How to Drain a Toilet for Removal With Methods


Learning how to properly drain a toilet is an essential home maintenance skill. When it’s time to remove and replace your toilet, you’ll need to fully drain it before beginning the work. Draining ensures no water remains in the tank or bowl, allowing for a quick and clean removal process.

While it may seem daunting, draining a toilet is quite straightforward once you understand the basic steps. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through several tried-and-true methods for draining a toilet completely. We’ll also provide tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

Whether you’re renovating your bathroom or replacing an old, leaky toilet, this guide has you covered. With the right information and preparation, you can drain a toilet for removal effectively. So read on to learn the ins and outs of properly draining a toilet from start to finish!

Gather Necessary Supplies

Before draining your toilet, gather any supplies you’ll need nearby. This will make the process faster and more efficient. Here are some recommended items to have on hand:

  • Bucket – A 5-10 gallon bucket is ideal for catching water drained from the tank and bowl.
  • Rags or towels – Useful for wiping up spills or drips during the draining process.
  • Gloves – Protect your hands from potential grime inside the toilet. Disposable latex or rubber gloves work best.
  • Protective eyewear – Safety glasses or goggles keep toilet water from splashing into your eyes.
  • Flashlight – Helpful for seeing inside the dark toilet tank and nooks and crannies.
  • Plunger – In case you need to unclog a clogged toilet drain while emptying it.

Having these supplies ready ahead of time prevents you from having to stop mid-process to find them. Set them out within easy reach for a seamless toilet draining experience.

Turn Off Toilet Water Supply

Before draining the tank or bowl, you must turn off the water supply to the toilet. This prevents additional water from entering the toilet while it’s being emptied.

Here’s how to shut off the toilet’s water supply line:

  1. Locate the supply line – Follow the small flexible hose that connects to the bottom of the toilet tank. It runs from the tank to a nearby shutoff valve on the wall or floor.
  2. Turn valve clockwise – Rotate the water supply valve clockwise until it stops. This fully shuts off water flow to the hose and toilet tank.
  3. Flush toilet – After shutting off the water, briefly flush the toilet to empty water from the tank into the bowl. This empties as much water as possible before you begin draining.

With the toilet water supply line now shut off, you can drain the tank and bowl without new water entering the system. Return to the valve and turn it counter-clockwise once finished to restore normal water flow.

Empty Toilet Tank

With the water supply off, it’s time to drain the water reservoir in the toilet tank. Follow these key steps:

  1. Remove tank lid – Set the toilet tank lid safely aside to allow open access to the tank interior.
  2. Mop up excess water – Use a rag or small towel to soak up any water on the top of the tank or bowl rim. This keeps it from spilling onto the floor later.
  3. Locate float ball or flapper – Inside the tank you’ll see a float ball or flapper attached to an arm. This opens to allow water into the bowl when you flush.
  4. Hold float/flapper up – Keeping the float ball or flapper lifted prevents tank water from emptying into the bowl before being drained. Have a helper hold it up if needed.
  5. Scoop water out – Use a plastic cup or scoop to transfer water from the toilet tank to a nearby bucket. Take care not to spill any.
  6. Remove remaining water – Tip the tank on its side over the bucket to drain the last inch or two of water from the bottom.
  7. Check fill valve – Once empty, inspect the tank for any residual water around the fill valve, and dry with a rag if needed.

With these steps complete, the toilet tank should be fully drained and empty of water. Now you’re ready to drain the bowl.

Drain Toilet Bowl Water

The toilet bowl holds significantly more water than the tank. Here are two proven methods for emptying it completely:

Use a Sponge

A large synthetic sponge offers an easy tool for soaking up all the water in the bowl. Here’s how to drain it this way:

  • Place an empty 5+ gallon bucket next to the toilet.
  • Squeeze sponge to remove excess water before starting.
  • Reach into the bowl and place the sponge in the pooled water at the bottom.
  • Once fully saturated, lift the sponge out and transfer the water to the bucket by squeezing the sponge out over it.
  • Repeat process until all water is removed from the toilet bowl.
  • Discard used sponge or disinfect it for later use if desired.

Use a Siphon Pump

You can also siphon water out of the toilet bowl using an inexpensive hand pump. Follow these directions:

  • Place pump into the water filled in bottom of bowl.
  • Repeatedly operate handle on pump to suction water and discharge it via attached hose into a bucket.
  • Continue until all visible water is siphoned out of the toilet bowl.
  • Rinse equipment and properly store after use.

Be sure to monitor the bucket level and empty as needed to prevent overflow. Also have rags ready to quickly clean up any spills.

Remove Remaining Bowl Water

Once you’ve drained the majority of water using a sponge or siphon, a small amount still remains. To extract the last bit:

  • Tilt the bowl carefully to allow the final inch of water to collect nearest the drain.
  • Use a small towel or rag to soak up the remaining water.
  • Swab out all moisture from the trapway bend below the drain.
  • Inspect bowl walls and lip for any beads of water and wipe dry.
  • Allow a few minutes for any residual moisture on bowl surface to fully evaporate.

Taking this extra time ensures no standing water gets left behind. Now the toilet bowl can be fully removed and worked on.

Disconnect Toilet from Floor Flange

With both tank and bowl now 100% drained, the toilet can be safely removed. Follow these tips for quick and proper detachment:

  • Shut off toilet water supply again if needed as reminder.
  • Remove tank and set aside out of the way.
  • Unscrew floor bolts from flange around bowl base (use WD-40 if rusty).
  • Rock bowl gently side to side while lifting up to separate from floor flange.
  • Place shims/spacers beneath bowl base once removed to support it.
  • Thoroughly scrape old wax ring sealant from base of toilet and floor flange.
  • Temporarily place rag in floor flange to block odors.

Detaching the completely drained toilet from the flange allows for simple transport and replacement when your project is complete.

Tips for Draining Toilet Smoothly

Follow these tips to help the toilet draining process go as smoothly as possible:

  • Shut off main home water supply for added protection from leaks.
  • Drain early in the day so floor and bowl flange can fully dry.
  • Lay down towels or plastic sheet to catch accidental drips or spills.
  • Have a helper available to hold the float or pass you tools.
  • Clear a path beforehand so you can easily remove and maneuver the toilet.
  • Work slowly and carefully to avoid splashing or spilling water.

Draining FAQs

Still have questions about properly draining a toilet? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I wear safety gear when draining a toilet?

Yes, gloves and eye protection are recommended, as well as closed-toe shoes. These help shield you from dirty toilet water and potential bacteria.

What should I do if the toilet won’t fully drain?

A clog may be blocking the drain. Use a plunger to clear it, or try snaking the drain with an auger tool before finishing.

Is it ok to walk away mid-process while draining?

No. You or a helper should remain present the entire time to monitor the toilet and prevent any overflow.

How do I dispose of old toilet water after draining?

The wastewater can be poured down a household sink drain or tub drain that connects to your main sewer/septic line.

Is there an easier way to drain a toilet?

For those wanting an easier method, you can purchase an inexpensive toilet pump that attaches to the bowl to drain it.


Draining a toilet completely is an essential first step when preparing for toilet removal and replacement. With the right supplies and techniques, you can easily empty the tank and bowl without major hassle. Always turn off the water supply, drain the tank fully, and siphon out all bowl water for best results. Follow our tips to make the process smooth and mess-free. Then you’ll be well prepared to disconnect your toilet and proceed with your bathroom project!