ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How does a Toilet Work - Toilet Basics 101

Updated on March 14, 2020
Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure is a do-it-yourselfer and prides herself on being able to make basic home repairs on her own.

Diagram of plumbing and parts of a toilet.
Diagram of plumbing and parts of a toilet. | Source

What are the different parts of a toilet?

Ever wonder how a toilet actually works? Millions of people use one every day, several times a day, but probably without even giving a second thought to how this plumbing marvel works. We take for granted, the complexities of the inner workings of this modern day convenience.

The are many different brands and styles of toilets available today, but they all basically have the same three components: the tank, the bowl, and the plumbing attached.

Toilet Basics

The Tank

The big box-like thing on the back of the toilet, commonly known as the tank, houses the majority of the working parts of the toilet. The toilet tank generally consists of the handle, float ball, refill tube, overflow tube, fill valve (a.k.a. Ballcock), and the flapper.

Handle: the trip lever that begins the act of flushing the toilet.

Float Ball: located in the tank, it floats in the water that is in the tank. With each flush, it rises and falls with the level of the water.

Refill Tube: the tube connected to your water supply that fills the tank back up after each flush.

Overflow Tube: the tube that drains water from the tank if it gets to full.

Fill Valve (Ballcock): the valve that covers the refill tube

Flapper: covers the hole between the tank and the bowl.

Basic Toilet Repair Kit: All-in-one

Fluidmaster 400CRP14 Universal Toilet Fill Valve and Flapper Repair Kit, for 2-Inch Flush Valve Toilets
Fluidmaster 400CRP14 Universal Toilet Fill Valve and Flapper Repair Kit, for 2-Inch Flush Valve Toilets
I've replaced a number of internal toilet kits in my day, from the pump, to the valve, to the flange. Personally, I have found it's best to replace them all at one time. It's very inexpensive to do so. I like the Fluidmaster. They make good parts and they aren't cheap plastic that breaks as you try to install them.
Common shapes of toilet bowls
Common shapes of toilet bowls

Toilet Bowls

The bowl is probably the most basic piece of the toilet, as it is generally, just two pieces: the bowl and the lid. Commonly made of porcelain, the toilet bowl is typically either round or oval, although there are some square ones out there. The lid (seat) is made of many different types of material; wood, porcelain, plastic, marble (yes, marble).

Bowl: the bowl refers to the whole piece connected to the tank. It includes the sitting area and the base of the toilet, as they are generally all one piece.

Lid: refers to the piece that covers the bowl, or sitting area of the toilet.

S Trap or S Shaped Plumbing
S Trap or S Shaped Plumbing

Wax Free Toilet Bowl Gasket

Fluidmaster 7530P8 Universal Better Than Wax Toilet Seal, Wax-Free Toilet Bowl Gasket
Fluidmaster 7530P8 Universal Better Than Wax Toilet Seal, Wax-Free Toilet Bowl Gasket
One of the most common parts to go out on a toilet is the wax seal at the base. I've probably replaced dozens in my lifetime. The best thing to do is switch to a wax free gasket like this one from Fluidmaster. We've replaced all the seals in our house with the wax free ones and haven't had an issue since.

The Plumbing

One of the greatest inventions of all time, is that of the S-curve plumbing, which was invented by Alexander Cummings in 1775. The S-curve plumbing prevented sewage gases from flowing back up into your bathroom. Most people are not aware that the gases from sewage are quite flammable, not to mention foul smelling. The S-curve plumbing was later enhanced by Thomas Crapper in 1880, who introduced the U-bend plumbing which was less likely to jam and overflow.

The other piece of the plumbing for toilets is the water supply valve that is connected to the tank, that supplies the water to the filler valve to fill the tank. Without it, there would be no water supply to refill the tank to continue to flush.

How does a toilet work

Toilet bowl water level

Now that you know the basic parts of the toilet, let's explain how it all works together. First, water is supplied from the water supply valve to the refill tube. The water flows through the refill tube and fills up the tank. Once the float ball reaches a designated height it triggers the fill valve or ballcock to cover the refill tube so no more water fills the tank. If the fill valve is defective and continues to allow water in the tank, the excess water will flow out of the overflow valve and into the toilet bowl.

Once the tank is filled to the designated height, it is ready to be flushed. When the handle or button is pressed, this releases the flapper covering the inlet hole at the bottom of the tank. This allows the water from the tank to flush out of the tank and into the bowl. Some of the water goes down the refill tube to start refilling the tank, but the majority flushes into the bowl. The weight and amount of the water flushed into the bowl create a siphon effect and the water is sucked from the bowl through the S-curve plumbing and out through your sewage pipes.

While the water is rushing out of the tank, the float ball drops triggering the refill valve to open up and begin refilling the tank. Once the float ball reaches a certain level the refill valve shuts off and the toilet is ready to flush again.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)