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How Does a Toilet Actually Work?

How Does a Toilet Actually Work?


Porcelain throne, water closet, the john; there are many different names for one of mankind's most hygienic inventions: the toilet. Invented in 1775 by Alexander Cummings, the modern toilet was not the first toilet to feature running water, however, it was the first model to contain the “s” shaped pipe we see today. While toilets haven’t changed much in the past 200 years, most people with access to toilets still don't know how they function. If you happen to be one of those people, look no further! This article will give you a simple explanation of a common modern toilet. 

Let’s start by identifying important parts of a toilet. First, there is the tank that holds the water above the bowl or basin. The handle is usually on the front or side of the tank and connects to the chain inside. The chain  is connected to a flapper, which sits at the bottom of the filled tank when the handle is in the down position. To flush a toilet, one must simply pull the handle. What comes next is an underrated display of human ingenuity.

Pulling the handle triggers the chain to tug on the flapper. The flapper lifts letting the water flow from the tank into the basin through what are called “rim jets.” These are small holes under the rim of the bowl that clean the inside of the bowl every flush. The siphon forces water over the “s” curve of the trapway engaging gravity to create a siphon effect to pull waste and water down the drain. Once the tank has emptied and the flapper is back in place, the tank begins to refill via the refill valve connected to the water supply. The tank and basin fill until the shutoff valve senses water and shuts down. 

At this point, the basin should be full with water, completely covering the drain. This water acts as a shield from the sewage gases lurking underneath. When the basin refills, it will fill until it hits the shutoff, and reaches the first curve of the “s” pipe. When the water fills to here, the basin is full and the drain is completely covered. This, partnered with gravity, keeps the smells and health problems of your waste where it won't affect you.    

Although toilets are quite simple, Aqua Wolf Plumbing is fully licensed and insured to install, service, or replace any toilets in your home, business, or investment properties. Be sure to give us a call next time you’re fixing up your bathroom!

  • #toilet
  • #flush
  • #plumbing
  • #basin
  • #trapway
  • #flapper
  • #rim jets
  • #s-curve
  • #tank
  • #siphon
  • #vortex
Caroline "EPC Extraordinaire" Coppola
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