and clean it if needed since it will be difficult to access.

When to Call a Professional

If you have toilet water that rises then slowly drains, you should try the methods listed above to unclog your toilet. Don’t hesitate to combine these methods. For instance, plunging will work better if you use the hot water method first or add a small quantity of soap to the toilet bowl.

If you go through these methods and still can’t get your toilet to fill up and flush normally, your best option is to call a plumber. A professional can use more advanced methods, including specialized tools and chemicals, to clear a clogged pipe.

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