If you are one of the 4.5 billion people in the world with access to proper sanitation, you probably use a toilet at least once a day. Unless you are a plumber, you probably do not know how one works. EmmerSan Home is here to guide you through the inner workings of a toilet. Make sure you read through this post first, since understanding how your home systems and appliances work is the best way to do simple DIY fixes on them.

The idea of getting rid of waste has been around for ages. The first primitive toilets have been found dating as far back as 2000 B.C. Today’s toilets are generally known as gravity flush toilets, and were invented by Alexander Cummings in 1775. In the 1800s, toilets – or water closets, as they were then known – were changing the sanitation world. Sewers, pipes and toilets spread throughout the world. Today you expect offices, homes and restaurants to have sanitary flushing toilets, but how do they work?

There are two main parts of a gravity-flush toilet, namely the tank and the bowl.

Let us look at the bowl first, and then move onto the cistern. The bowl is the most important part of the toilet, as its simplistic yet genius design allows for easy waste disposal, using a siphon. Take a look at the bowl of the toilet:

While looking at the side of the bowl, you can see a u-shape portion of the bowl that connects to the bowl and goes into the floor. That part of the toilet bowl is known as the siphon, which you can primarily thank for flushing the contents of your toilet down into the sewer.

How does a siphon work?

A siphon is any pipe that moves liquid upwards from a large reservoir and then down by creating a vacuum. After a large amount of liquid is forced into the reservoir, gravity takes care of the rest, moving the liquid up the u-shape, and down the pipe. The trick with a siphon is that since water is adhesive (its molecules stick together) once the water begins spilling over that U shape, it creates a vacuum that drags the rest of the reservoir down that pipe.

If you decided to take the cistern off of your toilet, and you just had the bowl, you would still have a completely functioning toilet, thanks to that siphon. If you slowly put a cup of water into the bowl, it would not do much. However, if you brought a bucket and poured it into the bowl, gravity would take affect, flushing the toilet. This U-shape on a toilet bowl also creates a seal that ensures gasses from the toilet bend and sewer are not released into your home from the toilet. Once the air gets into the siphon, the flushing stops, and the bowl fills back up with water thanks to the tank.

What is the role of the cistern in toilet function? The cistern acts as a bucket of water being dumped into the bowl and it accurately fills itself back up. A cistern is made up of multiple, but simple, parts.

A flush begins with a push of the handle. Pushing the handle lifts a lever that is attached to a chain. This chain is attached to a rubber flapper at the bottom of the cistern. The rubber flapper sits on what is called the cistern's seat. The flapper forms a seal between the tank water and the bowl. When the handle is pressed, the rod is pulled up, which pulls up this flapper, breaking the seal and allowing the cistern's water to pour into the bowl below, creating the flush.

After the cistern water flushes into the bowl, the inlet valve brings water up to the fill valve, which begins to fill the tank with water again. The flapper goes back down and seals the tank and stops any more water from going into the bowl. The fill valve brings water into the tank, until the ball float rises up to the determined level, and stops the filling valve.

Simplistically, the toilet works in three parts: The cistern dumps two gallons of water into the bowl, starting the siphon. Through gravity, a siphon pulls waste and water down into the toilet bend and out to the sewer. Then, the cistern is filled up with fresh water, ready to flush again.

Most toilet parts and repairs are cheap and easy to fix, and if you want an overview of how to fix some of the basic issues homeowners run into with toilets.

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