Property: Doctor on the House - Toilet humour: do you let go or hold on?

Don't smash the cistern, find the little bung in it and get your flusher fixed instead, says Jeff Howell

It has been estimated that the average Briton flushes the toilet 20 times a day.

Who estimates these things? Search me, but they further estimate that 17 of these flushes need only be short, four-and-a-half litre ones; the full nine-litre flush is only required three times. You should be able to choose between a short and a long flush if you have a cistern with a little sticker saying something like "short flush - pull and let go; full flush - pull and hold".

But a surprising number of these dual-flush cisterns are nothing of the sort, because the installing plumber failed to make one final adjustment --he didn't remove a little piece of rubber from the siphon.

If you think you have a dual-flush toilet, but can't tell the difference between holding on and letting go - if you get my drift - then have a look in the top of the cistern. You may have to undo one or two plastic screws to get the lid off. Find the siphon, which is the big plastic tube thingy in the middle, and have a look around the sides of it. There should be a little rubber bung stuck in a hole, below the water level. If you pull it out and have a look, it may even bear the legend "remove this bung for dual flush".

Now watch what happens when you pull the lever and let go - the water will fall to the level of the hole, air will be sucked in, and the flush will stop. If you keep the lever held down, the piston blocks off the hole and all the water is siphoned out. Brilliant. So why did the manufacturers bung up the hole in the first place?

The reason is that when the cisterns are installed at low level, the short flush is sometimes too feeble, even for those 17-times-a-day situations. So in toilets used by the great British public the building managers usually opt for a constant long flush. In fact this has been so common that, just when we were getting the hang of them, dual-flush cisterns are being phased out; all new cisterns are smaller - seven-and-a-half litres - and give a full flush every time. Since we are supposed to be trying to save water, this does seem like something of a step backwards.

Low-level cisterns are also responsible for another problem. Have you ever been in a toilet where the seat will not stay up? This can be very dangerous for men, especially drunken men in strange toilets. Stop that sniggering; you know what I mean.

This hazard usually results from the original high-level cistern being replaced with a low-level one, but without moving the pan forward. So where there used to be room for the lid and seat to be raised past the vertical and leaned against the flush pipe, now the cistern is in the way. If you have this problem at home then I suggest you get it fixed, at least before your next party; legal claims for that type of personal injury can work out very expensive.

Still, if you do have that toilet problem, at least you will have a greater chance of staying happily married. Apparently, men leaving toilet seats up is one of the most frequently cited complaints in divorce proceedings. Who estimated that? Search me, but all the women I've mentioned it to agree that it must be true.

q You can contact Jeff Howell at the Independent on Sunday or by e-mail on: Jeff@doctoronthehouse.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator - Financial Services

£32000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor