How to Remove a Toilet

You may want to remove your toilet for one of several reasons. Perhaps you've decided it's time to upgrade your old water waster with a more efficient model. It's also possible you're redoing the floor in your bathroom or completing some other remodel that requires temporary removal of the toilet. Whatever your motivation, don't be daunted by the task. It may be a bit messy, and you may encounter glitches, but it's easier to accomplish than you might expect. In fact, it shouldn't take any longer than about 15 minutes.

Contemporary Bathroom Design with Freestanding Iron Bathtub
credit: YinYang/E+/GettyImages
When you remodel the bathroom, the toilet has to go, at least temporarily.

One of the most common glitches when removing a toilet is rusted bolts. Years of bathroom humidity can fuse the nuts, and because there is limited room, you sometimes can't get enough purchase on your wrench to persuade them to turn. Rust also sometimes creates another glitch: It may collects on the shut-off valve, making it impossible to turn off the water. These glitches might give you headaches, but they shouldn't. They aren't that difficult to deal with.

Does the Toilet Model Make a Difference?

Toilets can have different flush and fill mechanisms, they can be of different sizes, and the bowl and tank may be separate or fused. None of that makes a difference when you're removing one. No matter what model you have, it is bolted to the floor with standard toilet bolts, and it is hooked up to the water supply with a standard supply tube, which is always connected to the underside of the tank, where the tailpiece of the fill valve extends through the bottom of the tank. Toilet removal is one of those rare procedures for which a set of generic instructions works for virtually every model—wall-mount models excluded.

Procedure for Removing a Toilet

Things You'll Need

  • Spray lubricant

  • Sponge

  • Turkey baster

  • Bucket

  • Rubber gloves

  • Utility knife

  • Channel-lock pliers

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • Hacksaw or reciprocating saw

  • Putty knife

  • Adjustable wrench

Step 1 Turn Off the Water

Water shut-off valve for toilet
credit: Bartomeu Amengual/Stockbyte/GettyImages
Start by turning off the shut off valve.

Locate the shut off valve, which stubs out of the wall just under the toilet tank. Turn the handle clockwise as far as it will go. If you can't get it to turn, spray it with lubricant, wait for 10 minutes and try again. Still no luck? You may have to turn off the water to the bathroom or, if you can't find a dedicated valve, to the entire house.

Step 2 Empty the Tank and the Bowl

Flush the toilet, then use a sponge or a turkey baster (which you've now dedicated to bathroom repair) to transfer the water that remains in the bottom of the tank to the bowl. After the tank is empty, it's a good idea to also empty the bowl into a bucket, using the sponge or the baster, to minimize spilling when you finally get the toilet loose. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and to discard the water outside.

Step 3 Cut the Caulk Around the Base of the Toilet

Use a sharp utility knife to cut the silicone caulk sealing the base of the toilet to the floor. Not every toilet is caulked, and if you're isn't, you can skip this step.

Step 4 Disconnect the Water Supply

Water supply fitting of cistern tank of the toilet bowl at water closet close up
credit: Iuliia Mikhalitskaia/iStock/GettyImages
The supply hose attaches to a connector on the underside of the tank.

Locate the supply tube connector on the bottom of the tank. Turn it counterclockwise with a pair of channel-lock pliers to loosen it, then remove it by hand. The connector is usually plastic, and it's designed to be hand tightened, but it's rare for one to be loose enough to unscrew by hand, so you'll need the pliers.

Step 5 Loosen and Remove the Toilet Bolts

Pop the decorative caps off the two bolts holding the toilet to the floor, using a flat-head screwdriver. Grip each nut with channel-lock pliers and turn it counterclockwise to loosen and remove it.

Tips

Two problems can make this step more difficult. One is when the nut is fused to the bolt; the other is when the bolt isn't properly seated on the toilet flange and spins along with the nut. In either case, you'll probably have to cut the bolt with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw. If you use a power tool, be careful to keep the blade pointed away from the toilet to avoid cracking the porcelain.

Step 6 Lift Out the Toilet

Lift the toilet straight up until it clears the bolts, then move it toward you until it's completely clear of the flange. At this point, you'll probably want to set it down and enlist someone to help you carry it.

Step 7 Clean Up

Toilet flange blocked with a rag.
credit: The Home Depot
After scraping the wax from the flange, it's a good idea to stuff a rag into the waste opening.

Scrape the old wax from the waste opening, using a stiff putty knife. Wrap the wax in newspaper or paper towels for disposal (remember, it's contaminated). When you're done, it's a good idea to stuff a rag in the waste opening to block sewer gases until you have a chance to install a new toilet. Finish up by mopping up water that inevitably spills from the toilet, using a rag.

Separating the Tank from the Bowl

Disassembling a toilet.
credit: The Home Depot
The best time to separate the tank from the bowl is before you lift out the toilet.

Most toilets comes in two pieces that have to be bolted together when the toilet is installed. You'll probably want to separate them if you're moving the toilet to another location or discarding it. It's usually easiest to separate the tank from the bowl before you loosen the toilet bolts and lift out the toilet, but it depends on how much working space there is in the toilet alcove. If space is limited, you may find it preferable to lift out the toilet first, then disassemble it. Either way, here's what you'll have to do:

  1. Locate the nuts on the underside of the bowl that are holding the tank to the bowl. Grip one with a pair of channel-lock pliers or a wrench. If you're working alone, clamp vise-grip pliers onto the nut.
  2. Turn the screw inside the tank, using a large flat-head screwdriver. If a helper is available, ask that person to do it while you hold the nut with the pliers. If you're working alone, the vise-grips will help. They will wedge against the bowl and hold the nut steady while you turn the bolt.
  3. Remove both screws, then lift the tank off the bowl. There's no need to remove the flush valve or fill valve from inside the tank unless you plan on replacing them.

Tips

The mounting nuts often do get fused to the toilets bolts by rust, especially on older toilets or ones exposed to excessive humidity. If spray lubricant doesn't loosen them, you might have to resort to cutting them off with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw.


Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.