No one likes cleaning the toilet. Let’s face it; it’s an unpleasant job. The in-tank toilet cleaning products might seem very attractive, especially if you’re looking for a way to save time and avoid having to clean the toilet. Boston homeowners should consider this when selecting toilet-cleaning products: not all toilet cleaners are created equal, and what saves time might end up costing you more money in toilet repairs and wasted water.
Most toilets use a flapper mechanism to flush material into the waste pipe. Tank based toilet cleaners, which include very harsh chemicals, tend to deteriorate the flapper valve of a toilet, reducing its life expectancy by as much as 75%. A leaking flapper valve will increase the amount of water being consumed by the fixture and will reduce or eliminate any water-saving the toilet design might otherwise offer.
Toilet flapper valves are made of rubber, which cannot withstand the chemicals used in in-tank cleaning products. If you don’t mind replacing the flapper valve every few years, these products may save you a few minutes, but without regular maintenance on the flapper valve, you’ll increase your water consumption and end up spending more on water over the life of the fixture. If you’ve paid more for a water-saving toilet design, you’ll also increase the amount of time it takes to recover the cost of your investment.
The biggest offenders among tank-based cleaners are the slow-release, drop-in tablets that have become so popular. Chemical-related flapper valve failure is not a recent discovery. Toilet manufacturers have known for at least 20 years that cleaning chemicals that are dispensed from the tank will significantly reduce the life expectancy of a flapper valve.
Valve manufacturers responded by making flapper valves that are more durable and better able to resist the damage caused by tank-based cleaning chemicals. That would be good news for consumers, if the companies that make tank-based cleaning products hadn’t also improved their products! Even with improved flapper valve materials, testing revealed that none of the newer materials could withstand a particular type of tank-based toilet bowl cleaning tablet (Vanish).
Consumers also may contribute to increased water usage when they attempt to correct a leaking flapper valve. Replacement flapper valves don’t always come from the manufacturer, which means that the replacement parts may not provide the same water-saving performance that OEM parts do. The results of using an incorrect replacement flapper valve may be somewhat surprising. Using the wrong valve may correct the leaking problem, but it may also double or in some cases nearly triple the water consumption per flush of a low-flow fixture!
The lessons here are two-fold. If you have a water-saving toilet (one that uses 1.6 gallons per flush or less), and it has a flapper valve, consider the use of tank dispensed toilet bowl cleaners carefully, as they have been shown in some cases, to degrade the durability of the flapper valve significantly. Second, if you have a low-flow toilet and you want to replace the flapper valve, choose your replacement carefully! If you can, purchase an OEM flapper valve that’s made specifically for your toilet model. Doing so will help preserve the water-saving quality of the toilet – which may have been the reason you chose your particular toilet in the first place!
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