Toilets make noise. Some when they are in use. Some when filling. Some when flushing. Flushing and filling kind of go together; so here are 8 ways to quiet your toilet flush.
8 Ways to Quiet Your Toilet Flush
Along with all of the other obnoxious noises that could come from your bathroom, the sound of a toilet flushing not only signals that you have completed your business–the noise of some of them can wake everyone in the house. One, or more, of the following suggestions will help. (For more information on quieting the complete bathroom please see our article How to Soundproof a Bathroom.)
1) Keep it Clean
No, I am not talking about the bowl. The operating system in the tank and bowl is quite often your noise culprit. If you live in an area with hard water, or rusty water, or both, you will need to keep the tank as clean as possible. Those undissolved solids (as they call them now-a-days) will gum up everything–valve, pipes, flapper, chain, and the holes under the bowl rim. Constricted water lines and openings almost invariably make more noise because the pressure forces water through holes that are too small.
Pour 1/2 cup of CLR into the tank every month and follow the directions. This should keep everything working well. It will also extend the life of working parts and the toilet itself. If the holes in the rim get plugged, it is almost impossible to get the bowl clean because the whole water channel in the rim is probably constricted with residue. If you notice one part (or more) of the bowl not getting rinsed, some of your rim holes are probably plugged. If this is happening, I would double up on the CLR. Not twice as much, but two treatments one after the other weekly, until things are running properly again.
Note: If your tank looks like the picture below, you might want to use way less than half a cup for your first and second treatment. 1/2 cup will turn the tank into a foam producing monster that drizzles ‘stuff’ all over the floor. This is another case where more is not better.
Rusty Toilet Tank
Toilet Tank Lid with Deposits Around Edge
2) Tighten and Seal
Toilet tanks, toilet lids and seats, and the bowl itself are all mechanically fastened. It does no harm to grab a screw driver and/or wrench about once a year and make sure things are tight. Almost anything that is loose can rattle or leak. (Note: Not too tight. A broken tank is useless.)
Generally, tank lids do not fit perfectly and will allow noise to escape every time the tank fills. Add a decent weatherstrip to seal the lid. Remove the lid, clean and dry the area receiving Foam Insulation Tape (1/2″ wide x 3/8″ thick x 6′ long), peel off the backing and apply it to the lid. This product is waterproof so moisture in the tank will not affect it. (Note: You might want to use thinner tape–1/8″ thick– if you are concerned about the lid not fitting properly.)
3) Replace or Adjust the Fill Valve
When you have to replace the fill valve, make sure you get a ‘quiet fill flush valve’. The incoming water outlet is below the level of water in the tank to mute the sound of incoming water. They eliminate the trickling water sound of a valve that does not shut off and the high pressure spray noise of a valve with too much pressure and not enough opening.
Note: Start your cleaning regimen within a week of installing the new valve–and stick to it. The valve will last longer, the noise should not re-appear, and life will be better.
To be honest, the first time I tried to adjust a fill valve was also the last time. A new one costs less than $20.00, the old one has been in there since Mick Jagger was a pup, you probably have to turn off the the water, and clean the slime off things, only to find the adjustment screw won’t move. Just get a new one.
4) Adjust Water Flow
Water flow to the valve can be adjusted to reduce pressure. The amount of water coming through a half inch pipe is being forced through a much smaller opening in the valve. Just like your water hose–it will spray harder at the outlet. Your toilet should have a shut-off valve in the water line inside the bathroom. By removing the tank lid, then flushing (probably a few times)–you can adjust the pressure of the water entering the tank by opening or closing the shut-off valve (a bit at a time) while listening to the noise water spray makes in the tank while re-filling.
5) Water Hammer
Water hammer occurs when a downstream valve in your water line is closed suddenly. Some toilet valves are great for going from 60 to 0 almost instantly. Water flowing in the pipe suddenly has no where to go, causing a pressure wave. Pipes will vibrate and/or expand as they try to absorb the pressure surge. They will bang against the studs, or anything else close by (like the heat duct from our furnace to our bedroom floor vent). For way more than you will ever need to know about water hammer please see Water Hammer – Wikipedia.
If the water pipe is accessible, make sure it is securely attached to the framing every 16″ – 18″ with J-Hooks for Pex piping or Copper Tube Strapping. Use acoustic caulking to seal the gap where it passes through the wall or floor into your bathroom. If the pipe is touching any heat vent, separate them using duct strapping. (The Flanking Noise coming through our bedroom heat vent started about 30 feet away under the main bath.)
As noted above, adjusting the water flow through the re-fill valve and/or the waterline shut-off valve should also reduce water hammer.
6) Toilet Soundproofing
Turns out that those seat covers and tank covers your grandmother used to make (or buy) to mask the utilitarian toilet worked quite well for soundproofing–although I am sure she did not consider that. Toilet Seat & Tank Cover Sets made of velvet/sponge/leather will provide the same type of sound absorbing qualities as a good soundproofing blanket. (See our article ‘Soundproof Blankets for Windows‘). If you buy a set with a seat cover, it will even make the business part of toilets quieter.
7) Replace the Toilet
Replacing the toilet seems a bit extreme until you give some thought to other positives. If it is older than Mick Jagger, it could be using more than 5 gallons of water per flush. A new American Standard Dual Flush toilet only uses 0.92/1.28 gallons/flush–so it should fill in a quarter of the time, saving water and money. All of the parts are new. You can keep it clean right from the beginning. Replacing a toilet is not brain surgery–theoretically. Two bolts and a wax ring, and a water line. And you are done.
That would be about when you find it has been leaking for years, the floor is rotten and you have to pull up tile to cut it out, and your copper or iron pipe is corroded, and your drain pipe is 3″ diameter, and how are you going to make it fit. Start early, just in case some of these challenges are waiting for you.
8) Call a Professional
Although replacing the toilet tank, or the complete unit, is not difficult, if you–or your wife–are not comfortable with you doing it, call a plumber. Most of them prefer to supply and install, rather than provide labor only. This will probably be a little more pricey, but the upside is that there will be no argument about who is responsible if something goes wrong. You did not supply anything.
Generally they will have a showroom with the lines that they carry, or will direct you to the showroom of a supplier. You can choose what you would like, and they will install and warranty it. While you have him/her in your house, it is possible that she/he can take a quick look at any other plumbing concerns you may have–and either give you a quote for repairs, or put your mind at ease that there are no issues.
Toilet Replacement Suggestions
I am not a toilet connoisseur, but I will mention a couple of quiet toilets that come up in most “Best Of” searches. Make sure you know what you want and need. Some of these are a little pricey, compared to the American Standard mentioned above.
- Toto Ultramax II. Single flush. 1.0 gallons/flush.
- Woodbridge T-0001. Dual flush. 1.0/1.6 gallon/flush. Available in 3 colors. Non-white fairly reasonable
- Kohler K-3987-47. Dual flush. 1.1/1.6 Gallon/flush. Available in 3 colors. Non-white gets a little pricey.
All of these products along with the American Standard are manufactured to save water, and fill quickly and quietly.
Toilet flushing noise was not a problem when I was a kid because you cannot flush in an outhouse. And the other noises only annoyed bugs, birds, mice, and the odd skunk–who did not appreciate the competition.