Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 48° Clear
News >  Home


Leon Frechette The Spokesman-Review

Question: Our Eljer two-piece toilet has been in our house since it was built in 1989. The tank intermittently fills because the water in the tank leaks out.

I also discovered a calcium-like buildup under the flapper which closes the tank. Everything was OK for a short time after I cleaned it off, but the toilet started leaking again. The dripping is audible. When I press down hard on the flapper, however, the sound stops. Is there any product I can put in the tank to prevent the calcium buildup?

This situation arose after the toilet assembly was changed out. The toilet probably had calcium buildup before, but it never caused a leak. There’s a fair amount of calcium buildup around the inside of the tank, and I assume it will continue to build up even if the tank is carefully, and regularly, cleaned because our water is hard.

Thanks for your input. Linn W., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Answer: I’m unaware of any product that can be used in a toilet tank to help prevent calcium buildup. However, there is one device that may be worth considering. I personally have not used this product but my plumber swears by it. The device is called a magnetic water conditioner and has been manufactured in the U.S. since 1985.

These units were first introduced as traditional magnets that simply clamped onto the main water pipe. Now, they sport cool colors and cases, and new models are installed inline. There are many similar devices on the market under different trade names, selling from $39.95 up to $559.00 for pipes sized from ½ inch to ¾ inch. To find these products online, type “magnetic water conditioner” into your favorite search engine and start plowing through the long list of results.

At least two magnetic water conditioners are needed on the incoming water supply, just after the water meter, spaced about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches apart. Then install two booster units on the water heater: one on the cold water supply entering the tank and one on the hot side as it exits in the tank.

The magnets won’t work if you have galvanized steel or iron plumbing pipes. However, you can replace the pipe with a minimum of 18 inches of new pipe (PVC or copper) on either side of the magnetic units.

How does this magnetic system work? Basically, water contains dissolved mineral salts, primarily calcium and magnesium. When water enters the tank, these minerals precipitate out and build up as sediment, a natural crystallization process accelerated by heating the water.

As water moves in the earth, it creates a naturally equal ionic (electric) charge between the minerals and the water.

In theory, as water passes through pipes outfitted with magnetic water conditioners, it becomes magnetically charged. Electrically, the water takes on a greater ionic charge than the minerals, which creates a natural magnetic attraction between the two. The magnetization then attracts and locks the dissolved minerals into the water creating healthy and cost-free de-scaling.

Because the first set of magnets is on the main water inlet, the magnetic charging of the incoming cold water should help prevent mineral buildup on fixtures as the cold water is used throughout the home.

The magnetic water conditioners should also help prevent mineral buildup in the water heater. Again, this is theory and I cannot tell you for certain if the magnetic system is effective.

If, after using the magnetic water conditioner, you find it helps stop the calcium buildup but water is still leaking, then most likely the flapper is not achieving a tight seal against the flush valve. You may have a warped, shrunken, or misaligned flapper or even a damaged flush valve (the flush valve connects to the overflow tube).

If you had said the toilet was running continuously then I would have suggested that you repair or replace the ballcock, adjust and clean the flush valve, replace the flush valve, replace the leaky float ball, adjust the water level in the tank, and/or adjust the handle and the lift wires or chain.

If you have to replace parts, it is always better to use parts made by the toilet’s manufacturer, so it is helpful to find as much information about the toilet as you can from the underside of the tank or lid.

Don’t rule out after-market parts, though. A company in Pennsylvania stocks all kinds of original parts for older toilets.

You can go online at to see your toilet and a parts breakdown. When you reach the home page, click on “Toilet Parts,” then on “Two Piece Toilet Breakdowns,” and go down the list under Eljer One Piece Toilets.

Look for the Eljer product that matches your toilet. If you need to contact someone at the company, call Scott at (800) 448-8977, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.