If high water bills are a concern, then it’s worth checking the toilet for leaks. While it’s easy to notice a leaky faucet, leaks in a toilet are a bit more inconspicuous, and that’s why homeowners are unaware of them.

What Causes a Leak in the First Place?

There are plenty of things that can cause a leak in a toilet. This can make it a bit tricky to determine why a toilet is leaking. First, it could be that the toilet flapper (also known as the stopper) is worn out or broken. It could also be that the opening beneath the flapper is damaged. There could also be damage to the gasket under the flush valve, or a crack in the tank’s overflow tube. Yet another reason could be damage or signs of wear on the refill valve.

Identifying a Toilet Leak

There are some telltale signs of a leaky toilet, so keep an eye out for these scenarios. One is having to jiggle the handle up and down to stop the toilet from running. Another is having to hold the handle down so that the water tank can empty itself. If this is the case, it could be that the chain connecting the flush lever to the flapper is not taut enough and may need readjusting.

Yet another sign of a leaky toilet is if the toilet makes unusual sounds or starts running even without being flushed. Also, there could be an issue with the refill valve if the tank’s overflow tube is covered with water. Water that runs down the interior side of the bowl long after flushing is another sign of a leak.

Unfortunately, someone may have a leaky toilet even if they don’t spot any of these signs. It’s not always obvious that there is a problem, which is why it’s wise to regularly test for toilet leaks.

The Dye Test

This test can be done at home to test for “silent” toilet leaks or leaks that aren’t obvious. Silent leaks can go undetected for months, causing a home’s water bill to soar. The dye test can help homeowners spot trouble before they end up spending big bucks on excessive water use.

To do the dye test, take the lid off the water tank and carefully place it on a towel laying flat on the floor.

Then, make sure there is only clear water in the tank. Some of those toilet bowl or tank cleaners that hang over the edge can color or tint the water. For this test, everything needs to be clear.

Once the water is ready, grab some food coloring, or even some instant coffee or brightly-colored powdered drink mix. Place a few drops of food coloring (or a few sprinkles of the mix) into the toilet tank so that the water takes on a distinct hue. It needs to be noticeable for the test to work.

Now, all that’s left to do is wait about 30 minutes, making sure that no one uses the bathroom during this time. After 30 minutes, check the toilet to see if there is any colored water in the bowl. If so, there is a leak. A normally-functioning toilet should keep the water in the tank until the toilet is flushed. Seeing colored water in the bowl without flushing is a telltale sign that water is leaking from the tank into the bowl.

Finding the Culprit

To find out what part of the tank is responsible for the leak, there’s another test to try. The pencil test entails marking the waterline by drawing a line on the inside of the tank. Next, turn the water supply off and wait for another 30 minutes. If the water level is now below the pencil mark, then there is a problem with the flush valve. If the water level remained the same, it’s an issue with the refill valve.

Replacing the refill valve is relatively easy, but a problem with the flush valve is a bit different. Even with a float ball or flapper replacement, there may still be leaks. In this case, it may be that the gasket beneath the flush valve is broken. This requires dismantling the toilet to replace and seal the gasket.

To be sure where the problem lies, it is best to do an overnight test. To do this, shut off the main water supply before bedtime. In the morning, check the water level in the tank. If it is almost empty, the problem is with the gasket. If there is about an inch or so of water left in the tank, it is because of a damaged seat, flapper, or float ball.

Hopefully, this clears up any confusion about leaky toilets and “silent” leaks. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so be sure to regularly test the tank’s water level.