What Do Your Coworkers Know About Toilets?

When you solve a hard problem, share the solution. It will save you time and money, at home and at work.

To practice what I preach, let me tell you about my toilet.

All swirl and no flush

Marie and I live in a one-toilet home. Over the years I’ve learned to hear the difference between a perfect flush and a potential problem.

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Yesterday, I not only heard a problem, I could see it. When flushed, the water got too high, swirled more than usual, and drained without that satisfying whoosh at the end.

I hate when household equipment doesn’t work right. Usually I need to drop whatever I’m doing, and get on it right now. That need was even greater than usual yesterday, because I was just 24 hours from “prep day” for my first-ever colonoscopy. I’ve been told that process requires a well-functioning toilet.

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I’m no plumbing genius, but am handy with a plunger. Not yesterday. Plunging was fruitless.

Next, I tried to snake it out. About all that did was scratch the enamel.

An idea from the Web led me up on the ice covered roof to make sure the vent stack wasn’t plugged with ice. It was clear.

Then, I grabbed a hand-held mirror to examine under the rim. Those holes can plug, too. They looked fine.

With 64 ounces of Miralax-spiked Gatorade less than a day away, I called the plumber. He didn’t answer, nor did he return my call.

Just when I was about to give up . . .

I found one more option, something that hardly any of the do-it-yourself experts on the Web mentioned.

If you look close (I’m not suggesting you do), there’s a siphon jet hole (see letter G on diagram) in the bottom of the toilet bowl. It’s hard to see unless you put your head in the toilet (For the record, I didn’t do this). When you flush, water shoots out of this hole to fill the drain pipe. This creates a siphon.

When I investigated, it was plugged. Eureka! I cleaned it out and once again heard that perfect flush.

The real mystery, of course, is how it got plugged. Plunging created the problem. I now know that the water pressure created by a plunger that pushes a blockage through the outlet pipe can also push toilet paper into this hole.


While my solution did solve the problem, the toilet’s crappy flushing ability (no pun intended) finally led us to search for a new toilet. We wanted a low tank and a higher seat. One toilet met the specs, the KOHLER K-1.28 GPF Santa Rosa Comfort Height One-Piece Compact Elongated Toilet.

I’m not sure one can or should love a toilet, but I have to admit I’m coming close with this one. Quick little flush that up to this point authoritatively sucks all my worries down the drain. Plus it looks good to boot.

This toilet does have a different shape drain hole, which led me to find a new plunger for those now rare plugged pot times. I love this plunger.

Save time and money

I can’t believe I’m the first to discover that plunging can create problems, in addition to nasty splashing. Too bad that information wasn’t easy to find on the Web. It should be. That’s why I wrote this story. I wanted to contribute to the body of knowledge. Others will have the same problem, and I’m hopeful they’ll find this story. If they do, they’ll save hours of troubleshooting time and a plumber’s bill.

Now apply this concept at work. Every day people solve hard problems. Do you have access to those solutions, should you run into the same problem?

Wouldn’t it be cool to have one enormous knowledge repository at work. It would be a system that everyone contributed to and benefited from. When one person solved a problem, that solution would be permanently recorded and easily accessible.

You can build this system. Start small. Try it within your department. When it succeeds, other departments can replicate your solution. Perhaps one day you can tie it all together so that every employee in your organization has access to the hard-earned knowledge of every other employee. Now that would be powerful.

And by the way, if you’re not sure how to start, check the Web. I’m certain many others have already solved this problem.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.