Wednesday 9 January 2013

fixing a toilet that has stopped flushing

 When you have to pull the toilet flush handle several times to get it to flush, or if it simply refuses to flush at all, there's a good chance that the problem lies in the syphon diaphragm. This is a flexible piece of plastic that pushes water up the syphon tube, then flexes to allow the full contents of the cistern to flow through the syphon. The picture above shows a broken diaphragm that I removed from a toilet. That was one that I made out of one of those plastic document wallets, last year. So it didn't last very long. Mind you, the original diaphragms don't last very long either; so rather than replace the entire assembly (you can't just buy the diaphragms, of course!), I wondered what to replace it with.

What we want is something that's both durable and flexible. The heaviest polythene I could find was the sort used for damp proof courses; but even that doesn't seem particularly good. So here's what I did.

I took a piece of polythene (from a roll I got from a builder's merchant, to put up temporary double glazing one cold winter). I doubled it up, then doubled it again. So there are four thicknesses of polythene.

I sandwiched it in brown paper, then placed it on a flat board and ironed it

The iron was at a medium heat setting.

Then put a pile of books on the paper (to stop it crinkling) and allow it to cool off . If you try to peel the brown paper off too soon, the polythene will stick to it.

Here's the welded polythene.

I used the old diaphragm as a pattern and cut out the new one

...and put everything back together. Success!

Now, let's see how long this one lasts!


  1. Our flush was finally destroyed by a christmas guest who happily slunk away leaving the cistern gushing full blast. Better than the one twenty years ago who decided to play with the bidet and discovered that the plumber had stupidly connected it to the mains supply at full pressure and they walked away with water hitting the ceiling. I know bad choice of guests!

    My new fix is one which could shut down a whole lot of power stations. When we need a flush first push down on blue coat hanger until desired level of water, second lift Champagne, well Cava cork to flush. As you can imagine this limits the energy wasted in raising cold mains water above input temperature and stops possibility of condensation.

    The bit I need to replace is also not available and rubbish new plastic assemblies are between £25 & £34 and require the whole cistern to be removed to fit! This has only lasted about seven years but we have one by the back for which is nearly 120 years old and still works fine...

    I feel so much better after a good rant, thanks.

  2. Is there no end to your talents?

  3. We had a toilet for 25 years with no problems, now a brand new double flush seems to have problem after problem. This is a useful post which I will bear in mind for future reference.

  4. friends used to run a small country house hotel on their smallholding..the guest from hell popped a small piece of soap into the cistern...= non-flushing loo.

  5. Sounds like the makings of a good film, you loo, Caroline. (I actually sat through some pretty dreadful vids on Youtube when looking for an animated explication of How A Flush Works, to post on here)... how awful, your guests! Did they slink away never to be heard of again, or did they pop up again as though nothing had happened?

    My areas of ignorance are big enough to graze herds of wildebeests on, Bella!

    New bits just don't last very long at all, do they, Anji? -the odd flush things with a flap that lifts up to let the water flush seem a bit more reliable than the syphon sort, but even so... if this welded material proves durable, it might be the best answer.

    How nasty, Gwynneth. It can't be nice to be at the mercy of the fates when you open your doors to strangers. Mind you, the odd things that passsengers on the ferries would get up to in the cabins could be outragous, sometimes, especially when they got out of their heeds on cheap booze. But that's another story (and a pretty unsavoury one!)