How to Paint Behind a Toilet

Painting behind a toilet may seem daunting, but with some preparation and the right tools, it can be done efficiently. Properly painting behind the toilet will help prevent moisture damage and make the area look fresh and clean. Here is a step-by-step guide to painting behind a toilet correctly.

Gather Supplies

Painting behind a toilet requires some special supplies. Be sure to have the following items before getting started:

  • Drop cloths – To protect floors and surfaces from paint drips and spills
  • Paint tray – For holding paint and allowing you to load the roller
  • Roller frame and cover – A 4-6 inch mini roller is best for the tight space
  • Angled paint brush – To cut in corners and edges
  • Rags – For wiping up messes and drips
  • Paint scraper – To remove any loose paint or caulk
  • Sandpaper – For scuffing the walls before painting
  • Painter’s tape – For masking off surfaces you don’t want painted
  • Caulk and caulk gun – For recaulking around the toilet after painting
  • Paint – enamel or semi-gloss paint works best for moisture resistance

Gather all these supplies before starting so you have what you need at hand. Protect nearby surfaces with drop cloths.

Prepare the Area

Proper prep is crucial for achieving an even, lasting paint job. Follow these steps to get the area ready for paint:

  • Remove the toilet tank lid and set it aside. Flush to empty the tank.
  • Disconnect and remove the water supply line from the toilet. Shut off the water supply valve.
  • Unbolt the toilet from the floor and carefully lift the toilet and set it aside on top of drop cloths.
  • Use a paint scraper to remove any loose caulk or paint chips around the toilet flange.
  • Lightly sand the walls with fine grit sandpaper to scuff the surface. This helps the new paint adhere.
  • Clean the walls thoroughly with mild soap and water to remove any grime or dirt. Let dry fully.
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off baseboards, the floor, and any adjacent surfaces.

Prepping properly will create a smooth, clean surface for the paint to stick to.

Cutting In the Walls

Before painting the full walls, you need to “cut in” along edges and corners with a brush. This ensures those spots get fully painted. Follow these steps:

  • Using an angled brush, dip into the paint about 1/2-inch.
  • Run the brush along the crease where the wall meets the ceiling to define a crisp paint line.
  • Cut in around corners, the floor trim, and the toilet flange.
  • Work in 2-3 foot sections, refreshing paint on the brush as needed.
  • Paint both coats with the brush along these edges.

Be sure to get paint into any cracks or crevices around the toilet flange. This helps create a moisture seal.

Rolling the Walls

Once edges are brushed in, it’s time to roll the main wall surfaces:

  • Pour paint into a tray and load the roller by rolling it through the tray.
  • Start near the top of the wall and roll down using vertical strokes about 2-3 feet long.
  • Move onto adjacent sections, overlapping each pass by a few inches.
  • Re-load the roller with more paint as needed. Add paint in a “W” shape to distribute evenly.
  • Apply the paint in long even strokes without pressing too hard.
  • Coat the entire wall area to be painted behind the toilet.
  • Let the first coat fully dry before applying a second coat to maximize coverage.

Use a small roller to make applying paint in the tight space faster and smoother.

Applying Second Coat

For best results, two coats of paint are recommended:

  • Once the first coat is fully dry, follow the same rolling technique with a second fresh coat.
  • Maintain a wet edge as you paint to prevent lap marks and unevenness.
  • Roll in a direction perpendicular to the first coat. So if you rolled vertically for the first coat, roll horizontally for the second.
  • Check for any thin or uneven spots and touch up with extra paint if needed.
  • Let the second coat dry fully before reinstalling the toilet.

Applying two coats will provide extra moisture protection and a richer, more uniform color.

Reinstalling the Toilet

After the paint has dried completely, put the toilet back in place:

  • Remove any paint from the toilet mounting bolts and flange area with sandpaper if needed.
  • Set the toilet back over the flange and press down to adhere the wax ring.
  • Insert the mounting bolts through the base holes and hand tighten the nuts.
  • Reconnect the water supply line to the toilet tank and turn on the water.
  • Snug the mounting nuts down fully with a wrench.
  • Check for leaks and tighten joints as needed to stop any dripping.
  • Reinstall the toilet tank lid and test flushing the toilet to ensure proper operation.

Be sure the toilet is secure and stable before using. Check for any leaks around the base.

Caulking Around the Toilet

For an extra water seal, apply a bead of silicone caulk around the toilet base:

  • Load caulk into the caulk gun and cut the tip at a 45-degree angle.
  • Apply a steady bead of caulk completely around the toilet base, where it meets the floor.
  • Use a damp fingertip to smooth the caulk evenly.
  • Remove any excess caulk with a paper towel before it dries.
  • Let the caulk fully cure for 24 hours before using the toilet.

Caulking creates a protective seal that prevents water from seeping under the toilet base.

Tips for Painting Behind a Toilet

  • Work ventilation by opening windows or turning on fans to help paint fumes dissipate faster.
  • Use a paint color specially formulated to resist mold and mildew growth behind a toilet.
  • Wear old clothes and gloves to avoid paint splatters on your hands and skin.
  • Use a small work light or flashlight to better illuminate the tight space behind the toilet.
  • Protect the floor from drips by keeping drop cloths underneath when painting.
  • Apply painter’s tape to the bowl rim and seat to prevent paint splatters on the toilet porcelain.
  • Start at the top and work down methodically to avoid drips marring freshly painted sections.
  • Let each coat fully dry before adding another to prevent tackiness or uneven finish.

Following these tips will help you get a quality paint job in the narrow, often awkward space behind the toilet. Take your time and work carefully. With some patience, you can give that unsightly area a fresh new look.

Common Questions about Painting Behind a Toilet

How long does it take to paint behind a toilet?

Plan on devoting 3-5 hours to fully paint behind an average residential toilet. This allows time for proper prep, cutting in, rolling two coats, drying time between coats, and reinstalling the toilet. Rushing the job can lead to a messy, uneven finish.

Should I remove the toilet or work around it?

It’s best to fully remove the toilet first. This gives you the room to prep, paint, and reseal properly. Trying to work around the toilet makes cutting in and rolling very difficult. The small space also increases the risk of drips and splatters.

Can I just paint behind the tank?

You should paint the entire area behind the toilet bowl and tank for a uniform, protected surface. Moisture can seep behind the bowl area and cause damage over time. Fully painting provides an effective seal.

How do I prevent drips on the floor or porcelain?

Work slowly and carefully. Keep drop cloths positioned under the work area. Apply painter’s tape to the bowl rim and seat edges. Start near the top and work methodically down the wall. Taking your time helps minimize messy drips.

Should I caulk around the toilet after painting?

Yes, applying fresh caulk around the toilet base after painting provides extra moisture protection. The caulk seals up gaps where water could seep beneath the toilet and onto subflooring.


Painting behind a toilet properly is a project that requires careful preparation and patience. Following the techniques outlined here will help you achieve a professional-looking, moisture-resistant finish that keeps the area looking fresh and new. Don’t shy away from this seemingly tricky task. With the right supplies and some perseverance, you can give that unsightly space an impressive makeover. Just be sure to work methodically and let paint dry fully between coats. In a weekend’s time, you can check this pesky chore off your to-do list!