We use a toilet flush every day. Sometimes, even multiple times a day. Yet, it is only when our flush stars malfunctioning, and we are unable to put away the contents of our toilet bowl, that we realize the importance of this crucial yet straightforward device in our life.

If you were hit by this very reality right now, because you just unloaded yourself in the toilet and then tried to flush it, only to realize that your toilet swirls but won’t flush, then you are in the right place.

In this article, we have tried to list almost every possible cause of the problem mentioned above and have also included the solutions that can be tried at home. We have also mentioned when it will be a better choice to call a plumber rather than getting your own hands dirty, like literally.

So, if your toilet bowl has unwanted content in it right now that won’t go away, then I suggest you stick around for 10 minutes, give this article a thorough read, and you might just overcome this seemingly impossible and gross obstacle.

Possible Causes and Their Solutions

Low Water Level

One of the most probable causes behind the fact that your toilet swirls but will not flush can be the lack of water that flows into your toilet bowl when you flush it. A lot of water is required to flush a toilet successfully, and if the right amount is not delivered every time you flush, then the contents of your toilet bowl will never disappear. There can be several reasons for this issue. Below we have listed the most common ones and how to deal with them.

Tank Not Filling Completely

Flush tanks hold the water, which is required for flushing. The tank is always marked by the manufacturer from the inside to indicate the minimum level up to which it must be filled to have sufficient water for a successful flush.

The mark is usually an inch below the top of the overflow tube. However, it might happen that due to some reason, the tank is not filling up to that mark. It can be because you might have manually set it to fill below that mark, to save water.

Also, it can happen due to a fault in the mechanism which regulates the water level inside the tank. Usually, a light rubber ball is used for this purpose, which rises with the water level, subsequently closing the water inlet of the tank. Also, in some tanks, a floating cup ballcock is used to regulate the water level.

Solution: If your tank has a floating ball, then all you need to do is bend the rod of the ball upwards. The more you bend it, the more water it will let in. If in case, you have a floating cup ballcock inside your tank, you will have to adjust the float adjustment screw to let more water in.

Broken Flapper

A flapper is a rubber lid that acts as a barrier that stops the water in the flush tank from flowing into the toilet bowl. When you push the flush button/handle, a chain connected to the flapper pulls it open so that all the water from the tank can flow into the toilet. However, flappers can wear out with time, causing the water to leak through them, which reduces the amount of water in the tank.

Solution: The only way to fix your flapper is to replace it with a new one. You can find a new flapper in your nearest store easily and replacing it also an easy task. However, if you do not feel confident about doing it yourself, then you can always call the plumber.

Fault in Lift Chain

Lift chain is the chain that lifts your flapper as soon as you push the flush button. However, your lift chain might get slacked too much with time, thus being unable to raise the flapper properly to release all the water.

Solution: Lift chain comes with multiple anchor points in case such a scenario arises. Therefore, it is straightforward to fix this issue. All you need to do is remove the lift chain from its current anchor point and connect it using a point below the current one, such that it has no more than ½ an inch of slack.

Clogged Jet Holes

Jet holes are the small holes under the rim of your toilet through which the water is released into the toilet when you flush. Jet holes get clogged due to the formation of minerals in them, mainly if your home receives more challenging water than usual. Due to this clog, the amount of water that flows into your toilet will reduce.

Solution: To unclog your jet holes, you will need to pour heated vinegar down the overflow tube and wait for at least an hour. After that, you will have to flush your toilet and repeat the procedure once more. Then, using a thin rod, you will need to remove the residual matter that was clogging your jet hole.

Clogged Toilet, Toilet Flanged or Drain

Clogged Toilet, Toilet Flanged or Drain

A clog in the toilet or toilet flange or the drain is the most common reason behind any problem that might occur with your toilet. Toilet clogs usually happen when you or your toddler flushes something other than a toilet paper down your toilet.

If you realize that your toilet swirls but will not flush and have checked the water level in the flush tank – which seems to be okay – then a toilet clog is the next most probable cause. 

Toilet clogs can be unusually hard to deal with, and you might require help from a professional to get rid of the problem. However, if you are confident about your plumbing skills and want to deal with the issue on your own, then you can try one of the following ways.


Using a plunger is the most common method of unclogging toilet drains. It is also a straightforward one. You must place the plunger on the mouth of your toilet and then create suction by pushing and pulling it.

However, using a plunger is not a very efficient method, since there is a risk of pushing the object, which is clogging the toilet, even further down the drain.


Using an Auger is a more efficient way of unclogging your toilet drain. Auger uses a flexible metal pipe to reach the deeper parts of toilet drains.

Due to their design, they are sometimes also referred to as snakes. Augers are, however, not as easy to operate as plungers and, therefore, should only be handled by a professional.

Height and Design of Your Toilet.

The height of your toilet plays an essential role in deciding how efficient your flush will be. A toilet on higher floors will flush much better than the ones on the ground floor or the basement.

This is because the water stored in tanks on the higher floors will flow with more incredible speed and pressure into the toilet due to the high potential energy it possesses.

So, if this “toilet swirls but won’t flush” issue is occurring with a toilet that is on the lower floor, then you will need to call a plumber to do something about it.

Also, poorly designed toilets can have inefficient flushing systems. If your toilet has always had a problem with flushing, it can be due to the fault in the design of your drain.

Toilet drains should have a downward slope for the water to flow quickly through the toilet. However, if your drain does not have enough slope, it can reduce the speed of water and thus the efficiency of the flush. In this case, too, only a plumber can solve your issue.

Clogged Vents

Improperly installed or clogged vents can also cause a problem with your drain system since plumbing and vent pipes are interconnected in a house.

However, the chances of this being the reason behind your “toilet swirls but won’t flush” issue are shallow, and therefore this should be considered as the last possibility. Also, this is an issue only a professional can fix.


If you thoroughly went through this guide, as we asked you at the starting of this article, then chances are, your issue is solved by now. To sum it all up, the first thing you need to check if your toilet swirls but will not flush is if the water is getting delivered in the right amount and with enough pressure.

If not, then you will need to determine the reason for it and tackle the issue accordingly. If it is, then you will need to check for a clogged drain. If even a clogged toilet is not the reason behind the problem, then you should take help from a professional.

This article was curated through HomeSenator’ Contributor Program. If you would like to home renovation “write for us”, send us your submission today!

Jackson Martin

Jackson Martin, holding a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas, has been a prominent figure in the home improvement sector for over 18 years. He joined our team in 2020, sharing his expertise in renovation techniques, sustainable building practices, and DIY projects. Jackson's previous experience includes working in residential construction management and as a home renovation consultant. He is an advocate for energy-efficient homes and enjoys participating in local marathon events.

1 Comment

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    You might need to rethink your comments about the amount of potential energy converted when the toilet is flushed. If the same design toilet is on the tenth floor as a a toilet in the basement, the potential energy converted over let’s say a 60cm (2 foot) fall will be exactly the same. The water will accelerate at the same rate and have the same speed when it gets to the bowl.

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