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Toilet Removal: How To Properly (And Safely) Remove A Toilet

how to remove a toilet redoing bathroom

Your toilet serves a vital role in your home, and it’s great until something goes wrong. But you don’t have to shell out for a plumber when it’s time to remove a toilet when its lifespan has ended.

Unless you’re completely mechanically disinclined, it’s not a difficult process. It may seem daunting because it’s not a skill everyone picks up during everyday life. But it’s not hard. Here’s how to remove a toilet properly and safely.

Things You’ll Need

The good news is that provided you have all the tools on hand, toilet removal won’t cost you anything.

The first thing you need, though, isn’t a tool. It’s an action you’ll have to take. “How to remove a toilet” begins with turning off the water to the toilet. The shutoff valve is most likely on the wall behind your toilet, down near the floor. If you forget this step, you’re in for a wet time and a lot of cleanup work.

Once you’ve done that, gather the necessary tools.

  • A bucket and some towels (probably shop towels and not the nice bathroom towels you use every day)
  • A cup
  • A flathead screwdriver for prying
  • A Phillips-head screwdriver 
  • A utility knife and a putty knife
  • Pliers
  • Latex or rubber gloves (not necessary, but probably a good idea)

The Removal Process

What follows is a step-by-step guide to properly and safely remove a toilet.

how to remove a toilet the process

1. Empty the Toilet

You can remove a toilet without emptying it first, but don’t. For one, the water will make the toilet heavier. A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, and your tank could contain as many as seven gallons. 

More importantly, all that water will spill out into your bathroom.

Now that your water supply is off, flush the toilet. It will flush normally, but it won’t refill. Most water will be gone from the toilet bowl and the tank. Use the cup to scoop out as much of the remaining water as you can. 

You might also employ the towels to soak up even more because any remaining water will spill onto the floor.

2. Disconnect the Water Supply

Use the pliers to disconnect the water supply line from the tank. You could disconnect it from the water supply valve, but this is only necessary if you plan on replacing that line. The pliers go around the hexagonal nut at the tank. 

Place a towel beneath the tank, as some water will remain in the tube and drip out when you loosen the nut.

3. Remove the Tank

how to remove a toilet removing tanks

You will want to leave the towel in place.

Inside the tank, at the base, you will find the bolts securing the tank to the toilet base. Unscrew them and remove the nuts from the outside, on the bottom of the tank. When you lift the toilet tank, water will drip since you probably didn’t get every drop out of the tank, and thank goodness you left the towel on the floor. 

Incidentally, you can leave the tank in place and remove the entire toilet at once, but removing the tank first will make the toilet lighter. You’ll also skip this step if yours is a one piece toilet. 

4. Pull Off the Seat (Optional)

You may have the intention of putting a new seat on your new toilet, and if this is the case, you can skip to step five (also, if you don’t move the seat, you probably won’t need the Phillips-head screwdriver). Otherwise, locate the nuts holding the seat to the toilet bowl. Depending on your toilet seat’s style, you’ll expose the mounting bolts by prying up or rotating the covers that hide them.

Unscrew the bolts, remove the nuts, and pull the toilet seat off.

5. Loosen the Toilet

More than likely, your toilet has a ring of caulking at the toilet base. Use your utility knife to cut the caulking. Some toilets don’t have this caulking, and you may not want to caulk your new toilet, as the seal can trap moisture.

Next, remove the plastic caps from the flange bolt at the bottom of the toilet so you can access the closet bolts. Pry the caps off with your flathead screwdriver. Use pliers to remove the closet bolts keeping the toilet bolted to the floor. 

After that, you’ll be able to rock the toilet back and forth to loosen it.

6. Remove the Toilet

how to remove a toilet lifting toilet off

You should be careful when pulling the base, as you need to pull the toilet straight up. If you lift it at an angle, you can potentially damage the floor bolts. You also risk damaging or destroying the wax ring that sits between the toilet and the floor flange. You’ll be removing the wax ring (always replace it when installing a new toilet), but if you damage it, it will be harder to remove than if it were still in one piece.

Set the toilet into the bathtub or shower stall to keep it from dripping on the floor. If you’re working in a quarter or half bath and don’t have a tub or shower, have a large garbage bag on hand and put the toilet base into that. This is a way to make cleanup easier, and if you don’t mind more water cleanup, you can skip this.

7. Finishing the Job

You need to remove the caulking you cut through earlier. Use the putty knife for this process. Be careful not to scratch or otherwise mar the floor when scraping the caulking away. 

Thoroughly clean the floor— your replacement toilet may not have the same footprint as the one you removed, and a good cleaning job means you won’t see the old outline sitting outside the footprint of the new one.

Finally, remove the wax ring from the toilet flange. If it’s old, it may have become brittle. Scrape and remove as much of the wax ring as possible so that your new wax ring will fit properly.

Throw away the caulking and the old wax ring, dry the floor, and get ready to install your new toilet (another plumbing job you can do yourself for only the cost of materials).

In Conclusion

In seven easy, no-cost steps, you can remove your old toilet without the help or labor cost of a professional plumber. Even if installing a new one sits outside your skill set, knowing how to remove a toilet isn’t complicated. Take your time and be careful at each step, and the process is straightforward.

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