Sealing a Toilet while away for 6 months.

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Hugh 44

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I am new to the forum and looking for advice on sealing my toilets while away from my homes for 6 months. I have two homes and the temperature is controlled to prevent freezing (above 55 F) in one home while we are away in winter, but our winter home can reach temperatures above 100 F when we are away in the summer. The water has evaporated from the bowls and grown algae in the tank upon our return. I have tried a water balloon, but it leaks after one month and fills the bowl and the seal is broken. I have tried sealing the tank and bowl with cling wrap without complete success. I have read about adding mineral oil in the bowl to reduce evaporation, but I am not sure it will last 6 months. I am curious about an inflatable test plug. Can this be inserted into the bowl and into a round straight portion of the toilet that would create a seal? Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

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JMac

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If you don't want to leave water in the toilet, shut off the water behind the toilet (the shutoff valve), flush the toilet a time or two, then sponge or wet vac out what's left. Note that this will leave an open pipe to the sewer/septic tank.
Do you not have somebody that can go into your house and just flush the toilet once a week or so to keep the water somewhat fresh and the trap full?
 

Reach4

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Vegetable oil is often suggested for traps and should work in the bowl. I wonder if dropping a small piece of a chlorinating tablet, as may be used in some chlorine dispensers for pools, into the bowl would inhibit anything further eating the oil. I think mineral oil is variable, and I doubt it is that good for septic tanks. Vegetable oil should be safe.
 

Hugh 44

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Thanks for the rapid replies. I am always reading about homeowners that leave the water on to the house and come home to a costly repair. I do turn off the valves to each fixture and appliance and actually turn off and drain as much water as I can from the pipes by opening all the faucets in the house. I also now vacuum out the toilet tanks. I failed to say that both homes have city sewers. When I left water in the tank I used the chlorine tablets in the tank but I still grew algae probably from lack of water moving in the tank even when I was using cling wrap. I am still curious about an inflatable test plug. (Cherne or similar) It's still the algae and methane I am worried about.

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Cacher_Chick

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I would just close the main water shut-off and dump a quart of vegetable oil in the bowl.
It is really in your best interest to have someone come and check on the house. What is to say the squatters have not moved in or that a window has not been broken? I would not leave a house sit unchecked for more than a few weeks at most.
 

Jadnashua

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Vegetable oil can turn rancid open to the air after 6-months. You might try RV antifreeze and after a good cleaning, maybe something like cover the bowl with some SaranWrap. Just remember to remove it before you try to use it! Maybe lay something across it to make it obvious to remind you that isn't clear!
 

Reach4

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A search for algicide turns up products sold at pool stores. I suspect that might make a good additive. You are not going to eat the vegetable oil. :)
 

Koa

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I would think you could use doubled up 3 mil trash bags to contain the water. After draining and dryinying the bowl and tank place the doubled up bag in the bowl and fill with water. Tie it off to seal the water inside with several zip ties. Shouldn't leak and will seal off sewer gases.

I guess you would need to do all the sinks.

If you have access to the main sewer line under your house you could add a 4" ball valve to shut off the line. You would also need to cap off the roof vents and make sure the water to the house is turned off. To be safe you could add a second valve above the shut off valve that you leave open to allow water to drain in the event of the main water supply valve, the device shut off valve and the device valve all develop leaks. None of this is probably to code.
 

Jadnashua

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Rancid oil sitting in an open toilet bowl still smells rancid, whether you are going to eat it or not! Clean the bowl well, RV antifreeze in case you get one of those potentially rare freeze cycles, and then plastic seal the top so you don't get anything in it that could grow and keep what is in there, in there.
 

Reach4

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Rancid oil sitting in an open toilet bowl still smells rancid, whether you are going to eat it or not! Clean the bowl well, RV antifreeze in case you get one of those potentially rare freeze cycles, and then plastic seal the top so you don't get anything in it that could grow and keep what is in there, in there.
What is the basis of your claim that vegetable oil siting in a toilet bowl for 6 months would smell bad? Did you read that somewhere?

I know that oil that sits in an open bottle on the shelf for a couple years has smell that smells like oil paint to me. But it is not like a swamp or decomposing meat etc. Yes, comparing the fairly mild smell of a re-capped bottle for a few years with a toilet bowl for 6 months, may not be fair, but I suspect you are over-stretching in your claim.

I think the standard for what smells and tastes to eat is different from how noticable the smell of olive or other oil in a toilet bowl for half a year.

Do you have a cite? Do you have personal experience?
 

Jadnashua

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Organic oils oxidize. I can tell easily when one has gone bad. It takes longer in a closed bottle partly because the better ones are packed with N2 so they can initially, anyways, not oxidize sitting on the shelf. Leave that same bottle open (done that by mistake), and I can tell, often in as little as a couple of weeks...6-months, at least to me open to the air would just be nasty. Not everyone has the same sense of smell. ALso, after sitting and oxidizing, it tends to get much sticker, and cleaning a toilet is bad enough...having a bunch of oil stuck on it is like adding gas to the flame. RV antifreeze works, flushes away, and isn't a hassle for the septic system or public utility to deal with. And, not being an organic food, less capable of nasty crud growing in it.
 

Hugh 44

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Thanks for all the valuable replies. I think I am going to go with a version of an idea from KOA above. I think I have a plan for my 6 month location swap this spring. I will turn off the water to each toilet. Flush the toilets, vacuum and sponge out any water remaining in the tank and bowl. Place two heavy duty wall plastic bags one inside each other in the empty bowl and fill with water leaving some air in the top before the sealing bags. I am currently trying this experiment in a lesser used toilet and it seems to be holding better than the balloons I have tried in the past. It seems to create a good seal to prevent sewer gases from entering the home. I am a little afraid of the oil after hearing the responses. Now to answer some of the questions that were asked of me:
Do I have somebody to come in once a week to flush the toilet? No, not nearby and not once a week. I have emergency contacts if necessary.
What about squatters? I have a pretty good security system. Door and window sensors, glass breakage detectors, smoke detectors, co detectors, water sensors, 16 video cameras located inside and outside (some are PTZ cameras), motion sensors, temperature sensors, speakers and microphones for two way communication, thermostat temperature control, wifi access with text, phone and email notification if anything is detected or out of range, most devices are tamper protected and the system is battery backed up. It may seem excessive, but I really enjoyed designing it and creating it. I feel pretty well connected and protected in our two homes.

Thanks again for all the interest in helping me with my snowbird plumbing shutdown issues.
 

JerryR

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I have a pretty good security system. Door and window sensors, glass breakage detectors, smoke detectors, co detectors, water sensors, 16 video cameras located inside and outside (some are PTZ cameras), motion sensors, temperature sensors, speakers and microphones for two way communication, thermostat temperature control, wifi access with text, phone and email notification if anything is detected or out of range, most devices are tamper protected and the system is battery backed up. It may seem excessive, but I really enjoyed designing it and creating it. I feel pretty well

and protected in our two homes.

Hugh, I LIKE THE WAY YOU THINK!

I thought I was the only one who went to that extreme. Sounds like my 2 homes. Alarm has 2 IP connections (Envisalink and iPdatatel) CDMA cellular 2-way interactive alarm control, dial up, PTZ cameras with 2-way audio. have several UPS supplies, cycle power to the router and modems every 24 hours to reboot if they hang up, Wifi thermostats, text, phone email notification for interior motion or out of range.

We actually turn off water main, throw water heater breaker, turn off ice maker and confirm wifi thermostat is working when we leave.
 

Hugh 44

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Hugh, I LIKE THE WAY YOU THINK!

I thought I was the only one who went to that extreme. Sounds like my 2 homes. Alarm has 2 IP connections (Envisalink and iPdatatel) CDMA cellular 2-way interactive alarm control, dial up, PTZ cameras with 2-way audio. have several UPS supplies, cycle power to the router and modems every 24 hours to reboot if they hang up, Wifi thermostats, text, phone email notification for interior motion or out of range.

We actually turn off water main, throw water heater breaker, turn off ice maker and confirm wifi thermostat is working when we leave.
Hi Jerry,

Yeh it is excessive.

I have electric hot water in my winter home and turn off the breaker. In my summer home I have natural gas hot water and gas forced air heat. I have been reading other forums about turning off the hot water and turning the the dial to vacation while away for 6 months. I tried it this season and I am hoping the tank has water in it when I return this spring. I leave the heat on (about 55 F) and control it with my wifi thermostat. I also have been reading about bacteria growing in hot water tanks when not being used for long periods of time. We have been cranking up the temperature on the water heaters until the water is running at 160 F to purge the lines and when the water cools off we lower the temp to about 124 F. I realize you can't get all the bacteria out of all the lines, but it makes my wife, the scientist, feel better about the whole bacteria thing. It looked like this winter was brutal in the northeast. In addition to turning off the water main, we called the water department and had them shut off the water at the curb. I have a temperature sensor and water sensor attached to the pipe where it enters the house and the temperature was in the single digits several times. The water sensor never detected water, but the temperature was scary. I had my emergency contact check it out several times, including after the temperature increased well above freezing and found everything was ok. Being a snowbird does have it stressful situations. Next year I will turn off the water at the curb myself before I leave. I will also move a PTZ camera to the utility room and put an analog (dial) thermometer in the room in addition to the temperature sensor.

These topics are discussed elsewhere on this site. Not really right for the toilet forum.
 
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