Do you really need to know how to remove a toilet? Are you sure that your problem will be solved by removing the toilet? When you are replacing the toilet there is no other option. The old one has to go first. Repairs on the toilet flange are another reason that you might have to remove the toilet.

Not sure if this is your problem? See the article 'Troubleshooting Toilet Problems' for a complete listing of the toilet repair topics.

A toilet that is leaking around the base could be a sign of a bad wax ring. You will see water seeping around the base of the toilet when it is flushed. A loose toilet will need to have the flange bolts tightened. When they are too old, you may not be able to tighten them. A hopelessly clogged toilet might be another reason for taking up a toilet.

See the article 'How To Install a Toilet', for additional information on this subject. The article 'Toilet Flange Repair', for information on the tee bolts and the wax ring. The article 'Fixing a Clogged Toilet', discusses how to get a toilet unclogged. This can usually be done without removing the toilet.

How To Remove a Toilet - The Issues Involved

What Can You Save? - Removing a toilet is a big job even for a plumber. It will likely take one half hour to an hour to drain down the toilet and remove it. It could run from $100 to $250, depending on what else needs to be done.

How Hard Could It Be? - This is not an easy repair. The toilet has to be drained down, unhooked from the water supply, unbolted and lifted off of the seal, requiring some help. These repairs will have a Difficulty Level of: A Bit of Work. These repairs require a Skill Level of: Handyman. For and explanation of the terms in this section, see 'How to Use This Site'.

Check the Simple Things! - If you have gotten to this article you likely have a problem that cannot otherwise be fixed. You need a new wax ring or tee bolts or you are replacing the toilet. Did you check to see if you could fix the toilet first? The article 'How To Fix a Toilet' has information on the various things that can be repaired on a toilet.

What Can Go Wrong? - It is important to take steps to prevent damage to other surfaces during this project. The toilet uses water to operate. Take steps to drain the toilet tank down and flush the water out of the bowl. Anything that can be damaged by water should be removed from the area before the repair is attempted. The area around the flange will be dirty, wear rubber gloves as a precaution. Being without a toilet is not good, allow enough time to complete the repair in one session. Your whole family will thank you.


Preparing for your toilet removal will help the job to go quickly with a minumum of mess. Yes, removing a toilet can be a messy job. The toilet is filled with water and the toilet is sealed to the plumbing with a wax ring. This creates the potential for a mess.


You are going to need and adjustable wrench, and adjustable pliers for removing bolts and plumbing fittings. You are likely to need a hacks to cut the tee bolts. The type that has the blade protruding out the end is best, since the nuts are clost to the base.

You will also need a scraper for removing the wax ring. The wax ring will stick to either the floor flange or the base of the toilet or both of them. The scraper will help you to remove the residue.

You will need to put a temporary stopper in the waste pipe underneath the toilet. There is no trap on the pipe and you will get sewer gas into the house when it is open. You can use a rag, one that you can throw away. Or you can get a test stopper at a home supply store that sells plumbing materials. The pipe will likely be 3" of 4" in diameter. If you can see the pipe in your basement, you can determine the size.

Toilet Replacement Parts

Unless your toilet is fairly new, there is a good chance that you will need to replace the tee bolts. Most of the time they are rusted or frozen and cannot be re-used. In fact, you may have to cut them off with a hack saw to remove the toilet.

Purchase a new set of tee bolts, including nuts and washers. Your are also going to need an extra set of nuts and washers. We will explain the reason for this in the article 'Replacing Toilet Flange Parts'.

The other item that will need to be replaced is the wax ring. You will ruin the wax ring when the toilet is removed. Obtain a 'no-seep' style wax ring at a home supply store, it should be less than $5.

Materials for Placing the Toilet

When you remove the toilet, you are going to need somplace to set it. A large piece of carboard at least 2' x 3' will protect the floor from being scraped when the toilet is being moved. If you need to protect the floor from water, you will want a piece of plastic under the cardboard.

It is best to set the toilet on wooden blocks. This will keep any residue from the wax ring from causing the toilet to be unsteady and tip over. Two pieces fo 2" x 4" x 16" wood blocks will work well.

Clean Up Supplies

The toilet does a dirty job, therefore you are going to want to wear rubber gloves when cleaning up and disposing of the old parts.

You are going to want a trash bag to throw away the old parts, especially the wax ring. You will need rags and a mop to deal with any residual water that may be left in the toilet. Even after you completely drain the toilet there will be some water left.

The wax ring residue can be difficult to completely remove. A rag that can be thrown away and mineral spirits can be used to clean the the wax off the floor and toilet.

Toilet Removal Checklist

  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Adjustable Pliers
  • Mini Hacksaw
  • Plastic or Metal Scraper
  • Flat Blade Screwdriver
  • 3" or 4" Test Stopper or a Throw Away Rag
  • Tee Bolts With Extra Set of Nuts  and Washers
  • Wax Ring
  • Large Piece of Cardboard
  • Piece of Plastic or Large Plastic Trash Bag
  • (2) 2" x 4" x 16" Boards
  • Rags, Mop and Pail
  • Plastic Trash Bag
  • Mineral Spirits

Draining the Toilet

Draining the toilet properly before beginning to work on it will save a lot of aggravation. Toilets use water to operate, failing to get rid of the water will result in a big mess to clean up. To drain your toilet you want to follow the steps listed below.

Step One - Shut off the water supply to the toilet. There should be a water shut off valve on the wall or floor below the toilet tank.

Step Two - Flush the toilet. This will drain most of the water out of the tank. Additionally, most of the water will siphon out of the toilet bowl to.

Step Three - At this point you will still have some water left in the tank and some water in the toilet bowl. To drain the tank completely, you will need to loosen the large nut on the bottom of the tank that holds the toilet fill valve in place. It is the larger nut closest to the tank. The lower nut is for the water supply line. Use adjustable pliers or a large adjustable wrench for this nut, it will be plastic or possibly brass. Place a small pail under the connection to catch the water that drains out of the tank. Loosen the nut until the water starts to drain out around the rubber seal. This should drain most of the rest of the water out of the tank. The remaining water can be soaked up with a rag. Re-tighten the nut after you are finished.

Step Four - Use a plunger to force the remaining water in the toilet basin out. Get as much out with the plunger as you can. You can ladle the remainder out with a small paper cup or use a rag to soak it up. Remember to wear gloves for this part of the exercise.

Step Five - Leave the water supply shut off. You should remove the water supply line from the tank. Loosen the nut that is just below the nut that holds the toilet fill valve in place. It is the nut that connects the water supply line to the tank. You can use adjustable pliers for this task, the nut is plastic on most newer toilets, chrome or brass on older ones. Remove the nut completely, so that the supply line is free from the tank.

At this point, your toilet should be fairly dry and is ready to be removed. Check the tank and the bowl one last time to make sure that all of the water is gone. 

Unbolting and Lifting the Toilet

Unbolting the toilet and lifting it off the toilet flange is the next step. You have two potential problems at this point. One is that the toilet bolts may be corroded or frozen and won't turn. The tee bolts and sometimes the nuts are made of brass. They strip easily. The other problem will be lifting the toilet. One person can lift it, but if you are not familiar with doing it, it is best to have some help.

Removing Toilet Tee Bolt Nuts

Frozen tee bolts will likely just spin and not loosen. This is due to the design of the tee bolts. The toilet flange usually does not hold the tee bolt in place. Instead it is pressure against the toilet flange that allows you to tighten it. This makes loosening the bolts problematic.

Try to loosen the nuts using an adjustable wrench or an open ended wrench. If they start to loosen you are doing well. Once the pressure is released you will need to pry up on the nut underneath the washer, you can use a flat blade screwdriver or metal scraper to do this. Remove the nut completely. Repeat this process for the other side

Stripped, corroded and frozen nuts will be a little more difficult. If the tee bolt is corroded it may just twist and break when you turn the nut. This is provided the nut does not strip. Go ahead and turn it until it breaks if you can.

If it is stripped or spinning, you are going to have to cut it off with a hack saw. A mini hack saw, the kind that allows the blade to protrude beyond the frame, is the best. Saw through the bolt at the base of the nut. This will keep you from damaging the toilet. Saw through both bolts and  remove the nuts and washers. Don't worry, you should have planned on replacing the tee bolts. You will be able to remove the remainder of the bolt, once the toilet is removed.

Lifting a Toilet

Toilets are an awkward thing to lift and there have been a lot of hurt backs as a result. You have a couple of options here, you can get some help, you can call a plumber or you can rent or buy a toilet jack.

Lifting a toilet by yourself is the least desirable option. Toilets have a funny center of gravity and the tend to tip when carried. The other problem is that you need to straddle the toilet to lift it, making walking with it very difficult. Not convinced? Plant your feet on either side of the toilet. You want to grasp the toilet on both sides on the rim of the base, just behind the toilet bowl and just in front of the tank.

You may have to rock the toilet to break the seal. Once the seal is broken, you want to lift the toilet straight up off the bolts. Now is the tough part, how do you get it where you want it. Practiced plumbers have a sort of crab style walk that they do, you will have to try to carefully turn and step while keeping the toilet off the floor.

Lifting a toilet with someone else is similar. Position one person on each side of the toilet, and grasp it at the same location. Work the toilet free and lift straight up. Two people should be able to maneuver the toilet easier than one. Take it to the desired location and set it down.

Using a Toilet Jack to Lift a Toilet

Yes, there is such a thing as a toilet jack. It is not something that the average homeowner would have, unless you are a plumber. As the name implies the jack lifts the toilet for you. It has casters on it so you can move the toilet where you want to.

To purchase a toilet jack  you could be looking at a few hundred dollars. Some rental supply companies have them and you can rent one for the period of time that you need. The jack makes the job a lot easier and safer. You can eliminate the chance that you will have an accident or hurt yourself. You will have to check locally for availability or look online if you are interested in purchasing a toilet jack.

Replacing Toilet Flange Hardware

Whenever you remove a toilet, you should replace the toilet flange parts. The two replacable parts are the tee bolts and the wax ring. Replacing the tee bolts and nuts can be optional for a newer or recently reset toilet. However, replacing the wax ring is not optional. You should replace it every time you remove the toilet.

Replacing Toilet Tee Bolts

You should probably replace them even if you were able to get the nuts off without ruining them. The tee bolts and nuts have a tendency to corrode over time. New tee bolts with double nuts will help to insure that you will get them free the next time. The tee bolts and nuts only cost a couple of dollars and are well worth the investment.

This topic is covered in the article 'Replacing Toilet Flange Bolts'. You will find instructions on how to replace the tee bolts.

Replacing the Wax Ring

Another task you will face while learning how to remove a toilet is replacing the wax ring. This topic is covered in the article 'How To Replace a Toilet Wax Ring'. It is always suggested that you replace the wax ring when you replace the toilet. A wax ring that does not seat properly will cause the toilet to leak.

Replacing the wax ring can be a very messy job. Be prepared for a rather nasty item. A wax ring is an inexpensive item, so don't let the cost stop you. Have a plastic bag ready to dispose of the old one. This is a dirty aspect of learning how to remove a toilet.

Replacing the Toilet

Once you have learned how to remove a toilet, the next step is putting it back in place. With the wax ring in place and new tee bolts installed you are ready to set the toilet. There are several specific steps that you will want to pay attention to. It is a good idea to review the series of articles on 'How To Install a Toilet'. These articles provide complete information.


Help is a good idea for this step, although one person can do it.Have someone guide the toilet onto the tee bolts and lower the toilet down level and square onto the floor. Keep the tank parallel with the wall and you will be square. Press the toilet down firmly into place to get the wax ring to seat.

Adjust the toilet slightly and install the second set of nuts and washers. Snug the toilet down to the floor. Use a hack saw to saw off the excess bolt and replace the caps. Connect the water supply and turn on the water. Wait a day or two to make sure that the toilet is not leaking. Satisfied? Caulk the base to the floor with a good quality tub and tile silicone caulk. You have successfully completed your own toilet flange repair.


All done, Good Job! This was a little bit bigger job and you were successful. Take a breath and relax.

Hopefully you have been able to learn how to remove a toilet and completed the task. The toilet should be working fine now and you should not have to deal with this problem for some time. You may have other toilets in the house that will need attention at some point.

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