Types of Toilet Flappers

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You flush the toilet and hear the water filling up the tank, and 10 minutes later, you can still hear the water. If your toilet keeps flushing itself over and over again, it can quickly become unusable, and you will lose a lot of water in the process.

The flapper is a small piece of rubber or silicone that sits hidden away in your toilet tank if you understand how a flapper works and the pitfalls, you will be in a much better position to fix it. 

In this blog post, we are going to look at what a toilet flapper is and how it works. We will also identify why flappers fail and how to tell if your flapper needs replacing, and finally, we will look at the five different types of toilet flappers.

What is a Toilet Flapper, and How Does it Work?

Korky 2021BP TOTO Toilet Repairs-Large 3-Inch Flapper-Easy to Install-Made in USA, Pack of 1, Red

The flapper is the part of the toilet that allows water to drain from the tank into the toilet bowl.

The flapper will remain closed when the tank is full due to the weight of the water until you pull or push the handle to flush the toilet. A chain connects the flapper to a lever on the tank. When you press this lever, it pulls on the chain and lifts up the flapper, which releases the water.

The flapper also has an air ball that floats on a full tank of water. When the toilet is flushed, this same air ball drops down and creates a seal allowing the water to fill the tank once again.

The rubber or plastic flapper will deteriorate and decay over time and will be unable to seal the pipe, causing an endless flush caused by sediment and hard water.

The 5 Types of Toilet Flappers

There are two main things to look at when choosing a new flapper for your toilet tank: shape and adjustability. Ideally, you’ll want to find a replacement flapper that is the same shape as the one currently in your tank. However, you do have some flexibility, as you’ll see.

1. Seat Disk Tank Flapper

American Standard 033643-0070A Seat Disc Black, 3/4 in x 3 in

The seat disk flapper is a round disk that sits on top of the overflow pipe at the base of the tank. It prevents water from draining into the bowl until the handle is pushed, causing the disk to lift via a system of levers, allowing water to flow through to the toilet bowl.

These flappers are very common in old toilet designs; however, they are no longer used in new toilets due to their complicated design and unreliability issues. If you do need a replacement flapper for your old toilet, then American Standard may have them in stock.

2. Tank Ball Toilet Flapper

LASCO 04-1519 Toilet Tank Ball with Centering Guide Tip

Tank ball flappers are more prevalent in older toilets; they are technically not toilet flappers but achieve the same job as a flapper.

A wire, rod, or chain connects the tank ball flapper via the handle. The wire or rod is pulled up when the toilet is flushed, releasing the tank ball from the flush valve and allowing the water to flow into the toilet.

Tank balls that are connected to rods are generally better but are not a common sight anymore.

3. Non-Adjustable Rubber Tank Flapper

Toilet Flapper Replacement, 2-inch Universal Toilet Stopper Flapper Compatible with American Standard Toilet Tank, Long-Lasting Rubber Seal Flapper with Stainless Steel Chain, Water Saving/Blue

Rubber flappers are the standard flappers found in homes today as they are reliable and readily available. Almost identical to the tank ball flapper in functionality, a chain lifts the rubber flapper, releasing the water via the flush valve.

4. Rubber Tank Flapper with Floater


Attaching a floater ball via a chain will convert a normal flapper into an adjustable rubber tank flapper. By moving the floater along the chain, you will be able to control the quantity of water flushed before the flow pipe is closed.

5. Rubber Tank Flapper with Control Dial

Fluidmaster 400H-5003 Performax Universal Toilet Fill Valve, Blue & Korky 100BP Ultra High Performance Flapper Fits Most Toilets - Long Lasting Rubber - Easy to Install - Made in USA, Small, Red

Another way to control the volume of water that is flushed down the toilet is by getting a rubber tank flapper with a control dial. If the control dial is turned one way, it will reduce the water supply, while twisting it in the opposite direction will increase the quantity of water used.

What Size Toilet Flapper Do I Need?

To make sure you get the right flapper for your toilet tank, measure the diameter of the existing flapper. One size fits all does NOT apply here – each model requires a different-sized flapper. Most flappers today range from 2 to 4 inches in diameter, so getting the correct size will give you the perfect seal.

To correctly measure your toilet flapper, turn off the water first by turning the lever usually found under or near the tank, flush the toilet to drain the water from the tank, and then remove the lid to get access to the flapper. The flapper is situated under the overflow pipe – you can pull it off the base of the flush valve.

Now that the tank is empty, its easier to measure the diameter of the flapper. Place a ruler along the flapper to see if it is either two, three, or four inches wide. This is the perfect way to establish the size of all types of toilet flappers.

How To Tell That the Flapper Needs Replacing?

The best way to know whether your flapper needs replacing is to reach into the tank and check to see if any part of the flapper has deteriorated. Don’t worry. This is the same water that comes out of your taps! The leak will only get worse over time as the flapper decays further and will cost a lot in water bills, so replacing it should be a priority.

Water Runs Continuously

The water is running continuously into the toilet bowl and will not stop. In this instance, the flapper has a leak and is letting water flow, causing the tank to fill up.

Weak Flush

The flush is not powerful enough, and you find that the waste is not draining in one flush. The likelihood is that the flapper is not lifting and allowing the water to drain.

Inspect the seal for any leaks. Check the connection between the flapper and the chain or lever that connects it to the handle: that’s often where problems start.

Food Coloring Test

If, after checking, you still can’t tell, then you can put three or four drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait for about 20 minutes, if you see color in the toilet bowl, then your flapper is leaking and needs replacing.

Why Do Toilet Flappers Fail?

This little part that sits in the toilet tank doesn’t get any attention until it eventually fails. There are a number of reasons for this, and we will look at a few below.

Sediment Build Up

Hard water is not only bad for us but also for our toilets. It contains corrosive chemicals such as calcium and magnesium, which accumulate on the flapper, stiffening and or deteriorating it.

It is a good idea to periodically check the tank and see if there is sediment build-up which could be the reason why the flapper stopped working in the first place.

Strong Cleaning Chemicals

Most cleaning agents and disinfectants will damage rubber and metal components in the tank. Flappers are generally made out of rubber or silicone, and frequent use of these chemicals is not recommended as they will corrode the rubber and compromise the seal of the flapper, causing a leak.

Mold and Bacteria

Mold and bacteria can flourish in a toilet tank due to the dark environment and moisture. Eventually, the mold will start to deposit on the flapper preventing it from adequately opening and closing adequately.

Also Read: How to Clean Toilet Tank Mold

Wear and Tear

Toilet flappers will not last forever due to the reasons mentioned above. Older models tend not to perform as well, and the newer models will last a lot longer. Inspecting your toilet tank will keep you on top of things and prevent any nasty surprises.

In Conclusion

There are quite a few different types of toilet flappers with dials, chains, and rods, as well as different sizes, so there is a lot to consider. The flappers today are made from waterproof and rust-proof materials for longevity.

We hope that we were able to give you enough information to confidently replace and purchase the toilet flapper perfect for you.

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