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#1
Old 11-11-2015, 12:29 PM
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Dirty water in only one toilet bowl- clogged vent?

We have one guest bathroom on our first floor, and a main bathroom plus guest bathroom on the second. About a week ago, after flushing the 1st floor toilet, I noticed that the water that filled the bowl was vaguely cloudy. The next time I went to use the bathroom, the water wasn't cloudy- it was brown, with sediment-like sludge at the bottom of the bowl, like someone hadn't flushed after defecating. I flushed the toilet, and the water came in vaguely cloudy again. I plunged the heck out of it, and got a lot of nasty-smelling, brown sediment (I wasn't going to inspect any further). Flushed repeatedly, and each time the water came in vaguely cloudy, but when it sat for more than 30 minutes this brown sludge appeared.

It's the only toilet/sink/bathtub/washing machine in the entire house so effected. The water coming into the tank is clear, which makes me think that the 'sediment' is coming up the drain somehow. The toilet flushes perfectly fine- there's no hesitancy in the flush or refill, the water level doesn't vary, there's no gurgling. It doesn't phantom flush. I tried toilet-specific drain cleaner, no change.

Is this a symptom of a clogged vent pipe, or a sewer line issue?
#2
Old 11-11-2015, 01:28 PM
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Something doesn't compute here. You are saying that the toilet flushed cleanly. The water you're referring to is the water flowing from the toilet tank into the bowl. Right? If so, sounds like a problem with the supply line to that toilet.

Try flushing the toilet with a bucket of water from some other source and see if the problem reoccurs. That should help to localize the problem.
#3
Old 11-11-2015, 01:39 PM
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The toilet flushes without impediment, and when I took the lid off the tank, put a glass under the.. umm.. (looking for the right word) supply hose that sticks out into the tank and fills the tank, the water that was coming out of the supply hose is clear- no cloudiness or brown stuff. The tank is clean as well- no rust or anything. So the water *filling the tank* is clear, and the tank itself is clear, but the water that ends up in the bowl isn't. It's slightly cloudy filling the bowl, and then when it sits for a while there's brown sediment in the drain area, which makes me think there's some water 'backwashing' into the bowl from the drain itself.

Does that make more sense?
#4
Old 11-12-2015, 06:41 AM
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Not sure how relevant this is, but I'll share anyway.

A few years back I had a problem in that a loud gurgling came from the bathtub whenever the toilet was flushed. The Google told me to climb up on the roof, stick a garden hose down the stink pipe (vent), and unclog the blockage that was interfering with proper draining.

I did this, and it worked like a charm. Leaves had fallen into the vent and were easily dislodged. What I was not told, though, is that the tip of the hose would end up covered in feces.


mmm
#5
Old 11-12-2015, 07:01 AM
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This sounds like a clogged sewer pipe.

Being the first floor toilet, the drain for it is probably the lowest drain of your water fixtures. If you have a plugged sewer pipe, then sewage could be backing up and hitting that toilet first. It could be that it isn't even totally plugged, just enough that sewage is able to back up when that toilet flushes, then slowly drain through the clogged pipe and not be noticed until you flush again.

If you are on a septic system, then I'd open the septic tank and have a look. Sewage backing up could mean your system is in failure (instead of just a simple clog).

If you are on municipal sewer, then try snaking the pipe. Or call a plumber.

Either way, I'm interested in hearing what the outcome is. Good luck!
#6
Old 11-12-2015, 09:16 AM
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I've got the same problem and never figured out what is causing it. Clean water in the tank, clean water supply, and flushes just fine. But left sitting for 24 hours pungent water seems to seep back into the bowl somehow.
It's the lowest bathroom in the house (even though there is another lower level with a washer/dryer and sink). There's also a shower in the bathroom that's used daily and has no drainage or odor problems. It's on a municipal system.
I may have to try snaking it like sparky! suggests.
#7
Old 11-12-2015, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
Does that make more sense?
No it doesn't. Please flush the toilet with a bucket of water from another source. Then you will know if you have a water supply issue or something else. Until you do some problem solving, you're making wild ass guesses.
#8
Old 11-12-2015, 07:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fir na tine View Post
No it doesn't. Please flush the toilet with a bucket of water from another source. Then you will know if you have a water supply issue or something else. Until you do some problem solving, you're making wild ass guesses.
There is no way that it is the water supply.

If it was the water, then every water fixture would suffer from it, not to mention the cloudy water that would be in the supply tank.

It's waste water backing into the bowl.

Edit: I bet my shitty reputation on it.

Last edited by sparky!; 11-12-2015 at 07:17 PM.
#9
Old 11-12-2015, 08:03 PM
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Thanks folks; sounds like I'll be busy this weekend! I'll be sure to update you on my (hopeful) success.
#10
Old 11-14-2015, 12:06 PM
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Round one: Toilet, 1; Human: 0.

Picked up an industrial drain auger from the Depot and vigorously augered the toilet (which I think it kind of enjoyed). During the first few minutes, a good bit of brackish water backflowed into the bowl. Multiple (and I do mean multiple) flushes and augerings later, and the water in the bowl is not as cloudy as previously, but there is still.. chunks of debris collecting in the bottom of the drain. I am still unwilling to reach in there and pick one up to investigate.

Took advantage of the multiple flushes to clean out the tank- it's sparkling now, but there wasn't much to clean to begin with. Supply water and tank water are clear. Still no other fixtures impacted.

Walked around the house, poked my head up on the roof (admittedly didn't climb completely up there), and cannot find the vent pipe ANYWHERE. There is literally nothing visible sticking up above the roofline. There is a random open pipe in the front yard, covered with a plastic birdbath next to the front door, which I cannot imagine being the vent pipe, so I will need to do more investigating (which will involve crawling into the attic, a process I despise). I got one of those balloon things that goes on the end of the water hose, so I'm ready for that step as soon as I figure out where the darn pipe is.

I also picked up a couple gallons of extremely highly rated main line cleaner. Once I've exhausted all non-chemical options, I'll give that a shot.

Back into the fray!
#11
Old 11-14-2015, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
Round one: Toilet, 1; Human: 0.

Picked up an industrial drain auger from the Depot and vigorously augered the toilet (which I think it kind of enjoyed). During the first few minutes, a good bit of brackish water backflowed into the bowl. Multiple (and I do mean multiple) flushes and augerings later, and the water in the bowl is not as cloudy as previously, but there is still.. chunks of debris collecting in the bottom of the drain. I am still unwilling to reach in there and pick one up to investigate.

Took advantage of the multiple flushes to clean out the tank- it's sparkling now, but there wasn't much to clean to begin with. Supply water and tank water are clear. Still no other fixtures impacted.

Walked around the house, poked my head up on the roof (admittedly didn't climb completely up there), and cannot find the vent pipe ANYWHERE. There is literally nothing visible sticking up above the roofline. There is a random open pipe in the front yard, covered with a plastic birdbath next to the front door, which I cannot imagine being the vent pipe, so I will need to do more investigating (which will involve crawling into the attic, a process I despise). I got one of those balloon things that goes on the end of the water hose, so I'm ready for that step as soon as I figure out where the darn pipe is.

I also picked up a couple gallons of extremely highly rated main line cleaner. Once I've exhausted all non-chemical options, I'll give that a shot.

Back into the fray!
Sorry if I missed it, but are you are on sewer or septic?

The birdbath pipe in the front yard would be typical of a septic system vent, required if you have a pump station lifting the effluent from your septic tank to a drain field.

As to the roof vent, they can be surprisingly hard to see from the ground. Depending on the age of your house, it could even be venting to the attic (not sure on the code about this, but I believe they have to vent to the outside, not an attic).

At any rate, a vent issue should also affect other fixtures. It still seems that you're dealing with a local issue at that toilet's drain pipe.
#12
Old 11-14-2015, 12:27 PM
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We're on sewer; the house was built in 84 (we purchased it in 2011) and they've clearly done plumbing work here and there- the pipes are a completely bizarre mix of copper and PVC. We have plans to eventually re-plumb the whole mess, but that's a bit down the line (pardon the pun).

With everything else weird about this place, I would not be surprised at all to find it vents into the attic. That should make getting a hose in there extra fun!
#13
Old 11-14-2015, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
We're on sewer; the house was built in 84 (we purchased it in 2011) and they've clearly done plumbing work here and there- the pipes are a completely bizarre mix of copper and PVC. We have plans to eventually re-plumb the whole mess, but that's a bit down the line (pardon the pun).

With everything else weird about this place, I would not be surprised at all to find it vents into the attic. That should make getting a hose in there extra fun!
Any idea where the cleanout is located for your sewer line (assuming you have a cleanout)?

Everything you write still points to a clog in the line.
#14
Old 11-14-2015, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by sparky! View Post
Any idea where the cleanout is located for your sewer line (assuming you have a cleanout)?
Probably in the scary dark corner of the basement.
#15
Old 11-14-2015, 03:16 PM
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Our house does not have a vent pipe, but it was built in 1930 or so. There are multiple cleanout valves on the exterior of the house, but I suspect newer construction wouldn't have them outside. You would think that running a snake down a cleanout should solve the problem, but that is something I'd get a rooter company to do.

Possibly related, I recently had a problem with my bathroom sink backing up; I'd snake it or put detergent and hot water down, which helped a bit, but eventually it got so intractable I brought in a plumber. It developed that in the half-ass remodel done by the prior owners, they had plumbed the sinks in the bathroom in such a way that they were impossible to snake. Instead of tearing out the whole apparatus (costly!), my plumber had to jury-rig a sort of cleanout so that in case of future blockages, I can take out a section of pipe to access the problem.

Based on the problem, and the mix of PVC and copper in your house, it could be there's something going on in your pipes as a result of previous half-assery that's going to require more comprehensive action than than snaking.

TL;DR The cockamamie plumbing you describe makes me wonder if there's something going on you need a professional to fix.

Last edited by TSBG; 11-14-2015 at 03:16 PM.
#16
Old 11-14-2015, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by sparky! View Post
There is no way that it is the water supply.

If it was the water, then every water fixture would suffer from it, not to mention the cloudy water that would be in the supply tank.

It's waste water backing into the bowl.

Edit: I bet my shitty reputation on it.
I'll stake my shitty reputation against yours any day! Every fixture has it's own connection to the main water supply. The OP could rule this out in 2 minutes by trying the bucket flush. (Especially considering his recent remarks about half assed plumbing)

But go ahead and scour out the waste lines, it's a lot of fun isn't it?

Last edited by Fir na tine; 11-14-2015 at 05:18 PM.
#17
Old 11-14-2015, 05:56 PM
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Apparently your shitty reputation isn't quite as shitty as sparky!'s. As I said earlier, today I cleaned the tank and augered the toilet; I don't know of many other ways of cleaning the tank than shutting off the water, flushing, cleaning, then doing multiple rinses with bucket water to clean out whatever came off the tank before turning the water back on. No change.

So now that we've eliminated your suggestion, do you have anything else to add?
#18
Old 11-15-2015, 11:38 AM
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Round Two: Toilet, 2; Human, 0.

Put two bottles of main line cleaner (this stuff) down the shower drain in the same bathroom last night, where it sat from 9:30PM to 8:30AM. Rinsed with a couple gallons of boiling water and then ran hot water for five minutes, per directions. We never use that shower, so it was the best choice of drains in the house.

At this point, the water is no longer cloudy when filling the bowl or post-fill. There is, however, still debris. Less debris, granted, and it seems to be more.. defined, I guess? It's difficult to describe. It's almost sand-like now- granulated, for lack of a better word. Previously it looked like little clumps of poo.

I've uploaded some pictures in case they help in the diagnostics at all: http://imgur.com/a/bz7Y4 . Vaguely unsettling that my intro to imgur is a bunch of icky toilet pics.

We're preparing for some house guests so the search for the cleanout will continue later today after some other cleaning. Thanks for continuing to follow along!
#19
Old 11-15-2015, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
So now that we've eliminated your suggestion, do you have anything else to add?
Nope. Good luck.
#20
Old 11-15-2015, 06:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
Round Two: Toilet, 2; Human, 0.

Put two bottles of main line cleaner (this stuff) down the shower drain in the same bathroom last night, where it sat from 9:30PM to 8:30AM. Rinsed with a couple gallons of boiling water and then ran hot water for five minutes, per directions. We never use that shower, so it was the best choice of drains in the house.

At this point, the water is no longer cloudy when filling the bowl or post-fill. There is, however, still debris. Less debris, granted, and it seems to be more.. defined, I guess? It's difficult to describe. It's almost sand-like now- granulated, for lack of a better word. Previously it looked like little clumps of poo.

I've uploaded some pictures in case they help in the diagnostics at all: http://imgur.com/a/bz7Y4 . Vaguely unsettling that my intro to imgur is a bunch of icky toilet pics.

We're preparing for some house guests so the search for the cleanout will continue later today after some other cleaning. Thanks for continuing to follow along!
If the debris looks like sand, it may be soil in the pipe, possibly from roots, or a break.

You may want to call a professional who can scope that pipe. Or, leave it be and see if anything worsens.
#21
Old 11-15-2015, 06:57 PM
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One thing I can think of that might help diagnose a clogged sewer pipe -- have someone else flush a toilet elsewhere in the house while you watch this one. If the level rises, or it gets cloudy, then I'd definitely suspect some trouble downstream.
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