How To Remove a Toilet

Removing a toilet is a project that many homeowners may need to undertake at some point. Replacing an old or damaged toilet can update the look of your bathroom. Removing a toilet also allows you to make repairs or modifications to the surrounding flooring, plumbing and walls.

With some preparation and care, removing a toilet can be a straightforward DIY project. Follow these steps to safely and successfully remove a toilet:

Turn Off Water Supply

The first step is to turn off the water supply to the toilet. Locate the shutoff valve that controls water flow to the toilet. It is usually found on the wall behind the toilet, close to the floor.

Turn the water valve clockwise until it is completely closed. Flush the toilet one time after shutting off the water to empty the tank and clear the bowl. Disconnect the water supply line from the bottom of the tank. This will allow any remaining water to drain out.

Disconnect and Remove Toilet Tank

With the water supply off, you can now disconnect and remove the toilet tank. Start by removing the tank lid and placing it aside. Lift out the flush arm and chain that connects the flush lever to the flapper valve inside the tank.

Unscrew the large nut that secures the tank to the bowl at the base of the tank. Carefully lift the tank straight up to detach it. Place the tank aside, empty out any remaining water and remove the inside parts.

Remove Mounting Bolts

To detach the toilet bowl, you must remove the mounting bolts that anchor it to the floor. These bolts are located on either side of the toilet base, near the floor. Use a wrench or pliers to loosen and unscrew the nuts from the bolts.

Once the nuts are off, you may need to wiggle the bolts loose using your fingers or pliers. Pull the bolts out and set them aside.

Disconnect Flange and Lift Toilet

With the tank removed and mounting bolts out, the bowl should now be loose. First, disconnect the flange that holds the toilet drain pipe to the floor. This pipe sticks up from the circular closet flange that is installed level with the floor.

Use a putty knife to detach the old wax ring seal that adheres the toilet to the flange. Scrape off any remaining wax residue.

You can now lift the toilet up vertically to detach it fully. Place rags or towels onto the floor to avoid spills. Carefully tilt the toilet bowl and lift it directly upward. Take care, as toilets are awkward, bulky and heavy.

Set the detached toilet onto a towel or tarp while you prepare the flooring. Keep the toilet level as you lift it to avoid spilling any water left in the bowl or tank.

Remove Old Wax Seal

With the toilet removed, inspect the circular closet flange on the floor that the toilet was attached to. Use a putty knife or rag to scrape off any leftover wax or buildup from the old wax ring seal. The flange surface should be cleaned fully before installing a new toilet.

Make any needed repairs to the flange if it is cracked, loose or damaged. The flange must sit evenly on the finished floor for proper toilet installation. Contact a plumber if you need to replace a deteriorating flange.

Prepare Flooring and New Wax Ring

Once the flange is prepped, prepare the flooring around it. Scrape off any remaining wax or debris using a putty knife or rag. Remove old caulk or adhesive with a scraper. Smooth or level the flooring if needed so it is even around the flange.

Dry fit your new toilet to ensure it aligns properly with the flange once installed. Place a new wax ring seal on the flange, centering it evenly. The wax ring creates a watertight seal between the toilet and floor.

You are now ready to install and re-mount the toilet with confidence!

How to Remove Toilet Plumbing

When undertaking a complete toilet removal, you will also need to deal with disconnecting and capping off the existing drain and water supply plumbing. Here are the steps for removing toilet plumbing parts:

Remove Toilet Drain Pipe

The toilet drain pipe can be disconnected once the toilet is lifted away. This vertical pipe is attached to the floor flange and runs behind the toilet to the main drain line.

Loosen the nuts on the closet bolts located on either side of the base of the drain. Detach the bolts connecting the drain pipe to the flange. You can then lift the pipe up to disconnect it.

Plug the open drain pipe temporarily with a rag to prevent sewer gases from escaping. The drain pipe will need to be replaced or reconnected when installing a new toilet.

Cap Off Water Supply Valve

With the toilet tank and bowl removed, access the now-exposed water supply valve on the wall. Turn the valve off completely by rotating it clockwise. Disconnect the valve from the water supply line.

Clean any dirt, grime or debris from the valve using a rag. Cap the valve by installing a small threaded plug designed for this purpose. Apply plumbing tape to the threads to create a tight seal.

Capping off the old valve prevents water from leaking out. However, you can also choose to replace the valve entirely if needed. Shut off the main water supply line before beginning any replacement.

Remove Flange if Unnecessary

Once the toilet and all plumbing parts are detached, inspect the closet flange on the floor. If you are replacing flooring or remodeling the bathroom, removing the old flange may be required.

To remove a flange, you’ll first need to detach the drain pipe and cap the opening. Scrape off any wax, caulk or debris around the flange edges. The flange will be attached to the floor with screws or nails.

Use a screwdriver or pliers to remove the fasteners and detach the flange fully. The opening can then be covered until new flooring is installed. Ensure proper toilet and flange alignment with any flooring changes.

Removal of the existing toilet plumbing prepares the area for installation of a new, replacement toilet. Always exercise caution and turn off main water supply lines any time you disconnect or replace bathroom plumbing fixtures.

What Tools Do You Need to Remove a Toilet?

Removing an existing toilet requires having the proper tools on hand. Attempting toilet removal without the right equipment can damage the toilet, plumbing fixtures or flooring. Here are the essential tools needed:

  • Adjustable Wrench – An adjustable wrench allows you to loosen nuts and bolts on the tank, bowl and water supply line. Choose a 12-inch wrench to provide optimal leverage and turning ability.
  • Channel Locks or Pliers – Helpful for gripping bolts, pipes and small fittings. Use to remove tank bolts or turn shut off valves.
  • Putty Knife – Needed for scraping away old wax, caulk and buildup from toilet base. A 4-6 inch putty knife with a stiff blade works best.
  • Screwdriver – Both flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers can help remove tank components and access fasteners.
  • Bucket – Have a spare bucket on hand to empty any residual water from the tank or bowl. Minimizes spills.
  • Rags and Towels – Rags are useful for cleaning up messes. Towels or tarp protect floors when setting down toilet.
  • Gloves – Wearing waterproof gloves keeps hands protected from dirt, grime and contaminants.
  • Safety Glasses – For eye protection, especially when scraping wax ring residue or disconnecting plumbing parts.

Having the right basic DIY tools allows you to tackle a toilet removal efficiently and safely. Investing in quality tools also makes periodic toilet replacements easier over time.

Step-by-Step How to Remove a Toilet

Follow this comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough to fully remove an existing toilet:

  1. Turn off the water supply valve and flush toilet to empty tank and bowl.
  2. Disconnect and remove water supply line running to tank.
  3. Remove tank lid and take out interior tank components like flapper.
  4. Unscrew nuts from tank bolts then separate tank from bowl.
  5. Unscrew floor mounting bolt nuts and wiggle bolts free using pliers.
  6. Scrape wax ring seal off bottom of toilet and closet flange.
  7. Rock toilet gently side-to-side while lifting upwards to detach.
  8. Set toilet aside on towels. Plug drain opening to prevent gas escape.
  9. Clean flange surface fully and remove any old caulk and debris.
  10. Cap off water supply valve after turning it off fully.
  11. Follow proper disposal methods when throwing away old toilet.

Take precautions when lifting the heavy porcelain toilet to avoid cracks or chips. New toilets can weigh over 100 pounds, so consider having a second person assist. Removing an existing toilet completely prepares the space for installation of a new model or bathroom remodel.

How to Dispose of an Old Toilet

Once you’ve removed an old toilet, it needs to be thrown away and disposed of properly. Here are some key tips for safely and responsibly disposing of a used toilet:

  • Drain all water out of tank and bowl fully before disposal. Wear gloves when handling.
  • Scrape off old wax ring seal from base into garbage bag immediately to limit mess.
  • Follow your local municipal regulations for waste disposal and recycling of porcelain items.
  • Some municipalities allow wrapping intact toilets in plastic and placing at curb for bulk waste pickup. However, cover shards from any breaks or cracks.
  • Contact your trash collection company to inquire if they will collect and dispose of an old toilet curbside on regular pickup days. Fees may apply.
  • Most waste management companies prohibit disposal of toilets in residential trash bins, as the porcelain easily cracks and damages bin.
  • If allowed, take intact toilet to your local municipal landfill or transfer station. Landfills typically charge disposal fees based on weight.
  • Consider repurposing or selling intact, functional toilets through resale shops or online platforms to divert waste.
  • As a last resort, break up toilet into pieces small enough to fit inside garbage bags for disposal if no other options are available. Wear safety gear when breaking up toilet.

Proper disposal keeps toilet components out of landfills and waterways. Removing an old toilet gives you the perfect opportunity to upgrade your bathroom space with a new water-efficient, comfortable toilet.

Can You Recycle a Toilet?

When replacing an old toilet, you may wonder if recycling the porcelain is possible. Here is some information on recycling used toilets:

  • Porcelain toilets cannot be placed into curbside recycling bins. The material must be disposed of separately.
  • Some communities offer specialty recycling for bulk items like porcelain toilets, tubs and sinks through waste management services. Availability varies by location.
  • Contact your local municipal waste authority to ask about programs accepting porcelain fixtures for recycling. Fees are often lower than regular disposal.
  • Toilet bowl and tanks can potentially be recycled and crushed for use as construction aggregates for road beds or landfill drainage layers.
  • Full toilets or broken shards can be taken to a municipal recycling center or sanitation department equipped to handle bulk porcelain recycling.
  • Charities like Habitat for Humanity ReStores or Salvation Army may accept donated functional toilets for resale or reuse. Call to find out their protocols first.
  • Consider repurposing vintage or unique toilets into planters, fountains, or to create art pieces as an alternative to recycling.
  • Recycling is not possible if certain toilet materials have reached the end of their useful life or are too damaged or unhygienic for reuse.

While not always offered, recycling programs for bulky porcelain fixtures are increasing. Always call ahead before transporting used toilets anywhere other than the landfill. Reduce waste by selecting durable toilets meant to last decades.

Can I Install a New Toilet Over Old Flooring?

Installing a fresh new toilet often motivates homeowners to update their bathroom floors as well. But is it possible to install a replacement toilet over old flooring? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Leaving old sheet vinyl or laminate flooring and installing the toilet over top is possible in some cases. But any damage, water infiltration or improper adhesion can lead to problems down the road.
  • Thick layers of existing flooring may interfere with the toilet flange height and proper sealing with the wax ring. This could result in leaks or rocking.
  • For best adherence and stability, it is recommended to remove old floors down to the subfloor and install new toilet on solid, even base.
  • Ceramic tile is durable and can remain if level and in good shape. Check for cracked grout or loose tiles, and regrout/replace as needed. Use shims if required.
  • If existing floor has water damage or mold issues, it’s safest to remove entirely before new toilet installation to prevent deterioration or rot.
  • Seek professional input if unsure whether current flooring is suitable for installing new toilet over. Proper flange height and smoothness is key.

While sometimes possible, installing over old bathroom floors has risks. Weigh costs and benefits, evaluate the current floor’s integrity, and remove if any doubt. Taking the time to start fresh helps your new toilet and floors last.

Tips for Easier Toilet Installation

Installing a new toilet is easier with proper planning and preparation:

  • Clear sufficient space around toilet area for lifting and maneuvering before removal of old unit.
  • Gather all necessary toilet replacement parts and tools beforehand, including new wax ring, bolts, etc. Read manufacturer instructions thoroughly.
  • Shut off main water supply and flush line before disconnecting old toilet to drain and avoid splashing.
  • Support large porcelain toilet weight from below when lifting using old towels – never lift by tank.
  • Wear knee pads when working near floor level for comfort. Lay down drop cloths to protect from spills and debris.
  • Have an assistant help with toilet handling and alignment over the flange during new installation.
  • Ensure toilet base sits flat and stable on floor. Add shims if needed before tightening mounting bolts.
  • Make all plumbing connections secure and leak-free. Turn on water and test for leaks and proper operation before completing install.
  • Wait 24 hours before caulking base to allow full settling and drying of wax ring.

Preparation and taking precautions eases difficulties of both toilet removal and replacements. Investing a bit more time upfront means enjoying an easy, trouble-free install and improved bathroom.

Signs You Need a New Toilet

Certain signs indicate it may be time to invest in a new toilet. Here are some signals your existing toilet needs replacement:

  • Visible cracks, chips or stains on outer porcelain surface
  • Constant running or leaking into the tank from poor flapper seal
  • Lack of flushing power and frequently clogged drains
  • Need to jiggle handle to stop running water
  • Rocking, loose feeling indicating worn out mounting bolts
  • Base leaks due to warped, cracked or ill-fitting wax ring
  • Odor issues from damaged or leaking internal seals and gaskets
  • Outdated design lacking modern water efficiency improvements
  • Discolored or worn interiors detracting from bathroom aesthetics
  • Noisy tank refilling or flushing from aging fill valve
  • Constant condensation on tank indicating internal cracks or leaks
  • Need for frequent plunging indicating poor siphon flow capacity

Replacing a toilet showing any of these signs can prevent bigger problems down the road. Investing in a new water-saving toilet improves convenience and hygiene.

FAQs About Removing a Toilet

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing an existing toilet:

How do I remove the mounting bolts on a toilet?

Use an adjustable wrench or pliers to loosen and unscrew the nuts from the mounting bolts located on either side of the toilet base near the floor. Wiggle the bolts free once the nuts are detached.

What is the best way to remove old caulk from around a toilet?

Scrape off as much of the old caulk beads as possible with a putty knife. Then spray leftover caulk residue with bathroom caulk remover and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Wipe clean with a rag.

Can I pry off the wax ring seal or will that damage the flange?

Avoid using any sharp tool to pry off the wax ring seal forcibly. You want to prevent cracking the closet flange. Instead, use a plastic putty knife and gradually scrape in a twisting motion to slowly lift the wax ring.

How do I temporarily plug the toilet drain pipe when removing the toilet?

Stuff a large, clean rag into the top of the exposed drain pipe after detaching from the flange. This prevents sewer gases from escaping before capping the pipe. Replace rag as needed if it becomes damp.

How can I avoid cracking the porcelain when removing the toilet?

Always spread out towels or a tarp to cushion the floor and prevent cracks when laying the toilet down. Get a helper to share the heavy lifting weight. Tilt and guide the bowl down vertically rather than angling to avoid stressing the porcelain.


Removing an existing toilet is a necessary skill for any homeowner in order to make repairs or install a new model. Follow proper safety procedures like turning off water supply lines and wearing gloves. Invest in quality tools made for toilet installation and removal tasks. Go slowly when detaching the tank and lifting the bowl to avoid damaging flooring or porcelain.

Complete all preparatory demolition, cleaning and site prep before bringing in your replacement toilet. Proper removal keeps problems contained and allows for a smooth, successful new toilet installation. Don’t be afraid to call in a professional if any complications arise with your toilet removal project. The investment will pay dividends in terms of convenience and home value for decades to come.