Why You Should Put Food Coloring in Your Toilet

published May 16, 2018
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

If you’ve got a pack of food coloring in your pantry, you might want to bring one of the tiny bottles into the bathroom. Turns out, food coloring — or any other type of dye — can be pretty useful if you suspect that your toilet might be leaking.

Why You Need to Check Your Toilet for Leaks

Because leaks are wasteful and cost you money. Big toilet leaks are easy to detect, because you can usually hear them; the sound of always-running water doesn’t usually go unnoticed. But a slow leak — when water is slowly escaping from the toilet tank into the bowl below — is silent, allowing massive amounts of water to escape your home, totally undetected, each month.

How to Check Your Toilet for Leaks

You don’t need any fancy equipment or a professional plumber to do a simple welfare check to make sure your commode isn’t dripping money down the drain. All you need is some food coloring.

Tip: Any type of food coloring or dye will do — you can even make your own from blueberries, beets, or cabbage. You can also purchase colored tablets specifically for this purpose, which is an especially good idea if you have many toilets to check.

Just lift the lid off your toilet tank and add a few drops of dye into the water inside. You’ll want to use enough so that you notice a distinct color change in the water, but not so much that you risk accidentally dyeing the inside of your toilet tank or bowl. (Note: We’re not saying to do this all the time! Just once if you suspect your toilet tank may be leaking water.)

Replace the lid and let your toilet sit for a while (make sure nobody in the house uses the commode in the meantime). Go back in about 15 minutes to check and see if any colored water has seeped from the tank to the bowl. If your toilet bowl water is tinted blue or green or red after some time, it means you have a faulty flapper of fill valve.

Time to call a plumber! Or try your hand at a DIY fix. This post can help you troubleshoot a few leaky toilet problems, or follow these instructions from This Old House.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The $500 Reason Why You Should Put Food Coloring in Your Toilet