Crappy matters…

*To keep the site and the article PG13, diagrams will be used instead of photos*

At some point I saw a video of a toilet so powerful it flushed Lego bricks. College humor even tried flushing a whole chocolate cake down a toilet and succeeded within 12 flushes. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-whLdHYgPwA)

Mine? Jammed by toilet paper. Did I do something really wrong to a toilet in the past such that now I get such weak toilets?

I did the usual. Grabbed a big bucket of water, poured it down, hoping it that it would flush.

It didn’t…

Grabbed a plunger, gave it a few go, water went down. It worked! End of story right? Nope this is where the fun begins.

The problem(s)

Toilet would only flush every second time I activated it. Water no longer comes out of the edges causing incomplete flushes. Toilet bubbles. I thought to myself “oh crap, I probably really broke it by now”. Its 7PM so it’s too late to call residence maintenance to drop by and it’s a Friday so the next time I can call them is next Monday. However, this needs to be fixed now. This isn’t a university residence where there are public ones to use if yours break. The next toilet I could use is one kilometer away located in another building.

I’ve never encountered this issue before. So first intuition is to escalate this to the professionals. So I proceeded to google up some numbers that I could call. I typed in “Edmonton plumbers” and common sense stopped me from hitting the enter button. I thought to myself “Wow this google search is bound to contain so much scams and spams. I switched to my phone, texted a friend and see if she had a plumber’s number. She didn’t. Oh well 😛

Let’s google this

To me googling “Edmonton plumbers” sounds like “How to download more hard drive” level of scam. Feels like a good candidate for links that will get your computer infected with something bad for whatever reason. Let’s not break another thing today. Last thing I want is wrecking my surface because I googled something stupid. So, let’s do this with some precaution…

It would be nice to not do this on my computer… use a virtual machine!


Virtual machine: Oracle VirtualBox, allocated 2GB RAM, running Ubuntu 15 x64

Running on host: Microsoft Surface Pro 2, 4200U + 8GB RAM, running Windows 10 x64

Computer nerd stuff aside. I hit the search button and I don’t like what I see already, but I am in virtual machine so I was like “oh whatever, I should be fine in here”. I clicked into a link and I was greeted with a big smiley face “How can our plumbers make you smile”.

Poor Photoshop job? Check

Cheesy low resolution graphics? Check

One liners that sound oddly sexual? Check

BIG BRIGHT WORDS WITH CAPS THAT SCREAM THEY ARE GOOD? Check

Price? Nope. Huh, I figured. So I googled that too.

Turns out they have a “dispatch fee” ~70CAD. + Repair fees. Wow, no way. I shut the virtual machine down and went on with plan B.

Plan B
– Do it yourself

I major in computer science and minor in economics. Needless to say, I know nothing about toilets. However, if computer science has taught me anything, if you don’t know something, you’ll know enough about it after a couple hours of googling.

First problem – water trouble

Since the toilet looked like it was having trouble filling up the bowl, I decided to give the tank a check. Voila! The toilet was configured way below the required water line. The landlord pays for water so I guess they were trying to save some costs here. How it works is that there is a float that dictates how much water gets into the tank. As water rises, the float does too. Once the float gets to a certain height, it stops water from entering the tank. The height that it stops the water from entering the tank is determined by a stick. I reconfigured it to match the required water line as indicated in the tank and the flushes seem a little stronger but still requires two pushes.

Second problem – Siphon jets got clogged

Wow fancy name. Instead of describing it, this diagram does a good job.


Source: http://chestofbooks.com/architecture/Building-Construction-V4/Water-Closets.html#.VmTzyYkrKUk

In the diagram “G” is supposed to kick start the siphoning effect by pushing water out so the water goes over “C” so that this happens at the U-bend:


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siphon#/media/File:Lappo.svg

Without part “G” the siphon effect can only occur when there is so much water in the bowl that water goes over point “C”. This is why overwhelming the toilet with a bucket of water works.

Turns out using the plunger can clog this hole. The trick here is simple. Grab a popsicle stick, give the siphon jet a good swirl to loosen up the clog. Activate the siphon jet by flushing. Swoosh, a whole bunch of paper pulp shot out of it. All cleared. Now the toilet flushes with one press. However, there still isn’t any water coming from the edges to flush the sides.

Third problem – the rims

Just by pure inspection, the holes on the rim seem to be clear of anything. But hey the siphon jet looked like it was clear when it was not so I decided to give it a swirl too. What I did here was similarly simple. I grabbed a zip tie this time because the holes are smaller. Gave each individual hole a swirl. Attempted to flush the toilet. Voila, more toilet paper shot out of the siphon jet and the rims are flushing water out again. Referring back to the diagram:


Source: http://chestofbooks.com/architecture/Building-Construction-V4/Water-Closets.html#.VmTzyYkrKUk

This makes sense as the rims are indicated by area A. The zip tie would have loosed up the clog. When we flush the toilet, water (along with the loosened debris) will travel through “A” and out through “G” the siphon jet.

But how did toilet paper end up getting to area A? Turns out when I first tried to unclog the toilet by pouring a bucket of water, I filled the bowl to the edges. Tissue pulp then rose into the holes and clogged up the rims.

All cleared! In fact the toilet now works better than before 😛

Conclusion

Problem 1 – Water tank levels were too low. Possibly because my landlord wants to save on the water bill.

Problem 2 – Siphon jet clogged. Possibly caused by using the plunger which can push debris up the jet.

Problem 3 – Rims were clogged. Possibly caused by attempting to flush the toilet with a bucket of water.

1 was out of my control, 2 and 3 were caused by what most people would do when they first encounter a clogged toilet. Lesson learnt here: the toilet is more complicated than one might think and generic toilet troubleshooting might end up causing more trouble than there already is!

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