The $500 Reason Why You Should Put Food Coloring in Your Toilet

published Feb 12, 2018
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

If you’re planning on picking up some green food coloring for your St. Patrick’s Day beer, get a head start on it now. Because it turns out food coloring is a pretty useful tool outside of the kitchen, too.

If you suspect that your toilet might be leaking, food coloring or any other type of dye can help.

Why You Need to Check Your Toilet for Leaks

Because it’s wasteful and costs 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.

According to data from Virginia’s Halifax County Service Authority, a silent toilet leak can allow up to 300 gallons of water to be lost each day — a leak that size would cost roughly $500 dollars a year in added utility bills.

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 literally 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, 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.

Replace the lid and let your toilet sit for a while (make sure nobody in the house uses the john in the meantime). Come back in about fifteen 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.