If you’ve heard your toilet flushing on its own in the middle of the night or when no one else is around, you might think you’re being tormented by a ghost. The good news is that your house probably isn’t haunted. The bad news, however, is that you’re likely dealing with a plumbing problem that could be inflating the cost of your water bills.

Although unnerving, phantom toilet flushes are a common plumbing complication among homeowners. In fact, this particular issue has its own witty nickname: “ghost flushing.”

So, what is ghost flushing? What causes this spooky issue to happen in the first place? Although this is an issue many people can encounter over the course of their lifetime, it’s not always easy to know what causes it to occur. This is because phantom flushing can happen for a wide variety of reasons.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you get to the bottom of the problem. Let’s go over what ghost flushing is and more below.

What Causes Ghost Flushing?

Although we mentioned that various plumbing problems could cause phantom flushing, this particular dilemma can usually be boiled down to one central issue: a leak. So, there is a good chance that you could have an external or internal toilet leak on your hands.

When you flush the toilet, the water level drops. As this happens, the float valve sends out a signal for the toilet to start refilling the water that was lost.

If you have a leak on the exterior of the toilet, the water level will never rise to where it should be. As a result, you might hear your toilet “flushing” all on its own in an attempt to restore this missing water. If you have a leak on the interior of the toilet, the water level may become exceedingly high, putting you at risk for an overflow. The toilet might flush on its own to prevent the water from spilling over.

Below, we’ll discuss the types of exterior and interior toilet leaks you may encounter. This way, you can have a better understanding of what you might be dealing with.

Exterior Toilet Leaks

When learning what causes ghost flushing, it’s impossible not to mention external leaks. These leaks can manifest in one of two ways: a crack in the toilet bowl or a fracture in the toilet tank. In rare instances, you might even find yourself having both of these problems at the same time.

If you encounter either of these leaks, you’ll want to fix the problem as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for plumbing repair services or a replacement.

While you wait for the contractor to show up, there are a few actions you can take to prevent the problem from wreaking more havoc. For example, if there’s a crack high in the toilet bowl, you can adjust the water level by turning the adjustment screw. This screw is typically located above the fill valve.  You may also simply turn the water off to the fixture at the shut-off to avoid continued water use if possible until it can be evaluated by a professional.

A toilet tank with a crack through it.

Malfunctioning Flapper

The flapper in your toilet is responsible for how much water flows into the bowl after flushing. If this flapper has become damaged or dirty, it won’t be able to create a seal to prevent water from entering the bowl. This means that water could constantly be leaking into the bowl from the tank.

Of course, this is when ghost flushing occurs. When the water level gets too high inside the bowl, the toilet will flush on its own to prevent an overflow.

A worn-out toilet flapper is one of the most common culprits behind internal leaking. Fortunately, you can perform a quick test to see if you’re dealing with this problem.

How to Check if the Toilet Flapper Is Leaking

Place a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. Once you’ve done this, wait 30 minutes before you use or flush the toilet again. After the allocated time has passed, check to see if any of the food dye is visible in the toilet bowl. If it is, you have an internal toilet leak — and a malfunctioning flapper is likely behind it.

If you choose to, you can replace the flapper yourself. These parts are typically easy to find at your local hardware store. Of course, remember to turn off the water supply to the toilet before you perform the replacement. If you don’t feel comfortable handling this project yourself, a plumber will be happy to help.

Refill Tube Problems

Are you still wondering what causes ghost flushing? If so, turn next to your toilet’s refill tube.

The refill tube is another important part of toilets. As the name suggests, this particular component refills the water inside the tank. If the refill tube is pushed too deep into the overflow pipe, the water can overflow from the tank into the bowl. When the water level gets too high inside the bowl, ghost flushing is likely to occur.

Damaged Flush Valve

If you’ve checked off every other possibility, such as a damaged flapper, you might need to replace the entire flush valve in the toilet. The flush valve is responsible for carrying water from the tank into the bowl. If this component has become damaged, water will continue to flow into the bowl. As you can already probably imagine, this could also be what causes ghost flushing to occur inside your home.

Replacing a toilet flush valve is one of the more difficult toilet-related projects. Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle the job on your own. Professional plumbers can help you complete the job in a quick and efficient manner, so you can go back to enjoying a leak-free toilet in no time.

Is Ghost Flushing Dangerous?

Now that you know what ghost flushing is, you might be wondering how concerned you should be. Although ghost-flushing toilets aren’t inherently dangerous, they should certainly be addressed as soon as possible.

Since leaks are usually behind this problem, you could end up wasting a great deal of water — which can cause your water bills to rise unexpectedly. You might also encounter costly water damage if the external leaks are causing water to collect on your floors.

Call AP Plumbing for Prompt & Professional Services

It’s important to know what ghost flushing is since this issue can be more common than many homeowners realize. If the toilet sounds like it’s flushing by itself, don’t wait to get in touch with AP Plumbing for assistance.
We offer a wide range of services to handle all of your plumbing needs. Whether you need toilet replacement experts or sewer repair contractors, we have the knowledge and experience to get the job done right. Our experts are familiar with what causes ghost flushing and can help get to the bottom of the problem once and for all. Contact us today for more information about our services!

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