How to Reset a Toilet

Resetting a toilet is an essential maintenance task that can resolve common toilet problems like weak flushes, constant running, and clogged drains. Resetting a toilet is a relatively straightforward process that most homeowners can tackle themselves with a few simple tools and steps.

When to Reset Your Toilet

There are a few signs that indicate it’s time to reset your toilet:

  • Weak or sluggish flushes – If your toilet doesn’t fully clear waste with each flush, leaving behind toilet paper or other debris, a reset can help restore flush power.
  • Toilet keeps running – If your toilet constantly runs or cycles on and off between flushes, a reset can fix issues with the flush valve or flapper.
  • Clogged drains – Slow draining or backed up drains may indicate a partial clog that can often be resolved with a reset.
  • Noisy operation – Loud noises during flushing or filling can signal worn toilet components that need to be replaced. A reset provides an opportunity to swap out aging parts.
  • Leaks – Leaks coming from the base of the toilet or the tank may mean a reset and replacing the wax ring or tank components is needed.

Resetting on a regular basis (every 1-2 years) can also help prevent major toilet clogs and deterioration that requires more extensive repairs down the road.

Supplies Needed to Reset a Toilet

Resetting a toilet is a straightforward DIY project. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Adjustable wrench – For loosening and tightening supply line and tank bolts
  • Channel lock pliers – Helpful for unscrewing stubborn bolts or nuts
  • New toilet wax ring – Provides a watertight seal between the toilet and drain pipe
  • Toilet shims – Helps level and stabilize the toilet
  • Sponge or rag – For cleaning up any water spills
  • Bucket – For emptying the toilet tank; also to carry small parts
  • Gloves – Keeps hands clean while handling toilet parts

Optional supplies:

  • Toilet tank repair kit – Includes common replacement parts like flappers, valves, seals
  • Toilet bowl cleaner + brush – Helpful for scrubbing the bowl once reset is complete
  • Silicone caulk + caulk gun – For recaulking base of toilet to floor after reset

Turning Off Water Supply

Before starting, locate the water supply valve behind or near the toilet and turn it clockwise to shut off the water. This is an important first step to avoid spills once you detach the tank.

Flush the toilet to empty any remaining water in the tank. Use a sponge to soak up any extra water in the bowl.

Draining the Toilet Tank

The next step is to empty the tank. Use a bucket and rag nearby to catch any spills.

Unclip the hose connecting the water supply line to the fill valve on the inner tank. Lift the hose and drain the line into the bucket.

Loosen the spud nut or cap on the bottom of the tank to remove the tank drain plug and release the rest of the water.

Removing the Tank

With the tank drained, you can now detach it from the toilet bowl.

Start by unscrewing the large bolts and washers on each side of the tank. Set them aside in your parts bucket to reuse later.

Lift the tank straight up to detach it. Set the tank aside on a towel.

Inspect the tank mounts and the tank bottom for any cracks or damage. Make note of any needed replacements.

Detach Toilet from Floor

With the tank removed, now you can detach the toilet bowl itself.

Scrape away any old wax, putty, or caulk from around the toilet base using a putty knife. Removing the old sealant completely will allow the new wax ring to adhere properly.

Loosen the hold-down bolts on either side of the toilet base just enough to allow the toilet to come free.

Rock the bowl gently side-to-side while lifting upward. The toilet should release from the floor flange. Set aside on cardboard or a towel to avoid cracking the bottom.

Reset Toilet on Wax Ring

Now you’re ready to reset the toilet on a fresh wax ring.

Inspect the floor flange for any cracks, damage, or obstruction. Remove any putty or debris.

Apply an even layer of plumber’s putty around the floor flange. This helps create a stable seal.

Place a new toilet wax ring directly over the flange, pressing it down firmly and evenly. The tapered end of the ring should face up and the flange should fit snugly inside the ring.

Carefully set the toilet back over the flange, aligning the bolt holes. Rock slightly until the wax ring creates a tight seal.

Re-insert the tank bolts into the bowl and alternately tighten each side little by little to avoid cracking the porcelain. Tighten just enough to firmly re-seat the bowl.

Reattach Tank and Water Line

With the bowl securely back in place, you can reattach the tank.

Set the tank back onto the bowl, inserting the tank bolts through the holes. Hand tighten the nuts and washers.

Reconnect the water supply line to the tank fill valve. Turn the water supply back on and allow the tank to fill.

Watch for any leaks as the tank fills. Tighten any connections that drip. Adjust tank bolts evenly until snug.

Flush the toilet, holding down the lever for a full force flush. Check for proper operation and adequate flush power.

Troubleshooting Common Toilet Issues

Resetting the toilet provides a perfect opportunity to identify and address any operational issues it may have developed over time. Here are some common problems to look out for:

Weak flush – Low water level in tank, deteriorated flapper, clogged passages, or issues with the flush valve can prevent adequate flush pressure. Adjusting water level, replacing worn parts, and plunging passages can typically resolve a weak flush.

Running toilet – If the toilet runs constantly between flushes, an improperly seated flapper valve or broken fill valve seal is likely the cause. Replacing the flapper or seal should stop the running.

Leaking tank – Cracked tank, loose connections and corroded seals can all lead to tank leaks. Tightening fittings, replacing washers, and installing new tank bolts can prevent leaks.

Clogged trapway – Partial obstructions in the trapway can impede flushing. Clearing debris with a toilet auger or plunger generally fixes clog issues. Fully resetting the toilet provides a chance to thoroughly clear any built-up sludge in the drain path.

Noisy operation – Fill valves that hiss, flappers that flutter excessively, and chattering tank components all create annoying noises. Replacing problem parts remedies most toilet noises.

Be sure to fully test operation after resetting and make any needed adjustments or part replacements to restore smooth, quiet flushing.

Preventing Future Problems

Resetting your toilet lays the groundwork for years of trouble-free operation. Here are some tips to keep your toilet working well long-term:

  • Use in-tank toilet cleaners – Drop-in cleaners help prevent mineral scale buildup and deterioration inside the tank.
  • Avoid drop-in bowl cleaners – The harsh chemicals can degrade toilet seals and gaskets over time.
  • Clean debris from jets and rim – Regular scrubbing keeps key flush passages clear.
  • Check fill level – Improper water level in the tank can weaken flush power. Ensure correct height as needed.
  • Inspect flapper and seals – Replace the flapper every 3-5 years to prevent leaks.
  • Listen for noises – Address any hissing or rattling right away to prevent bigger problems.
  • Clear clogs quickly – Don’t allow even minor obstructions to linger. Plunge or auger regularly.
  • Check for leaks – Look for wet spots that indicate worn parts need replacement.
  • Caulk toilet base – A well-sealed base prevents water damage to flooring.

Regular resets combined with vigilant maintenance keeps a toilet working smoothly for decades.

Frequently Asked Questions About Resetting a Toilet

Resetting a toilet is a straightforward task. But questions may come up if you encounter issues or specific situations. Here are answers to some common FAQs:

How do I remove a rusted tank bolt?

Penetrating oil can help loosen a seized tank bolt. Allow it to soak 15-20 minutes. Tap gently with a hammer. Use locking pliers for grip. Heat sometimes helps break the bond. Replace with new stainless steel hardware.

What if the flange is below floor level?

Use an extender ring or extra wax to build up the flange height. The ring must be stable and level with the finished floor to seal and support the toilet.

Why does my toilet wobble after resetting?

The wax ring may not be fully compressed. Try tightening the bolts further in an alternating pattern. Shims can help level and stabilize a rocking bowl.

How do I stop the fill valve from running?

Most fill valve issues stem from a worn valve seal. Turn off water, unscrew the cap, and inspect seal. Replace seal if worn. Mineral deposits can also impair proper sealing.

What causes the toilet to keep clogging?

Persistent clogs usually mean there is a partial obstruction in the trapway or drain. A toilet auger can dislodge it. Fully resetting the toilet provides a chance to clear any built-up sludge in the drain.

How do I remove the tank if bolts are stuck?

Penetrating oil around the threads will help loosen the nuts. Use an adjustable wrench or locking pliers to firmly grip the nut. Apply inward pressure while turning counter-clockwise. Heat also helps free stuck bolts.

Why does my bowl empty when I detach the tank?

The flapper valve seal is likely worn out. When the tank detaches, water in the bowl siphon’s out. Replacing the flapper restores the watertight seal to hold water in the bowl.

How do I stop the toilet from running constantly?

A running toilet is almost always caused by a leaking flapper or fill valve allowing water to continuously enter the tank. Replace the flapper seal and/or fill valve seal to stop the running.

My toilet moves when I sit on it. How can I secure it?

Loose bowl-to-floor connections can cause a rocking, unstable toilet. Tighten the tank bolts fully. Verify the wax ring is compressed evenly. Shim under the bowl if needed to level and stabilize.


Resetting a toilet is a straightforward project any DIYer can tackle in an hour or two using basic tools and supplies. Following proper procedures for de-installing the tank, lifting the bowl, replacing the wax ring, and re-seating the toilet will ensure a watertight seal and solid installation.

Look at a toilet reset as an opportunity to proactively replace aging components and restore full flush performance. Addressing any leaks, flushing issues, clogs or noises right away guarantees years of trouble-free toilet operation.

Regular resets coupled with vigilant maintenance allows a toilet to serve reliably for decades. Following these steps and tips will keep your toilet functioning at its best when you need it most.