Here's Why Your Toilet 'Ghost Flushes' And How To Fix It

We've all been there. You're at home minding your own business, when you hear something questionable. It sounds like there is water running from somewhere, but all the kitchen faucets are off. So you wander to each room, trying to find where it's coming from until you figure out it's been the toilet all along. Often when the toilet isn't flushed correctly it will leak water into the bowl, which will trigger the toilet to flush itself — also known as the ghost flush.

There are several reasons your toilet could be ghost flushing, but the issue should be relatively easy to fix once you've figured out what's going on inside your toilet tank – the main culprits are the refill tube, which is connecting to the overflow pipe, and the toilet flapper, which may need to be replaced. Either issue can be easily diagnosed and fixed because the toilet is made up of a few parts that aren't complicated to handle. Here's how to tell which problem your toilet has and how to fix it.

Readjusting the refill tube

The refill tube connects from the fill valve to the overflow tube. To determine if your refill tube needs adjusting, ensure it doesn't extend beyond the water line. Leave the tank as is with the water inside, and remove the refill tube from the overflow pipe — you should be able to pop it off from the top. Let the refill tube hang loose, if you notice that it dips too far past the water line, snip a small part of the end and replace it into the overflow pipe.

If, however, the refill tube passes the water line just slightly, place it back into the overflow pipe, but make sure it finishes at a higher point than before. Positioning the refill tube at a higher point will stop the internal leak and the ghost flushing. You can test it by flushing your toilet and seeing if there are any more leaks inside the bowl. If you continue to hear water leaking, you might have to check the toilet flapper.

Replacing the toilet flapper

Figuring out if the toilet flapper is the cause of ghost flushing can be tricky. You'll want to get some food coloring to know for sure. Ensure the toilet hasn't been flushed for 30 minutes for the test to work. Then, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank's water. Keep an eye on your toilet bowl; if the bowl starts to leak colored water, then you'll need to replace your flapper.

Before removing anything, turn off the water supply to make the process easier, and flush the remaining water inside the tank. Then, unhook the chain that connects the flapper to the flush handle lever. Next, unhook the sides of the flapper from the flush valve and slowly remove the flapper from the tank. Place the flapper into a ziplock bag so you can take it to the store and buy the right-sized replacement. To install the new one, slide it into place, connecting the pegs to the side of the flush valve, then reattach the chain to the flush handle. Turn on your water supply and test it out.