In the grand scheme of things, the widespread use of flush toilets inside homes is a relatively recent development. The various parts essential to making them work have basically been around since they were first introduced, but they’ve also evolved with modern technology. The flapper is one such part.
As a home renovator, I’ve put together what I’ve learned about this small but essential component of the toilet’s flushing mechanism. In this article, I will detail seven different types and explain how they work so you can identify the correct flapper.
What is a Toilet Flapper?
To put it simply, flappers close and seal the water inside a toilet tank. They keep the water in the tank between flushes and control the amount of water a toilet uses per flush in tandem with the flush valve.
The flapper is the moving part that opens and closes with each flush, while the flush valve seal is a stationary part that ensures a watertight seal when the flapper is closed. If either the flapper or the flush valve seal is damaged or worn out, it can cause the toilet to run or leak,
Here is how the flapper works:
- When you activate the flush handle, it lifts its long arm inside the tank
- The arm holds the flapper chain, so it picks it up while flushing
- As the chain lifts the flapper, water flows through the flush valve down the outlet pipe
- As the water drains, the flapper falls with the chain and the handle arm
- When the flush process is over, the flapper returns to the original position to seal the tank
You would think it would be easy to have only one type of this device and install them in most toilets. But things are not that simple. Flappers vary in shape, material, and performance.
7 Types of Toilet Flappers
Different toilets may have different sizes and styles of flush valves, requiring specific types of flappers for proper fit and function. The flush valve provides the surface against which the flapper seals. The flapper may not seal properly if the flush valve is damaged or corroded.
Here are seven different types of flappers you may come across, depending on the age and design of your toilet.
This is the most common type of flapper found in most toilets worldwide. Rubber flappers are round and made of a single rubber piece. They are flexible enough to seal the pipes and remain durable.
The rubber flapper sits on top of the flush valve at the bottom of the tank. When the toilet is not in use, the flapper covers the opening, creating a watertight seal. This seal prevents water in the tank from continuously flowing into the bowl.
When the handle is pressed, it lifts a chain or a rod connected to the rubber flapper. This action raises the flapper away from the flush valve.
Made from silicone, these flappers are generally more resistant to the effects of chlorinated water and other chemicals found in tanks. Silicone flappers differ from rubber in their durability and performance features.
While rubber flappers are a traditional and cost-effective choice, silicone flappers are more resistant to chemicals, providing better value over time, especially in areas with heavily treated water. Silicone can provide a more durable seal on flush valves.
A rubber flapper with a control dial provides a modern twist on the traditional rubber flapper’s functionality by adding the ability to adjust the flush volume. The control dial on these flappers allows you to adjust the amount of water released from the tank into the bowl during each flush.
By controlling the flush volume, these flappers can help reduce water usage. These flappers are designed to be compatible with a wide range of models, including both older and newer designs, making them a good choice for repairs or upgrades.
4. Seat disk
This is a model used in older toilets. This style of old flapper has a circular disk that covers the flush valve. Here is how it works:
- You press a handle, and it launches a lever mechanism that lifts the disk from the flush valve.
- Seat disks go up to let the water flow into the bowl
- The water drains
- When the reservoir becomes light enough, it can’t prevent the disk from falling
- Seat disk flappers close and allow reservoirs to refill
- This type of flapper is found in older toilets and is easier to break.
5. Tank ball
A tank ball flapper is an older style found in flush toilets. The tank ball is a round, rubber ball that sits on top of the flush valve at the bottom of the tank. Tank balls control the flush mechanism with both the chain and the metal rod.
When you flush, the ball opens the outlet drain near the overflow pipe. Lifting the ball off the flush valve allowing water to flow into the bowl.
Once the flushing is complete and the handle is released, the ball settles back down onto the flush valve. Its weight and the water pressure help to create a watertight seal. The seal’s effectiveness depends on the ball’s condition and alignment with the flush valve.
A solid-frame flapper is designed for flush mechanisms with a rigid, non-flexible frame. Unlike flexible rubber flappers, a solid-frame flapper maintains a consistent shape. This rigidity helps to ensure a more consistent and reliable seal over the flush valve.
Solid frame flappers are designed to fit specific types of flush valves. Easy to install, they usually clip onto the overflow tube or the sides of the flush valve.
A universal flapper is designed to fit a wide range of models and flush valve sizes, making it a versatile choice for repair and maintenance. This versatility allows them to be used in different old and new models. Like other flappers, they are usually made of rubber or silicone, with some models featuring materials resistant to chlorine and other chemicals found in water, prolonging their lifespan.
They are generally easy to install, requiring minimal tools and plumbing knowledge. This makes them a popular choice for DIY repairs. Always check compatibility with specific models, especially if they have unique features or are modern toilets with high-efficiency, low-flow designs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I identify my toilet flapper?
Turn off the water supply and remove the tank lid. Examine the flapper’s size, shape, and attachment style. Flappers usually come in 2-inch or 3-inch sizes and are made of rubber or silicone. Measure the flush valve opening for reference when purchasing a replacement.
What is best toilet flapper?
The “best” flapper can vary depending on your toilet model. When choosing a new flapper, consider the size and type of your toilet’s flush valve, the material of the flapper (with silicone and rubber being common choices), and whether you want adjustable water usage. Here are five flappers known for their durability and effectiveness:
- Korky Universal Flapper: Features universal fit and long-lasting rubber material. They are easy to install and work well in most standard toilets.
- Fluidmaster Adjustable Flapper: Adjustable flappers can be fine-tuned for the right amount of water per flush.
- TOTO Flappers: Recommended for TOTO toilets, for the best fit and performance.
- American Standard Flappers: Recommended for American Standard toilets, specifically designed for these models.
- Danco Flappers: Wide range of flappers, including universal and specific fit options. Easy to install.
What is proper name for a toilet flapper?
“Flapper” refers to the rubber or silicone device in the tank that opens to allow water to flow into the bowl during flushing and then seals the water intake hole to enable the tank to refill.
Why do toilet flappers fail?
Flappers tend to be sturdy. It is unlikely you will need to replace yours very often. However, they can fail before then. Here are some of the factors that can lead to flapper failure:
- Strong cleaning chemicals: Using especially powerful commercial cleaners, detergents, and disinfectants in your toilet can eat away at and damage your flapper. Flappers are resistant to many chemicals, but some chemicals destroy rubber and metal components.
- Hard water deposits: If your flapper is giving out, you may want to check the water composition in your tank. Hard water is characterized by high deposits of calcium and magnesium. These are highly corrosive substances, and they tend to form sediments. Such deposits can accumulate on the flapper and slow it down over time.
- Mold and bacteria: If mold and bacteria start growing on your tank, they will also grow on the flapper. This will eventually prevent the flapper from opening and closing.
- Wear and tear: All material objects are subject to wear and tear. Flappers are no different. Even the best flappers will start to deteriorate over time and need replacement.
How can I tell that my flapper is damaged?
Here are some of the signs that something is going wrong with your flapper:
- Toilet keeps running: This is one of the most evident signs that your flapper is broken. If you flushed the toilet long ago, yet water continues to flow into the toilet bowl, it means your flapper no longer works.
- Weak flush: This indicates a faulty flapper. It means that your flapper closes too fast. Water is not being allowed to exit the toilet tank, and the toilet struggles to drain waste from the bowl.
- Sediment Deposits: If you see large sediment deposits on the flapper, and your toilet randomly flushes, it is a sign that something has gone wrong.
- Leaking: The first sign of a leaking flapper is often the sound of water running from the tank into the bowl, even when the toilet hasn’t been flushed. It’s a sign that the flapper isn’t sealing properly. Put a few drops of food coloring or a dye tablet into the tank. Wait for about 30 minutes without flushing the toilet. Check the bowl. If the colored water has seeped into the bowl, this indicates a leaky flapper.
How do flappers and flush valves work in modern toilet designs?
The interaction between flush valves and flappers has always been a key element of the flushing mechanism. In modern toilets, flappers and flush valves are calibrated to release specific amounts of water. Some modern flappers are adjustable, allowing the user to control the volume of water per flush by altering the interaction between flappers and flush valves.
Modern flush valves and flappers are designed to be compatible with low-flow and high-efficiency toilets. These systems require precise interaction between the flapper and flush valve to ensure adequate flushing power while minimizing water usage.
Regular inspection of both flappers and flush valves is important in modern designs. A malfunctioning flapper or flush valve can lead to running toilets, partial flushes, or increased use of water. The synergy between flappers and flush valves is designed to maximize water conservation, reduce the risk of leaks, and maintain flushing power.
Whether it’s the traditional rubber flapper, the adjustable type for water efficiency, the durable silicone option, the solid-frame for a consistent seal, or the versatile universal flapper, each design serves a unique purpose. Recognizing the correct flapper for your toilet will help control water use and prevent potential leaks and damage.