2 Reasons You Have to Hold the Toilet Handle Down to Flush (and How to Fix It)

Updated January 13, 2022
A woman flushing down the toilet
Photo: Witthaya Prasongsin / Moment / Getty Images


  • A malfunctioning chain can cause you to have to hold down the toilet handle when flushing

  • You can try adjusting the toilet’s chain to fix the issue

  • If your toilet’s flapper isn’t working properly, it can also cause the toilet to malfunction

  • A professional plumber may be necessary if quick fixes don’t work

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Your toilet might be the royal throne of the family, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fit for a palace. But if you find yourself having to hold the handle down to flush your toilet, it’s not only inconvenient, but it could also mean your toilet’s wasting water and costing you money. We’ll show you what causes the problem and how to fix it.

1. Malfunctioning Chain

When you need to hold down or jiggle the handle to get your toilet to flush properly, it’s almost always either your chain or your flapper that’s to blame, And the good news is that both are relatively quick and easy fixes.

You’ll find the chain inside the toilet tank, connecting the flushing handle to the flapper—the covering that’s usually at the bottom of the tank where the water drains out. Sometimes, the chain has too much slack—it should only have a small amount.

When it has too much slack, the flapper may not raise up all the way when you push the handle. However, if it doesn't have enough slack, the flapper may not be able to lower like it should, which means it can’t form the seal it needs to flush properly.

As a result, you'll have to keep working the handle to keep your toilet from continuously running or not flushing completely.

How to Fix the Problem

To fix the problem, first try adjusting the chain.

  • Start by turning the water off to the toilet by closing the shut-off valve, which is located under the toilet tank where the water comes out of the wall.

  • Turn the valve clockwise to stop the water flow.

  • Then unhook the pin at the end of the handle bar.

  • Put the pin down a few links in the chain towards the flapper, making it slightly shorter in length.

  • Reinstall the hook or pin onto the end of the handle.

  • You'll then need to turn your toilet shut-off valve back on, let the tank fill up and see if this did the trick. If not, you may need to adjust it a little more.

2. Flapper Isn’t Working

So you’ve adjusted the chain and you’re still having to hold that pesky toilet handle down when you flush. What gives? The next thing to try is the flapper.

You’ll want to see how it’s attached to the tank. It should have either ears or a ring attachment. Look for the ears on the side of the tube that stands in the toilet. This is the tube that water goes down when the toilet is filling up.

The ears are small pieces that stick out slightly and the collar of the flapper fits into the ears.

Another way to attach the flapper to this tube is by using the ring on the flapper that goes over the tube and sits on the bottom. The ears and the ring keep the flapper in place. See which one you have.

How to Fix the Problem

If you have both the ears and ring, it can cause the flapper to stick and malfunction. Try removing the ring and using only the ears.

If you’ve adjusted the chain and checked the flapper and you’re finding that your toilet still isn’t flushing properly or that your toilet seems to flush on its own, then you may need to call in reinforcements to replace your toilet flapper.

Consider booking an appointment with a plumber in your area who can check your system and replace any damaged or malfunctioning parts.

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