Whether there is a clog, some unforeseen damage, or some plumbing mishap, toilet leaks are never fun, and when the time comes it is important to be able to quickly turn off the water flow to the toilet as soon as possible.
Luckily, this handy guide is here to give you the lowdown on the best methods to do this quickly, efficiently, and in plenty of time to save your beloved bathroom floor from water damage.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Reasons For Turning The Water Off
There can be many reasons why you would need to turn the water off.
If you are undertaking any sort of plumbing job on the toilet, then the first thing you should do is to turn off the water supply.
This will help to avoid any leaks from springing during the process, and will just make the whole job simpler and cleaner.
Of course, it might not be your decision at all.
Due to the amount of use a toilet gets, particularly in a family household, unforeseen damage can occur all the time, and in much simpler ways than you think.
If your toilet suddenly becomes damaged, and the water starts to leak all over the bathroom, then turning the water off as quickly as possible is the top priority.
All kinds of things get flushed down the toilet, and while there is no need to go into specifics, it is important to realize that all of this waste can be a clog waiting to happen.
Especially in toilets with u-bends, you cannot see what has built up within the piping, and even when your toilet bowl looks clean and pristine, there can be all kinds of horrors lurking further around the bend.
How To Turn Off The Water: 3 Easy Methods
Now onto the important part: turning off the water.
As previously mentioned, there are a few ways you can do this, all of them pretty simple in the great scheme of things.
Method 1: Closing The Shut Off Valve
This is perhaps the best way to turn off the water to the toilet, and as the title suggests, the shut off valve controls the flow of new water into the toilet tank.
Locating The Valve
This is usually located behind the toilet itself, where the pipes connect to the wall.
You will recognize this as a football shaped flat valve connected to a hose or pipe on the bottom of the toilet.
Turning Off The Valve
To turn off the shut off valve, turn clockwise until you cannot turn anymore.
This will shut off the water supply to the toilet, and can be the quickest method of doing so – something that is important during a crisis.
The valve itself should not be difficult to turn, but if it does feel tight, do not try and force it.
This could result in you damaging the valve, and could lead to further water damage or leaks.
Rusted Or Tight Valves
If the valve looks rusty, or if it is just difficult to turn, then try applying some WD-40.
For those who don’t know, this is industrial lubricant spray, and can be purchased from almost any hardware store.
This should lubricate the valve enough to give it some play, allowing you to turn it off.
In many ways, having this spray close at hand is advisable, particularly when time is of the essence and you don’t want to be charging around the house or garage looking for it.
If this method still does not loosen the valve, then there is probably internal corrosion of blockages, and the valve will likely need replacing.
Testing The Water
Once you have turned the valve, the next thing to do is to check the water is turned off.
To do this, flush the toilet. If the water has been turned off, then the water in the back tank will enter the toilet bowl, but will not refill afterwards like normal.
However, if your toilet is clogged, you can test to see if the water is off by opening the back tank and checking the small lever in the water.
If the water is still on, lifting this lever will cause more water to enter the tank, whereas if it is turned off, the tank will remain the level it is.
One thing that is important to remember is that the floating lever needs to be put back to its original position if the water is still on. If not, it will overfill and cause further leaks and damage.
Turn The Valve Again
To turn the water back on afterwards, remember to turn the valve counterclockwise.
This will make sure that the toilet is functional and ready for future use.
Method Two: Turning Off The Main Valve
The main valve controls the water flow to your home, and so if the situation is dire enough and the leaking won’t stop, then turning off the entire water system is the best way to buy you time.
Finding The Valve
The location of this valve tends to differ, depending on the climate you live in.
If you live in a colder climate, then the valve is usually located in a cellar or basement where it can avoid freezing.
This could be in the basement near the first foundation wall, or in the crawl space of your home.
In warmer climates, the valves are usually located outside.
The water meter and main shut off valve will usually be located in a metal box underground along the side of your house.
The fact that it is below ground isn’t a problem, and the lid you need to access it will be above ground, letting you open it and turn the valve.
Identifying The Valve
The main shut off valve will usually consist of one or two wheel handles or lever handles, located either above or beside a metal pipe.
These will probably be either side of the water meter, or, if you have an external water meter on the side of your home, there is a good chance that it will be in a close proximity to this.
Shutting It Off
To shut off the main water supply, turn the handle clockwise. If there are indeed two wheel handles (or lever handles), then turn the one closest to your home to turn off the water.
Turning It On
To reestablish water flow to your home, simply turn the handle counterclockwise again, and close the lid to the box once more.
Method Three: Propping The Float Lever
If, for whatever reason, you cannot access your main water valve, or your shut off valve behind your toilet is rusted or stuck, then there is a third option you could try.
Propping up the floating lever in the back tank to above a certain height will stop the flow of water into the tank.
How It Works
When you flush the toilet, the water drains from the back tank into the toilet bowl, causing the water level in the tank to drop, and the floating lever to sink. When it drops below a certain point, more water then floods into the back tank to fill it back up.
By keeping the floating lever at a certain level, it will give the impression that the tank is full enough, and will ensure no more water flows in.
Propping The Float
You can prop the float with a piece of wood, or block that is large or long enough to keep the float high up in the tank.
For the best results, use a piece of wood that is roughly one inch shorter than the height of the tank itself.
If you do not have wood long enough, you can straddle a shorter piece of wood across the width of the tank, using string or some other binding material to support it in place and hold the float.
Drain The Water
If you have the ability to flush the toilet, then do so. This will drain the excess water from the tank, while the wood or wire maintain the height of the float, ensuring that no more water enters the back tank.
If your toilet is clogged, or your tank won’t empty, then use a small bucket or jug to remove the water manually from the back tank.
This will have the same effect, stopping any leaks in their tracks.
Refilling The Tank
To refill the back tank and get the water back to where it should be, simply remove the wood or prop device you have used, allowing the float to drop, which will signal to the system that more water needs to be allowed inside.
Once you have done this, replace the lid on top of the back tank, ready for future use.
When Should You Call A Plumber?
It should go without saying, but if none of the above methods will stop the flow of water into your toilet, then it might be time to call an emergency plumber.
They often make their living on quick call outs and emergency home visits, and knowing when to call a plumber is the best way to avoid serious, long-lasting damage that could ruin the foundations of your home, or cause greater structural damage.
The best way to remember the order of steps you took during the process is to make a checklist you can follow.
This will allow you to remember what you have done, and will give you reverse instructions for when you need to return everything to its original state again.
And there we have it, everything you need to know to turn off the water to your toilet in a quick and easy way.
Plumbing can be a nightmare at the best of times, but with these handy little tips, you should have every defense you need against flooding, water damage, and leaks that just won’t stop coming.