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How does a dual flush work?
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How does a dual flush work?

Posted by Adam Chard in Buying Guides | 6 months ago 8 min read

It’s a modern device designed to save us water, but how does a dual toilet flush actually work? We found out…


In the not too dim and distant past, before water conservation was a widespread concern, most toilets came with a simple handle flush. One yank would send a torrent of water gushing down your toilet, leaving your pan free from waste. If you can cast your mind back a little further, you may even remember when high level cistern toilets (especially those in public conveniences) came with a chain pull flush. Although, with all the wear and tear they’d go through, chain pull flushes often broke, leaving some poor person to try and remedy the issue as best they could.

Of course, these days, toilet technology has moved on and most modern toilets come with a dual water-saving flush. Despite this, many of us still aren’t aware how they work or even how to use them properly. The result? Gallons of water needlessly wasted every single year. And, if your household is on a water meter, you could end up flushing cash straight down the toilet (figuratively speaking, of course!). In this article, we’ll take a look at dual flushes, explaining how they work and how to make sure you’re using them effectively.


What is a dual toilet flush?

Whilst traditional toilets tend to come with a single, handle-operated flush (commonly delivering 6 litres of water at a time), contemporary close coupled toilets usually feature what is known as a dual flush (sometimes referred to as an eco flush). This allows you to choose a specific volume of water when you flush. With a button design, rather than a handle, the modern dual flush delivers either a short flush (often around 3/4 litres) for liquid waste and a larger volume of water (often around 6 litres) for solid matter.

If you’ve selected a close coupled toilet (the most common design in UK households), the button is built into the overall design of the toilet. However, if you’ve opted for a back to wall or wall hung toilet, you can choose a flush button that works best with your overall bathroom design.

A modern close coupled toilet complete with dual flush and push button activation

The contemporary Harrison close coupled toilet comes complete with dual flush and push button activation

This is all well and good, but, even with a dual flush installed, many of us often ignore the smaller flush option or simply don’t understand how the system operates. If you wish to start saving more water (and, in many cases, cash!), read on, as we explain exactly how to operate a dual toilet flush.


How to operate a dual toilet flush

To find out how to use a dual flush, you will first need to understand which type of toilet you have. The main differences are outlined in our toilet buying guide.

Once you know this, we’ve supplied step-by-step instructions for each type.

Close coupled toilet flush

The most common type of dual flush button for the close coupled toilets we supply looks like this…

A typical dual flush button for a modern close coupled toilet

A typical dual flush button for a modern close coupled toilet

As you can see, it consists of a large button, which operates the larger flush, and a smaller button, which (yes, you’ve guessed it) operates the smaller flush. Below, we’ve added detailed instructions on how to use your close coupled toilet dual flush.

How to flush liquid waste

  1. Lower the lid of your toilet, to prevent microbes being released into the air
  2. Press the smaller of the 2 flush buttons
  3. Release the button
  4. Your toilet will flush, taking a short time to refill, ready for the next flush

How to flush solid waste

  1. Lower the lid of your toilet, to prevent microbes being released into the air
  2. Press the larger of the 2 flush buttons
  3. Release the button
  4. Your toilet will flush, taking a short time to refill, ready for the next flush

Back to wall and wall hung toilet flush

The most common type of dual flush button for back to wall toilets and wall hung toilets we supply is from Macdee Wirquin and looks like this…

Macdee Wirquin dual flush push button

The Macdee Wirquin concealed cistern dual flush push button

As you can see, it consists of a button (large enough for even the biggest of thumbs to press) with a smaller, crescent-shaped button (made of plastic). Ideally, this should be positioned so the plastic button is to the side (as pictured above).

Whilst it may not be immediately obvious, when also pressed, the smaller, plastic button operates the smaller volume flush, perfect for most types of waste. However, if you require a longer, larger volume flush, simply press the main button without also pressing the smaller, plastic button.

Below, we’ve added detailed instructions on how to use this type of back to wall or wall hung toilet dual flush.

How to flush liquid waste

  1. Lower the lid of your toilet, to prevent microbes being released into the air
  2. Press the flush button, ensuring you also press the smaller, crescent-shaped plastic button
  3. Release the button
  4. Your toilet will flush, taking a short time to refill, ready for the next flush

How to flush solid waste

  1. Lower the lid of your toilet, to prevent microbes being released into the air
  2. Press the flush button, but making sure you DON’T also press the smaller, crescent-shaped plastic button
  3. Release the button
  4. Your toilet will flush, taking a short time to refill, ready for the next flush

In these instructions, we recommend lowering your toilet lid. But why? Find out more about whether you should leave the toilet seat up or down in our article


Different types of dual flush button

As we mentioned earlier in this article, with back to wall or wall hung toilet designs, you can choose the type of flush button you’d prefer. You’ll find a range of designs available, however, whilst each one may differ, the same theory applies—even with public toilets, like the ones you’d find in a café, cinema, leisure centre or restaurant. In most cases, you’ll usually find a large and small button. The small button operates the smaller flush, whereas the larger button operates the larger flush. It’s that simple!

Choose your ideal concealed cistern

Choose your ideal dual flush button from a range of stylish designs

Since the beginning of the worldwide COVID pandemic, there has been a greater focus on touchless technology in the bathroom. In many public toilets, you will now find a touchless flush which is operated by waving your hand in front of a motion sensor. Interestingly, with an electronic bidet toilet, also known as a Japanese toilet, you can employ similar advanced technology in your own home. So, if your priority is increased hygiene, rather than saving water, this might be the option for you. Complete with a remote control, it’s also easier to operate for those with restricted mobility.

Grohe Sensia Arena smart toilet with soft close seat

The Grohe Sensia Arena smart toilet comes with a range of advanced features and can be operated by remote control


What do I do if my flush won’t work?

If your flush isn’t working properly or has stopped working entirely, there is obviously something quite wrong with the system. But how can you identify the issue? First things first, head to our toilet troubleshooting guide, where you’ll find common problems and potential solutions. However, in many cases, especially where your toilet is quite old, replacement parts or even a full replacement toilet may be a better option, than simply attempting a short-term fix.

Find out how much it costs to install a toilet.


How do I tell if my toilet is leaking?

Did you know an estimated 1 out of every 25 UK toilets has a faulty cistern? This means, water constantly runs between the cistern and pan, wasting hundreds of litres of water every year. In our handy article, we’ll show you the tell-tales signs of a leaky loo and what you can do to maintain yours.


Shop eco bathrooms, plus water-saving advice for your bathroom

Here at Victoria Plum, we’ve created a whole water-saving eco bathrooms range, to help you be as eco-friendly as possible in your bathroom. Complete with water-saving toilets, taps, basins, baths and showers, plus energy-saving heating and lighting, you can ensure your bathroom is environmentally-friendly as it can be.

Shop eco water-saving bathrooms

We also have plenty of helpful advice, from saving water in the bathroom to cutting your energy bills, and from conserving heat in your home to our top 5 water-saving tips, which you can see more of in the video below.



Why not find out more about our eco bathrooms at Victoria Plum?

Author, Adam Chard

Posted by Adam Chard in Buying Guides | 6 months ago

A born & raised West Countryman, now living on the Yorkshire Coast, for over 9 years Adam has been bringing home interior ideas to life at Victoria Plum. Adam’s favourite interior styles have been shaped by both urban and natural influences.

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