Wondering How a Toilet Works? Here's the Simple Explanation

You use it every day, but have you ever wondered how a toilet works? Read on to find out. If your toilet isn't working contact a reliable plumber now!


How a Toilet Works

A toilet gets rid of our waste by flushing it away with water, down through a drainpipe connected to the inside of your toilet bowl.

If you live in an urban centre, your waste is delivered to a wastewater treatment plant through a system of pipes. If you are in a rural location, your waste usually goes into a septic system.

To better understand how a toilet works, it's helpful to first learn the various parts. Your toilet is made of two basic sections: the toilet tank and the toilet bowl.


Your toilet is a very clever invention with very few moving parts - Image source: Mcgill Mcgill [CC BY-SA 2.5


Parts of Your Toilet Inside the Tank

Here is a breakdown and a diagram of the main parts located inside your toilet tank. These are the main components that make your toilet work. The parts include:

  • Handle

  • Piston

  • Siphon

  • Float ball

  • Float rod

  • Inlet valve

  • Inlet tube


Your toilet tank contains all of the working parts of your toilet - Image Source: Mcgill Mcgill [CC BY-SA 2.5


How a Toilet Works - 3 Simple Steps


Watch how a flapper toilet works


1. You Press the Handle

You toilet handle is attached to a lever on the inside of your tank, which is attached to either a piston at the bottom of your tank or a chain that is connected to a flapper.

Piston Style Toilets: When you press the handle on the outside of your toilet tank, the lever pulls up the piston and forces some water through the siphon. This causes a suction action to start in the siphon.

The rest of the water in your tank is then quickly sucked up and then goes down the U-shaped siphon and into your toilet bowl. Once the water is gone, the piston drops down into position.

Flapper Style Toilets: Flapper style toilets have a flapper ball that plugs a hole in the bottom of your tank known as the flush valve. When the flapper is lifted, the water in your tank quickly escapes down into your toilet bowl.


In a flapper toilet, the flapper is lifted up and releases the water from the tank when the handle is pushed down


2. Your Tank Empties

The water from the tank travels through a short pipe that leads to the toilet bowl. It quickly swirls around the rim of your bowl and down the sides and then out through the drainpipe attached to the bottom of your toilet. This fast swirling action cleans away any waste material that is in the bowl.

A small amount of clean water coming from the tank will remain at the bottom of your toilet bowl at the end of the flushing cycle. This happens because your toilet's drain is designed with a "S" bend. This bend traps some of the water after your flush and effectively stops odours from rising up from your drainpipe.


As your tank empties, the float sinks to the bottom of the tank - Image Source: Mcgill Mcgill.Mcgill at en.wikibooks [CC BY-SA 2.5]


3. Your Tank Refills with Water

When the water from your tank empties, your float ball sinks to the bottom of your tank. Once your toilet tank is empty, the inlet valve coming into your tank begins to let water flow back into your tank to fill it up again.

As the water is filling up your tank, the float ball is pushed upwards by the rising level of the water. The float rod is attached to the float ball at one end and the inlet valve on the other end. As the tank is filling with water, the rising of the float ball lifts and float arm up and the rod presses against the inlet valve.

When the tank is completely full of water, the rod will be in a position that pushes hard enough against the inlet valve to turn off the water. This is a very important step as it prevents your tank from flooding over.


The swirling action of the water cleans the waste away - Image source: Mcgill Mcgill [CC BY-SA 2.5


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