How to Check Your Toilet for Leaks: The Dye Test

Toilet leaking?  Perform this simple dye test to find out! 

Nine out of ten complaints most water companies receive about high water bills can be traced to a leaking toilet in their home.  Household water leaks cost the average homeowners approximately 12 percent of their water bill through problems such as worn-out toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking valves.  Checking your toilets periodically for leaks can save you money on your monthly utility bills and help our environment by conserving our most precious resource - water.

Just how much can one little leaking toilet cost me?  Well, one of our customers' knew she had a toilet that had been leaking but was not certain she wanted to spend the money for the repair.  She kept noticing her water bill was edging up higher and higher each month but thought it was because it had been dry and she had been watering her plants. Her toilet was leaking more and more.  Finally she was not able to ignore the issue any longer and turned the water supply off to the toilet.  A few days later her sewer and water bill came.  She was absolutely stunned to see her current month bill leap to a staggering $639. She had used over 39,000 gallons of water during that 3-month period than in previous 3 months.

If you are handy, changing out the 'guts' to your toilet can be an inexpensive do it your self project.  If not, a call to your local small plumbing contractor will quickly solve the issue before your water bill goes through the roof.

Things You'll Need:  Dye capsules OR tablets OR Food Coloring OR Powdered Drink Mix


  • Step 1 - Remove the cover on the toilet tank and carefully set it aside so it can't be accidentally knocked over and cracked.
  • Step 2 - It is best to begin the dye test with clear water in the tank as well as in the bowl.  Remove any "in-tank" bowl cleaners that color the water.  Note: These are not good for the environment or good for your toilet.  They corrode the working parts and cause leaks, which cost you money!
  • Step 3 - Place enough dye or food coloring in the tank water to give the water a deep color.
  • Step 4 - Wait 30 minutes and make sure nobody uses the toilet.  In 30 minutes if you find any of the dyed water is now in the toilet bowl you can be sure that your toilet is leaking.

NOTE:  A properly operating toilet will store water in the tank indefinitely without any water running into the bowl.

Tips & Warnings

Visible sure-fire signs your toilet is leaking: 

  • You have to jiggle the handle to make a toilet stop running.  The toilet makes funny sounds when it is not in use.
  • You have to hold the handle down for the tank to empty.  This can also mean the chain is too long and doesn't lift the flapper or ball high enough to float on its own.
  • You see water running over the top of the overflow.  This is a sure indicator that you have a leaking fill valve.
  • There is water trickling down the sides of the toilet bowl long after it's been flushed.  Water drips out of the refill tube into the overflow pipe.
  • The Toilet flushes by it self or begins to fill without use.  If you notice water on the floor around a toilet you certainly have a plumbing problem.  (Unless Jr. has really bad aim.)  This sign can mean the wax seal ring under the bowl has disintegrated, or the bowl is cracked, or it can mean the connections under the tank are leaking.  For this type of repair it is best to call your local plumbing contractor.

The plumbing experts at Michaels Plumbing Service can repair or replace your leaking or malfunctioning toilet, water closet and plumbing fixtures.  Call us today or schedule your appointment online for fast leak service!

 *Published with permission - this article was originally published on October 18, 2009 under the byline Katrina Derrico as How to Check Your Toilet for Leaks: The Dye Test eHow.com.


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