Toilets make distinctive sounds each time they flush and refill with water. These sounds are perfectly normal. However, your toilet should remain relatively quiet the rest of the time. Hearing a range of unusual sounds from the toilet can indicate a problem with your plumbing. While it may seem easier to dismiss bathroom noises as harmless quirks, ignoring toilet troubles can only make them worse over time. Here’s how to recognize the meaning of strange sounds and when to seek assistance to correct a problem.

Phantom Toilet Flushing

When it comes to toilet issues, few problems can seem as creepy as the occurrence of flushing even if you have never pulled down the handle. Also known as “ghost flushing,” this sound can range from the movement of water in the tank to the full-blown emptying of the toilet bowl.

The good news is that phantom flushing is often the result of a faulty flapper or defective flush valve that causes your hardware to flush spontaneously. Other causes of phantom flushing can include the following:

  • Toilet tank leaks
  • Improper refill tube positioning
  • A flapper chain that’s misaligned or too short
  • Unusually low water level in tank

If you hear flushing when no one is in the bathroom, contact a professional plumber for inspection and repair. Plumbers can properly address issues with your flapper, refill tube, or flush valve drain to prevent the toilet from randomly flushing on its own. Since unnecessary flushing can increase your water bill, it is important to contact an expert and get to the bottom of the issue quickly.

Constant Running

When you flush a toilet, it should only run for a short while afterward so that the tank can refill with water. If the toilet continues to run for several minutes after a flush or it never seems to stop running at all, this can indicate one of several problems.

In the back of each tank is an object known as the flapper chain. If this chain is too short or too tight, it does not allow the valve to close completely. The motion of water through a partially opened valve can cause persistent running noises.

In addition to flapper chain and tank valve issues, you can also hear constant running sounds that are caused by problems with the tank float. If the position of the tank float is too high, water will continuously spill into the overflow tube and cause a running sound.

Bubbling or Gurgling

Bubbling or gurgling often occurs when some type of blockage prevents the water from passing through the toilet drain. Negative air pressure builds up behind the blockage to create a gurgling sound that you hear in the toilet bowl. The source of the blockage can come from the toilet drain itself, the vent stack, or the sewer drain.

A professional plumber can help you determine whether the blockage is from buildup like calcium deposits or the result of something more complex. For example, if your toilet is not the only drain you hear gurgling in your home, there is a strong chance that you have a major blockage within the sewer line or mainline. Since sewer line blockage can include anything from toilet paper to tree root obstruction, call a professional to correct the issue and prevent a plumbing emergency.

Banging or Clanging

Banging noises, sometimes called “water hammering,” are among the most common pipe complaints of homeowners, and they’re usually the result of a sudden change in water pressure. Since water is not compressible, a sudden pressurization of water can cause it to slam forward and bang on the sides of the pipe or against the pipe fittings. A home services company can help adjust the pressure to rectify the situation.

Plumbers also associate water hammering with problems like damaged air chambers, loose mounting straps, or faulty valves. For example, if a toilet’s air chamber becomes waterlogged, it can no longer cushion or protect pipes from changes in water pressure. The sudden rush of water can then cause clanging sounds.

Similarly, mounting straps usually help support pipes against water pressure, so any loose or broken strap compromises protection from water surges and can result in clanging sounds. Finally, when a faulty valve closes but water continues to flow downstream, the water’s momentum can create a vacuum effect. This vacuum effect can cause pipes to burst or collapse. Contact a plumber to determine options for regulating water pressure.


While it is normal to hear a short hiss when you flush the toilet, you should not ignore persistent hissing sounds. The most common cause of hissing is the deterioration of the toilet flapper. Over time, flappers wear out and stop functioning correctly, and your toilet will never fully refill if the flapper does not work. Contact a plumber to repair or replace the flapper.

Other causes of a hissing from your toilet include a maladjusted ballcock or an improperly adjusted fill valve. When either the ballcock or fill valve is not at the right level, water can begin filling into the overflow valve. In addition to the flapper, ballcock, or fill valve, hissing can result from the following:

  • High water level flowing from water lines to the toilet
  • Sediment covering the valve seal
  • Faulty toilet lift chain that has created a leak
  • Faulty overall flush-valve assembly

Since hissing noises can arise from any number of causes, it is best to hire a professional company for diagnosis to avoid a plumbing emergency.

Sudden Rushing Noises

A sudden rushing noise is another sign that you may have problems with your water pressure. Water pressure is measured in pounds per inch (psi). This measurement describes the force by which water travels from the mainline and into your pipes and toilet. While psi for households can vary, yours should never exceed a measurement of 80 psi. A professional plumber can measure your water pressure and make adjustments.


The operation of a toilet should never cause the wall to shake or make vibrating sounds. Vibration from a toilet is often the result of a problem with the diaphragm gasket inside the fill valve. While diaphragm gaskets are durable, they tend to wear out and malfunction over time. A plumber can help diagnose any gasket issues and replace the equipment in a way that prevents damage to other toilet components.


Groaning noises from the toilet can often indicate an issue with pipes. If there is a constriction somewhere within the mainline, for example, you can hear groaning sounds as the water squeezes through this narrower section of the pipe. Trained professionals can locate the mainline issue so that it does not create bigger problems. Groaning noises can also come from excess air in the pipes. You should never attempt to bleed air out of pipes yourself since this can easily damage your hardware. A plumber has the right equipment to remove air buildup without compromising your water system.

Whistling or Squealing

If you hear high-pitched whistling or squealing, it usually indicates a problem with the fill valve. When the fill valve does not close or seal properly during a flush, it can cause water to overflow and produce a whistling sound. To prevent weak flushes and potentially wasting gallons of water each day, contact a plumber for a replacement.

Foghorn Sounds

Foghorn noises can sound particularly alarming. If your toilet sounds like a ship arriving in the harbor, it could indicate a problem with your tank float. Foghorn noises occur when the tank float wears out or washers become loose inside the float. Instead of worrying, simply contact a plumber to replace this component and reassemble your hardware.

Contact an Expert Plumber Today

Toilet sounds are more than an auditory nuisance. These noises are often serious indicators of problems with your plumbing. Fortunately, our team at Hunt’s Services provides excellent plumbing services for households in Tacoma and the Puget Sound area. Besides a full range of HVAC and electrical services, we offer toilet installation and replacement, drain cleaning, and piping replacement and repair. Contact us at Hunt’s Services today to keep your toilet in top-notch condition.

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Jason Hunt
Jason Hunt

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